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Improving SEO When PPC Budgets Get Cut

Published: April 27, 2020

Author: Harrison DeSantis

Everyone hates pivoting. Pivoting implies that you had a path to success, that path changed, and you had to rotate and do something else to get there. Reducing paid media budget is a common pivot companies are making right now. If you’re reducing media spend, SEO is your saving grace for replacing paid traffic flow and conversions. How does SEO mitigate loss and build that foundation? Lessons from your PPC strategy will be your beacon in answering that. Learn how SEO and PPC can work together to strengthen your SEO legacy when spend is paused.

Compare Organic vs. Paid Keyword Performance

Google Search Console and Google Ads both offer unique advantages when it comes to keyword analysis. Search Console tells you which terms are the most relevant and in-demand. Ads tells you how conversion-ready searchers are on a keyword level. Using these tools together, you will find the right balance of volume and intent. 
Do this by exporting your Ads Search Term report, complete with Conversions, CPA, CPC, CVR, Cost, Click, and Impressions. Make sure Search Term, not Keyword, is your primary dimension.
Next, export your GSC report from the same exact time period using the Google Drive API. This export will be complete with Keyword, Landing Page, Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Average Rank.
Although the phrasing is a bit different, Google Ads’ “Search Term” and GSC’s “Keyword” are the same thing: they’re what the user typed into the search bar. By using Search Term/Keyword as your binary source for the two data tables, you’re now set up to find which PPC-rich keywords are failing to pull their weight organically and how to adjust your strategy. 

Evaluate Whether Top Converters are Covered Organically

The first thing you should look at is organic performance of top-performing PPC terms. Sort your keyword table by descending Ads conversions. How do your organic metrics stack up? Be on the lookout for keywords that have high Ads conversion counts but few/no GSC clicks. Once you recognize which top-converters are underperforming organically, do some digging on your own website. Some good questions to get you started include:

  • Is there an existing page that this query should be going to? If so, why isn’t it? 
  • Are you even targeting the query? 
  • When you search this term in Google, is your page as user-friendly or template-similar as other pages that rank well? 
  • Is this page as user-friendly as the page you’re sending ad traffic to? 
  • Do you need to build a new page entirely for this query to map to?

Once you stack up top paid converters vs. organic coverage, you will see which terms are the most valuable and warrant a milestone in your site’s roadmap. 

Evaluate Whether SEO can Absorb High-Traffic PPC Terms

Head terms can be an organic nightmare depending on your industry. For paid search, these terms may be more realistic to target even if they’re expensive. As keywords get longer and more intent-driven, they can get easier for SEO to rank on organically. To analyze if SEO can absorb certain terms, sort your table by CPA. See what your organic standing looks like for these terms vs. the Ads traffic volume. Find out: 

  • Do you rank well for these terms?
  • Is your monthly organic impression count close to the average monthly search volume?
  • Is your GSC click count comparable to your Ads click count? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, these may be terms where organic can help absorb PPC’s burden.

Improving Organic CTR with Dynamic Ad Insights

Dynamic ads serve users copy that has the best odds of conversion. By having access to this, SEO has an ultimate cheat on its hands: understanding what copy best resonates with converting users.
If you have a keyword with poor GSC CTR when compared to Ads, first find out which URL that keyword is sending organic traffic to. Once you have that URL, see its title tag. Compare that page’s title tag & meta description to the top-performing Ads copy for the same term within the Ads UI. Use this comparison to find the Ads advantages that may compel a higher CTR:

  • What value propositions are the ad headlines communicating that your title tags are not?
  • Does the ad have a compelling CTA that your metadata is missing out on?
  • Google the term. Do other organic listings tend to have similar messaging/formula as the paid ad copy?

Comparing Ads copy and competitor copy to your own is a great way to discover whether you’re lagging behind user expectations in the search results.

Use PPC to Put a Dollar Value on SEO

One of the great fallacies of SEO is that you don’t get a clear ROI like you do for paid search. This isn’t true. If you can put a dollar amount behind paid traffic, you can put the same dollar amount behind your SEO program.
Here’s an example. Say you have a search term with a CPC of $5. You had 1,000 ad clicks for this term last month, costing you $5k. 
It turns out you also rank organically for this term. You rank #5! In that same month, you achieved 500 organic clicks. Those 500 clicks cost you exactly $0, but the Ads market has established their worth of $2.5k (500 clicks * $5 CPC). Therefore, you got $7.5k worth of traffic last month for this term while only paying for $5k of it. Had you ranked a position or two better organically, you would’ve gotten even more free traffic, with each organic site visit saving you $5 and bringing down your DCA of what you’re paying for traffic.
By understanding how the PPC value of a click is translatable to SEO, you can start to make more precise calculations on what your SEO program is worth, what its potential is, and why it’s so important to invest in.

If PPC Is Active Investing, SEO Is Setting Yourself Up for Passive Income

Most companies have less liquidity in the current climate, in other words, less budget for ad spend. When marketing budgets dry up, your website’s organic footprint should help pick up the slack. Just like a retirement account protects us in less fruitful times, establishing a solid SEO strategy sets you up for passive dividends when you need them most.
If your media budget has been reduced and you’re now depending on organic traffic to help carry the weight, be sure to apply all the great lessons you’ve learned from your Ads strategy. And if you want to strengthen your long-term organic footprint and build a strong SEO program that pays for itself down the road, get in touch with 3Q’s SEO team. We’ll show you how it’s done.

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