What do SEO and PPC have in common? Quite a lot actually.
In fact when it comes to ranking organically and in the sponsored spots, Google shares a number of algorithms.
Therefore, we can learn some vital information from our search engine optimisation efforts to also improve our paid search performance.
The inexperienced marketers approach would be to ignore the synergies here and simply spend yet more of their boss’s money. But spending more isn’t the best idea because low quality ads and landing pages mean low sales, and drive up your cost per click as a result.
Instead, to lower CPCs (get more clicks for your money) you can leverage on-page signals to improve Quality Score.
This enables us to compete without just ratcheting up bids and trying to outspend the competition.
More money does not equal winning
We don’t know the exact formula of how Quality Score is calculated, but we do know a surprising amount about the ingredients that go into it.
We know those three main ingredients are:
- Expected CTR – a prediction of how likely your ad will get clicked based on historical and market click data.
- Ad Relevance – how well does your ad copy relate to the keyword and search intent.
- Landing Page Experience – does your landing page provide content relevant to the keyword and ad text, and how’s the user experience?
You can check your Quality Scores within your AdWords account by adding the below columns in the Keywords view:
You’ll then see the columns as below:
A score of 3 – well… that’s not good.
Oh and if you’re using the new AdWords interface, for a quick score read-out you can simply hover over the keyword status like so:
How do we get those “Below average” landing page experience scores up?
The first steps is to find the problem with your landing pages by running an SEO audit.
Is it fast (enough)?
We know user experience is an important factor when Google determines your landing page quality. We also know that Google sees page speed as foundational to a page’s user experience.
[clickToTweet tweet=’Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users.’ quote=’Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users.’]
So, it stands to reason, the first thing you should look at in your site’s audit is how fast it is.
Many SEO audits will give you a load time in seconds, or a page speed in kb/s. This can be useful information, but it’s not very actionable, especially if you don’t know what’s fast and what’s slow. Or indeed where your bottlenecks are.
Your best bet is to audit the specific criteria that affect load times, that way you find specific things to fix.
The 3 main criteria you should audit include:
Compression: compressing files on your site using gzip can reduce the time to download a resource by up to 90%.
Learn how to enable compression on your server here.
Cacheability: cached assets are stored by your browser to use the next time you visit a page, eliminating the need to re-download the file every time you visit.
This can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes a page to load – especially if you have assets that need to load before rendering a page. Caching rules for files should be specified using Cache-Control and eTag headers.
Another simple fix is to reduce image sizes before you upload them.
Images: don’t rely on HTML to resize images – sure you can set the width and height of the image viewable, but you’re still loading the original full-size image first and then the browser downsizes it. Use tools such as tinypng to bulk resize jpeg and png images, without loss of quality.
Other things you should look for that will slow down your pages:
- Too many plugins
- Multiple analytics and other tracking scripts
- More than one redirect
Remember, page speed is really important not just for your Quality Score, but for your conversion optimisation as well.
Most of your users will abandon your page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, and 40% of them won’t ever return.
Does it match intent?
Thanks to advances in semantic web technologies like natural language processing and machine learning, Google is much better at determining what goal or task a searcher is trying to compete and which pages do the best job of meeting that need.
This is most often manifested in Google’s various rich snippets, carousels and “Knowledge Panels” that you see in search engine results pages.
This one SERP, for example, has four rich results for an informational keyword:
So what is search (or keyword) intent?
There’s three basic kinds:
- Navigational: these people are looking for a particular website or page but don’t know the URL. They want to go somewhere. Think people Googling “Facebook”. These are your branded keywords.
- Informational: users searching with informational keywords are looking for a particular piece of information, opinion, answer to a question or solution to a problem. They want to know something.
- Transactional: transactional searches are looking to complete an action on the landing page. They want to do something. For PPC, that mostly means buy something (commercial intent), but could also be an email sign-up or contact form submission.
So you might be wondering – what on Earth does this have to do with Quality Score?
[clickToTweet tweet=”Search intent is critical in #SEO, but just as important for #PPC as well” quote=”Search intent is critical in SEO, but just as important for PPC as well”]
Matching landing page content to search intent is key to creating a good, relevant landing page experience for your users.
Optimise your landing page content for search intent:
Primary CTA: your call to action is the reason someone clicked your ad, so make it clear, concise and enticing. It should be the focus of the whole page, so don’t distract users with extraneous buttons, secondary CTAs, popups or clashing colour schemes.
Headline: this is your value proposition to the user. What do you have to offer them? You should definitely use your keyword here, as well as any benefit, discount or any other perk.
Product/Category Information: talk about your product specifications, what makes it special and how it helps achieve goals. You can go a little bit longer here, but not too long.
Accurate Messaging: ensure the content on your page meets the expectations set in your advert. If you mention a discount, display it prominently, where users and Google can’t miss it (your ad likely won’t get approved otherwise). Make sure your products are actually relevant to the keyword or ad you used – displaying a page of iPhone accessories won’t meet the expectation or intent of someone searching for “new iphone”.
For more advice on optimising your landing pages, take a look at the Data-Driven List of Landing Page Best Practices.
Lower CPCs and raise ROI
Conducting an SEO audit will help to improve the business performance of your PPC campaigns. And, with insights gleaned from an audit regarding site speed, keyword usage and meeting search intent, you can help improve that “Lower than Average” Quality Score metric.
Improving Quality Score improves you competitiveness in the AdWords auction. This will in turn lower the required bids and reduce CPCs, which will improve your profitability.
Who knew an SEO audit could help PPC?