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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Mar 15, 2017 11 min read

What To Expect From PPC Vs. Organic And How To Optimize Both In An Inbound Marketing Campaign

Understanding The Expectations From Inbound Marketing Efforts Is Key To Lead Generation

Inbound Marketing ExpectationsI’m constantly searching the internet and marketing or sales performance sites for data on what’s working and what’s not working so well. I found this very interesting stat yesterday that explains a lot about the performance results we’ve seen from pay-per-click lately.

Moz.com reports that of distinct search queries in Google, only 3.4% resulted in a click on an AdWords (paid) ad. If we expand that to all search queries, the number drops to 2.6%. Google's making a massive amount of money on a small fraction of the searches that come into their engine. No wonder they need to get creative (or, perhaps more accurately, sneaky) with hiding the ad indicator in the SERPs.

Many of our inbound marketing prospects and clients view pay-per-click as the silver bullet they’ve been searching for (no pun intended) for years. Buy some Google ads and wait for the leads to come pouring in. As this Moz data and our own performance data shows, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Here’s what to expect from pay-per-click and organic search as well as how to optimize the deployment of both to optimize your lead generation.

What To Expect From Pay-Per-Click AdWords

If you’re expecting to turn on your pay-per-click AdWords campaign today and have leads start flowing in tomorrow, think again. The nature of AdWords is highly competitive, highly complex and requires an extremely technical execution component. In other words, it takes time to create the right ads, select the right keywords, build the right landing page, optimize your budget based on results and remain competitive without overbidding.

To be blunt, you should plan on at least 30 days of pay-per-click campaign management metrics before you even think about seeing any significant results. In some cases, such as when the budget is low or the keywords are highly competitive, 90 days might be a more realistic time frame. Remember, this is a moving target. Every keyword comes with built-in competition. Other businesses are bidding for the same keywords, optimizing the same types of ads, and driving up the cost of the ads and driving down the conversion rate as they get better at competing.

Pay-per-click needs constant management, optimization, testing and evaluation. Then, the cycle starts over again. When we manage campaigns for clients, its planning and strategy first, followed by keyword selection and prioritization, then offer and ad copy creation, and finally landing page and lead nurturing asset creation followed by launch. Many times, we’ll do a soft launch or a limited launch to test some of our assumptions pre-campaign. This helps us optimize the budget faster and provide some campaign messaging adjustments before we go live.

After 30 days, we’ll have enough data to make changes to the campaign, schedule some additional tests, create some new ads to trial and then go live again for another 30 days. Over time, the campaign metrics improve as we constantly optimize performance and dial in the program to produce results. Patience and perseverance are key ingredients.

What To Expect From Organic Search

Organic Search Results from Inbound MarketingThere are a lot of similarities between the process to roll out pay-per-click campaigns and the process to start helping clients get found on the organic side of a Google search page. You have to start with strategy. What keywords do we need to be found for? Which ones have low difficulty ratings and high search volumes? Which one are strategic and which ones will drive visitors? What are the long-tail keywords? What questions do we want to be found for? Once you get these locked down, you have a portfolio of keywords to work with.

Now you start matching these to the assets that will get found. Google doesn’t rank websites; it ranks website pages. You’ll need pages for each keyword, phrase or question. You’ll need blog articles to support the fresh content requirement from Google and you’ll need offers on each page to earn a high-quality score from Google. Yes, if this sounds complicated, it is, and again, it takes time.

How long it takes has everything to do with the difficulty rating. Keywords in the 90s could take months or even longer to rank for. Keywords in the 50s and below might take only days if you can deploy the right assets. You want to be less concerned with specific keywords and more concerned with driving up organic search-related visitors month over month. You do this by focusing on the portfolio of keywords, not obsessing over one or two pet keywords.

What you need to be looking for is movement. For example, we started attempting to rank for two new keywords a few weeks ago: account-based marketing and demand generation. Our efforts have moved us from 100+ for both (which means page 10 or higher) to 94 for demand generation and 47 for account-based marketing. Not bad for a short time frame, but clearly more work needs to be done. We are going to be patient, continue to produce content optimized for these two strategic keywords and monitor our progress. This is how you should attack organic search results, too.

How To Optimize Both Types Of Search To Drive Lead Generation

If lead generation is the name of the game, then you need to consider both organic and paid search engine optimization. I understand if budgetary limitations keep you out of the AdWords game; that’s not uncommon. If budget is an issue, then you need to double down on the assets that will get you found organically, focusing on website, content, social media and conversion optimization.

Make sure your website has extra investment in the areas of on-site search engine optimization. Are your pages created with search in mind? Do they leverage keywords in the URLs, naming convention, header copy, subhead copy, image tags and meta descriptions? Is the architecture of the site built with the visitor’s persona in mind? Remember that conversions on the site pages drive up quality scores, which helps you rank organically.

This means content has to be a critical component of the site strategy, too. What pages are for people at the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel? What offers are you providing that get them to convert? What pages are you linking to that get them to click? This thought process cannot be skipped and should be invested in during the website project to optimize your site’s ability to be found and found frequently.

If you do have the budget, then you need to feather in AdWords with your organic search work. Pay-per-click can produce results in a shorter time frame and can be dialed back once organic starts carrying more of the effort. To truly optimize lead generation, both approaches produce results.

Effective marketing is always about the application of every tactic available that makes sense for your prospect’s persona. This search scenario is no different. If all you’re doing is pay-per-click with AdWords, you’re leaving leads on the table. If all you’re doing is organic search, you might also be leaving leads on the table. The only issue with pay-per-click is you obviously need to budget to support, sustain and allow the pay-per-click program to mature.

To extend the idea of leveraging all the get found tactics, plenty of other ways exist to drive visitors to your website, including referral sites, social media sites and email marketing. After running successful lead generation inbound marketing campaigns for hundreds of clients, we’ve learned the key is using all the tools in our toolkit. Start planning a proactive approach to search, pay-per-click and these other tactics as well, and that’s when you’ll start to see the results you’ve expected all along.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

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