There are literally thousands of SEO tools out there. Some paid, some free, some good and some not so good. There is one tool that is often overlooked when it comes to SEO, yes, search engine optimisation, and that’s AdWords. While most people see AdWords as simply a paid traffic generation tool, many fail to realize the organic SEO benefits a tool like AdWords can provide.
I’ve touched on this subject briefly before but below, I have outlined a few more detailed ways that AdWords can (and should) be used for SEO.
(Please note that screenshots have been slightly modified to protect some sensitive data.)
1) For Keywords
Before you start to do any SEO on your site, you need to know what keywords to target (You can’t target them all). You could use one of the plethora of keyword tools out there but they are rarely accurate. AdWords allows you to test any amount of keywords you think are relevant to your site and get 100% accurate data on which ones you should be targeting. There’s no worse feeling spending months targeting a keyword for SEO and finding out that it doesn’t convert or it doesn’t drive any traffic. You can even filter out keywords that use a question mark so you can find questions to problems that your product or service can solve. You can then craft a blog post around this question.
2) For SERP CTR Improvements.
Any seasoned SEO knows that Google uses some sort of user data and probably uses organic SERP CTR data (and a recent patent looks like things are going that way) to judge how relevant an organic listing is to a keyword . Marcus touches on it here and Bill goes into patent detail here. With the CTR data and gains you obtain from a PPC campaign, you KNOW what page title and meta description to use to increase your organic SERP CTR. Just think, if you’re in position 3 and get twice the click through rate as the number 1 position over time, doesn’t it make sense that Google would factor this in? Simply pick the best headline from your best performing AdWords campaign and use that as your headline on your page. Pick the description of the best ad and add that to the meta description. This can be improved upon and changed over time too with zero risk. Use the AdWords Ad Performance Report for this (Make sure you filter the ads so that there is enough impression and click data to get a statistically significant ad, using AdWords Editor works great for this too). This also has the benefit of getting the perfect anchor text when someone links to you because many people will use the page title when linking out to you.
3) For Landing Page Optimization.
With Google’s website optimizer, you can quickly test and optimize your landing pages so that you don’t have to wait months for the traffic you would ordinarily need for optimizing with organic traffic. You can create a landing page that’s super optimized for your conversion type so that when the organic visitors do come, you’ll convert them at ultra high rates. This gives you a huge head start over your competitors. It also allows you to create personas that you can map to keywords or sets of keywords to each persona so you can create specific “SEO Campaigns” and more effectively structure a larger SEO effort.
4) For Geographic Targeting.
AdWords allows some pretty granular geographic targeting. Knowing which countries, cities or states convert best (by using a Geographic Performance Report in AdWords), can help you optimize your pages specifically for those locations. It can also help deciding which cities to target when running local business listing campaigns. This data can also help you decide if you should create location specific landing pages or not. Tailoring landing pages to a users location has proven extremely effective… How many really attractive people have you seen available for a date in *your area* lately?
5) For Link Ideas
The Google content network reaches 80% of all online users in the world! Running a campaign on the content network can generate a LOT of traffic but using Placement Performance Reports in AdWords, you can see where exactly you’re CONVERTING ads are running. You can use this info to strike a direct sponsorship deal with a particular site that’s sending you great quality traffic, or maybe you can write content for those particular sites and get a link back. Some people I’ve heard of have even bought links from those sites. An ultra relevant link that sends conversions. You wont get that from any directory links!
6) For Content Ideas
Further to (5), you can see a list of URLs that sent you converting traffic. You can look at the content of that URL and create some content (even a blog post) that has even better information than that page and solves the problem the visitor came to your site to solve to begin with. If that particular page of content was found organically, if you can make it better with your content and SOLUTION, you’ll have fantastic web content that attracts links naturally, more so than the original piece. You can even merge a lot of the ideas from different sources into one “super source” of content which will be seen as the ultimate resource and linked to as such.
7) For Large Scale Media Buys
While this is not strictly SEO related it’s very valuable. If your product or service has mass appeal, you can use the Google content network to test out creatives (flash ads, image ads, video ads etc.) to find out which ones drive the highest CTR and Conversion rate out in the wild. Now you don’t have to drop 25k on a run of network test just to find the best creatives. Anyone who has ever advertised on the Yahoo display network in the past can tell you, this is not for the faint of heart, although this has changed somewhat recently with the improvements of a FANTASTIC service called AdReady (More about this in another post). You can go into your media buy with what you KNOW are strong creatives.
8) Demographic Targeting Facebook
Again, not SEO related but a goodie. You can use an AdWords Demographic Performance Report and ad version reports to find out (generally) what age, sex and country demographics are converting on your site and the creatives that were associated. You can use this info to get a whopper of a start in facebook. Simply target the age, country and sex fields in facebook that matched your AdWords reports and use similar images/creatives for your ads. (You can pick up a free $100 facebook voucher code here). You can also use this demographic data for (7) above to give you that extra edge. Facebook uses CTR data and historical CTR data as a major factor on how much coverage you get so the higher your initial CTR for a new campaign the better. Start as you mean to go on.
9) For Link Exposere & Diversity
New website owners have always faced the chicken and egg problem. How do you get links to a new site if nobody knows about you to link to you? With AdWords, you can get immediate exposure to your content, product or service. With this immediate exposure comes the potential to be linked to which will ultimately improve organic search engine rankings (Be careful to redirect your users to the correct URL when using this method, you don’t want links to an analytics tagged URL or a URL with any sort of campaign tracking arguments in it). This is technically a “clean way” to buy a link. You can also buy AdWords traffic to your linkbait content. This is a slight variation on one of Gab’s tips in his fantastic piece on link buying here. *Image courtesy of SEO Book*
10) For Improving Your Conversion Rate
Yes, that’s right… improving your conversion rate. Microsoft/Atlas release an insightful piece of research (PDF) showing that and increase of up to 22% in conversion rate can be achieved by effectively synergizing search and display advertising. We have found this to be true not only with display and PPC search, but also with display and organic search. This information comes with a few caveats however:
Another point of interest is the impact of display ad frequency in driving conversion results for users exposed to both display and search. Again, the results varied by advertiser, but generally those users who viewed three or more impressions in combination with at least one search click had better results than those who viewed only one or two impressions. Both conversion rates and search click-to-conversion rates climbed significantly for these users, further suggesting the benefit of display advertising when paired with search. However, there is a point of diminishing returns when display ad frequency gets too high.
So there you have it. Ten ways in which AdWords (or any other PPC network) can help improve your search engine optimization. Do you use AdWords in any other creative ways to help improve your natural search engine rankings? If so, why not share them in the comments below and I will add more to the post (with a link) as they come in.
Note* I am fully aware that in a lot of cases, users who click on sponsored listings behave differently than those who don’t. Please use the above tips as guidelines and make sure to test everything for yourself.