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by Jen Wilfong

For two months now, I’ve worked for Slingshot SEO, a company that passionately focuses on improving search engine rankings for companies that want to increase traffic and potential leads to their website. What am I noticing so far? If companies and chief marketing officers knew what I’ve learned in those two short months, they would complement and/or reduce their marketing spend on pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements and increase their search engine optimization (SEO) work.

First things first … what is SEO? It’s when a company’s marketing leader makes the commitment to a strategy that helps the company rank highly in organic search results. Successful SEO combines relevant content, linking and an ideal architectural structure that not only leads to higher rankings, but gives users a satisfying search experience. While this task may sound simple, developing a powerful SEO strategy takes time and commitment. Perhaps this dedication of time is why more and more marketers are choosing to take their budget from PPC and transfer it over to SEO.

In 2010, a study determined that just 12 percent of users click on a PPC listing, while the remaining 88 percent of users click on organic results. Further research has clearly indicated that 52 percent of Google users click on first page organic search results. Yet, most companies and their marketing departments spend 2 to 10 times more on PPC than they do on their SEO efforts. Why? Because PPC lands a company on the first page in search engine results. We know that PPC works, but how can a marketing department or a Chief Marketing Officer help launch a successful complementary SEO campaign?

Here’s how:

Strategize your PPC and SEO efforts. Though content is just one portion of a strong SEO campaign,content creation is a key factor in today’s world of search. Whether it’s created by an internal or external team, the main objective should always focus on keeping your content relevant and valuable to your audience. Be sure your content creation is in line with your PPC efforts and maximizes results of both campaigns. If you rank on the first page for both PPC efforts and organic listings, you will likely have a higher click-through-rate.

Split your marketing spend between SEO and PPC.  If you are already leveraging PPC, make it a practice to review your PPC results consistently through Google Analytics tools. Then, review your budget and use a portion to begin an SEO campaign in a targeted area where there is an immediate need for sales growth or where your company is facing strong competition. For example, if your marketing budget is $80 million, and $4 million is dedicated to PPC, split the PPC budget in half; maintain $2 million for PPC and allocate $2 million for SEO.

Execute both campaigns with precision. Successful companies have one team that focuses on the results of their PPC campaigns and another team that focuses on how users start connecting with their websites via organic search. With SEO, keyword research can be more strategic, content can be developed and placed appropriately for your audience, and results can be easily tracked — allowing you to prove an ROI. For CMO’s to be relevant in the C-suite, this ROI metric can quickly bring credibility.

Optimize your results. Google has repeatedly communicated that the user expects highly relevant, expert content when searching. Google provides companies with tips to optimize their web pages for search efforts, and yet many continue to spend huge amounts of their marketing budgets on PPC. Marketing Sherpa indicates that 86 percent of marketers expect an ROI on their SEO efforts. I encourage CMO’s to create a campaign with a strategic mix of PPC and SEO.

It’s not a question of if a CMO should make the decision to implement an SEO campaign, rather it is a decision of when, how much and what results are expected. Those first steps to getting started include executing a winning formula of strategizing, splitting, executing and optimizing.

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