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Source: SEO or PPC; What’s More Important?

SEO or PPC; What’s More Important?

Just recently, a friend of mine approached me about his dealership site and how they had a consultant (SEO guru), do an SEO analysis of his site.

He was concerned that he may be losing money on keyword selection based on the analysis. As I explained to him there is some confusion out there regarding the entire Google platform and that having a balance of both high-level SEO, and an optimized PPC campaign is the ideal. I also explained that you only get charged by clicks, not keyword choices (lol)

Let’s cover SEO first.
SEO stands for “search engine optimization” which is a practice that makes sure that your website follows all of the necessary rules of engagement to make it easy to rank as organically high on the search engine results pages (SERPs) as possible. It includes having good content in the form of copy, pictures, and video. All material should be relevant to the subject matter and have keywords and key phrases as an essential part of the site copy.  There are other technical aspects but forget those for now.  Having great SEO is the “free” way to get listed.

Offsite SEO is still a huge part of the overall SEO mix. Having other high-quality sites backlink to your website is the water that lifts the ice cube to the top of the glass so to speak. Having your dealership properly listed via all of the 300+ listing sites and the 4 main data companies (Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup and Neustar (Localeze), means that people will correctly know your company name, address, hours of operation, and telephone number. To have incorrect info strewn about the internet will definitely hurt your chances of getting highly-ranked. It will hurt your overall “Quality Score” which is essentially what Google uses to rank you in the search engine, and that’s where PPC and SEO strike their balance.

What is the “Quality Score”?
Quality Score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click (CPC) and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. Your Quality Score depends on multiple factors, including:

1) Your click-through rate (CTR) (PPC campaign)

2) The relevance of each keyword to its ad group (PPC campaign)

3) Landing page quality and relevance (SEO)

4) The relevance of your ad text (PPC & SEO)

5) Your historical AdWords account performance (PPC)

As you can see, there is a mix of PPC and SEO involved in optimizing a Quality Score which essentially determines where your stores website is going to show up in a typical search operation. Great SEO alone can get you on to the first page of search, but unless you are well-branded, your position may vary from near the top, to not on the page at all. The leads you get from great organic (unpaid) placement are basically free and are high quality. However, to get into the top position and get the most clicks possible, and the best clicks according to numerous studies, you have to pay for placement.

PPC guarantees a first page presence.
The cost of that presence is somewhat based on the quality of the website’s SEO execution. The ads in the pay per click campaign have to be compelling enough to get a good click through rate, but the words and phrasing used in each ad must also match those keywords and phrases (long tail search terms) on the website pages they are linked to. The better the execution and matching of verbiage in ads and on the site, the better your organic ranking, and the cheaper you clicks will be. It’s a seriously incestuous relationship. Google wants to reward you for creating a good user experience (SEO) but needs to make money so they have PPC to nudge those rankings to the top if you pay enough to rank high.
Google really has it figured out. It used to be that Google had two columns on every search results page. The left column had the organic listings (best SEO executions and/or brand names). People used to click at an 8:1 ratio favoring the organic or “free” listings over the listings in the right column which were all paid for. Google then eliminated the two column design and started putting PPC campaign ads on top of each SERP which now has only one column combining paid and free results. This cut down the ratio that favored free search results and increased Google’s click revenue.
The point is, having as much visibility as possible in any search operation is crucial. It’s termed “page dominance”. In my estimation, the companies that do both well, win. The companies that only do PPC, run inefficient, expensive campaigns. The companies that ignore PPC, are likely too budget-conscious to compete and suffer with inconsistent visibility. Those who combine Google Best Practices, and optimize both SEO as well as their PPC campaigns, dominate their competition.
I hope this helps clarify the decade-old question of how SEO and PPC affect one and other, and how using both to your advantage is the best way to the top of the mountain.

While participating in a meeting during NADA 2015 in San Francisco, I challenged Brian Pasch’s assertion that car dealers should not invest too much time or energy on Pay-per-Click Search Engine Advertising strategy or tactics… Almost a year and a half later, I believe Brian has come to understand why I still work so diligently at educating dealers about Google Adwords as a strategic digital marketing tool.

Recently Brian published an article on LinkedIn which references Ford Motor Company’s latest initiative to compel their dealers to spend more of their advertising budget on PPC Search Advertising.  This article is compelling because it showcases a major OEM doing whatever they can to drive their Dealer Network’s competitive positioning in Search Results Page rankings via the use of Google Adwords.

Although I agree that dealers need more and better educational resources for their digital marketing proficiency, I do not believe it is a 100% educational issue, nor will the problem be resolved by learning alone. Car Dealers have an almost inexplicable affinity for the off-line advertising media that has served them so well over the years… In the past. This will only be overcome when those of us in the automotive digital marketing world learn to communicate, present and close deals as well as the old school media sales professionals.

Here is the bulk of Brian Pasch’s article:

Education Is a Cause of Low Impression Share

Founder of PCG Companies, Author, Keynote Speaker

Education Is a Cause of Low Impression Share

Recently, Ford sent out a memo to their franchise dealers outlining their new co-op policy regarding funds associated with digital media investments. The new policy will require Ford Dealers to use 50% of the digital media funds for paid search, starting July 1st, until dealership impression share increases.

The reason for this change in policy, according to Ford, it the abysmally low AdWords impression share that Ford dealers have when consumers conduct a search in their local market for Ford related terms or general shopping terms.

The dealers must increase their paid search spend until they hit a target impression share, which would make the brand more competitive in search results.

While I understand the reason for this policy change, and how it will help to support the national advertising campaigns that Ford runs, it does not fix the underlying problem.

Why are Ford dealers not seeing the need to invest in search engine marketing?

According to Ford’s memo,  their dealer network is being outgunned by competitors by nearly a 3:1 ratio in paid search. Other dealer networks are investing in paid search, protecting their brand related terms, resulting in a much higher impression share.

So what is really the root cause of this competitive disadvantage? An issue is the current state of franchise dealership education. It is not a problem unique to the Ford dealer network. While some Ford dealers may not understand that they must advertise online, why is the Ford network they so far behind their peers?

While policies that require spending in specific strategies (SEM) makes sense in the short term, to protect market share, the bigger problem at hand is the failure of dealership education and certification regarding online marketing.

Franchise dealers hate being told how they have to advertise their dealership.

So, I’ll raise my hand to offer assistance to the Ford dealer network regarding strategies to help Ford dealers understand the “why” behind digital advertising and online marketing. PCG has developed a comprehensive catalog of online workshops designed to educate dealers on automotive digital marketing and sales process.

Once Ford dealers understand the “why” behind this policy change, they will adjust their spending patterns naturally. Forcing franchise to spend their advertising dollars in certain areas, without establishing a clear financial benefit first, will create friction between Ford and their dealer network.

Right now, affirmative action is needed. I support that decision, however, what about social media advertising? Video pre-roll advertising? Will the beatings continue without education?

Do you agree? Share your thoughts below.

2016 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference

I invite all dealership leaders to join me at the 6th Annual Digital Marketing Strategies Conference (DMSC), May 22-24th in the Napa Valley. This conference is designed for dealership owners and managers who want to gain a competitive edge with their online marketing strategy. 18 tickets remain; act quickly.

Conference details: http://digitalmarketingstrategies.org/

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