Data Driven Business

12 years ago
Test & Learn: Building Joint Paid and Organic (OneSearch) Campaigns

Many advertisers – and search marketing agencies – struggle to integrate their paid and organic search programs, thus leaving sales, leads, and money on the table.

By understanding the relationship between paid and organic search, brands can maximize search sales/leads at the lowest allowable cost. At Performics, we call this holistic approach “OneSearch.” OneSearch is an iterative process that requires ongoing testing and optimization per market and keyword. The challenge is that many digital teams still operate in silos; they don’t even share simple data about keywords and priorities, and therefore don’t combine forces effectively.

At its core, a OneSearch engagement breaks down these silos. It sets up a “test and learn” culture between teams, leveraging analytics for methodical experimentation. Each team must have the same incentives and goals. This involves thinking holistically about how paid and organic campaigns can work together to impact the bottom line. OneSearch testing answers questions to help you develop these holistic search strategies. For instance, you may recognize some of these burning OneSearch questions:

  • If I achieve a top organic ranking for a keyword, can I turn off the ad or lower the bid?
  • Can I stop buying my brand keywords?
  • Does dominating the search engine results page (SERP) in both paid and organic boost performance at an efficient cost?

This article describes a few OneSearch tests that Performics performed to answer these questions for our clients. It then highlights the OneSearch strategies derived from the tests.


Test One: Generic Terms
A Performics car manufacturer client sought to discover the optimal balance between paid and organic search to maximize SERP visibility, traffic and leads while minimizing costs. Performics conducted three different OneSearch tests on generic keywords, collecting data on each test for three months:

  1. One-Channel Test: In paid search, we didn’t bid on any keywords that had top (1–3 ranking) organic coverage. We bid only on keywords that had no top organic coverage.
  2. Pull-Back Test: When SEO position was 1–3, we lowered paid search position to 4–6
  3. Dominate Test: When SEO position was 1–3, we boosted paid search position to 1–3

The first two scenarios focused on decreasing paid search position when the client had high visibility in organic search.

We sought to determine whether–despite little or no paid coverage–SEO could generate the traffic and conversions that would normally be driven through paid search. SEO traffic did increase; however, it wasn’t enough to pick up the slack from paid search:

  • 86% decrease in paid traffic
  • 10% increase in organic traffic
  • 82% decrease in overall conversions

The third scenario focused on determining the gains that we could achieve by dominating the SERP in both paid and organic. Winner! This “dominate test” amplified performance for the keywords and drove both incremental traffic and conversions:

  • 542% increase in paid traffic
  • 241% increase in organic traffic
  • 380% increase in overall conversions

Initially, the dominate strategy was expensive as cost-per-acquisition (CPAs) rose. But over time, CPAs decreased due to higher quality scores. Reasonable CPAs combined with substantial conversion increases led to a high performing, highly efficient search program for the client.

Test Two: Brand Terms
There may be situations when it’s more efficient to decrease paid search position for keywords that rank highly in organic search. We found that this wasn’t true for generic terms for our car manufacturer client (described above); but this may differ for your brand. Test to find out. For instance, another Performics client–with top organic rankings for brand terms–sought to determine if bidding on brand in paid search was worth it.

Again, we conducted a OneSearch test:

  1. Brand Pause: For six weeks in test metros, we paused brand keywords, while keeping generic keywords live. We reinvested the brand-keyword budget into generics.

Brand keyword traffic migrated to organic search, while the larger investment in generic keywords drove incremental traffic and revenue:

  • 2% increase in overall (paid and organic) traffic
  • 3.4% increase in overall sales

Based on this test, we recommended pausing brand keywords and shifting that budget to generics to more efficiently capture demand. Knowing the most cost-efficient approach allowed us to better allocate paid search budget across keywords for the client.

Performance marketing is about collecting and analyzing cross-channel data to make real-time budget allocation and optimization decisions. Through OneSearch testing, brands can uncover insights to maximize holistic search performance while lowering costs. But, as the above tests show, findings vary based on vertical, keyword, metro and level of competition. All brands should break down paid-organic barriers and conduct specific OneSearch tests for themselves.

Dana Todd is senior vice president of marketing and business development for Performics, the performance marketing firm of Publicis Groupe.


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