Practical Ecommerce

Transitioning from Pay-Per-Click to Organic Search

If you are spending too much money for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, then you likely have considered moving away from PPC and towards organic search results. After all, if you rank well in the organic, or natural, search results, you can spend a lot less money on PPC. But how do you do that? In this article, I will explore a strategy for spending less on PPC while maintaining traffic and sales.

Identify Good Keywords

First, I do not recommend going cold turkey on PPC. Do not stop all PPC advertising and expect that your search engine optimization efforts are going to take over and maintain your current traffic and sales level. It takes time to transition to great organic search engine rankings. The first step is to identify the keywords and keyword phrases that are converting into actual sales.

In your web analytics package, look at the past several months’ of data. Analyzing the past year (or more) of data would be ideal. Start making a list of keyword phrases (perhaps your best 10 keyword phrases) that have the following criteria:

  • Exact match. These are keywords that are set to “exact match” in your PPC campaign.
  • Good click thru ratio (CTR). Find the exact match keywords that have the best CTR and add them to the list.
  • Convert into actual sales. There is no sense spending time to get organic search engine rankings for a keyword phrase that brings you traffic but not actual sales. By now you should have had conversion tracking set up in your web analytics. Go into your web analytics (such as Google Analytics), sort the data by keywords, and then sort it by the conversions. Keywords that convert at 100 percent are not necessarily good to focus on (unless you are getting a lot of 100 percent conversions). Keywords that are bringing in a significant amount of traffic and have a good conversion rate (5 percent or higher) may be better. Add them to the keyword list.

Develop Content Around the Keywords

Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to start focusing on a strategy for developing content around those keywords. In order to rank well in the search engines, you must create at least one page on your site that is focused around that keyword. For example, the title tag, the meta description tag, they meta keywords tag, alt tag(s), and heading tag(s) on the page must contain that keyword. The keyword must also appear at least several times in the body copy of the page (such as a product description). If you sell products on your website, you may be able to create a list of web pages that correspond to the keywords on your list. If do not currently have content on your website that corresponds to the keyword phrase, then you will need to create a page for every keyword.

Once you have a targeted web page for each keyword on your list, start focusing on getting (or creating) links to those web pages. In order to rank well in the search engines, a web page needs links from other web pages that are on the same topic, both internally (from other pages on your web site) and from other web sites. There are several ways to start your link building efforts.

  • Link from your home page. If you are focusing on a certain keyword, use that keyword on your home page (ideally in a paragraph of text) and link to it using the appropriate anchor text.
  • Link from other internal pages. Find other pages on your website that are related to the keyword and link to the keyword-targeted page. One way to do this is to make sure your products are linked from “related products” and that each product page links out to “related products”.
  • Write a press release. Announce that you now carry the product. Announce a sale on the product. Include the keyword phrase in the title of the press release as well as several times in the body copy of the press release. Include a link directly to the keyword-targeted web page (or product page). Distribute the press release.
  • Write an article for your own site. Add that article to your website’s blog or a section on your site that contains articles. You might consider adding a blog or adding an article or informational section on the site if you do not currently have one. Once you add the article to your site, make sure you promote the article on the social media sites (or hire someone to do that for you).
  • Write an article for other sites. There should be a unique version of the article every time it is posted on another website. Make sure you include an “about the author” section with a link or even a direct link to the keyword-targeted web page on your site in the middle of the article. There are lots of places to get your article posted, including trade magazines, guest blog posts, or even a personal blog on WordPress.com, LiveJournal.com, My.Opera.com, or even on Gather.com. In all cases, make sure you promote the article on the social media and social bookmarking sites so that it gets more links. Web pages that have links are more powerful than web pages that contain articles that do not have links.

Summary

By identifying your best converting keywords, you can start devising a strategy for moving those keywords away from PPC to organic search engine rankings. It will take some time to create content on your site targeting each keyword phrase and, also, getting links to that content. But, in the long run, you will end up saving money by transitioning away from pay-per-click advertising.

Bill Hartzer

Bill Hartzer

Bio   •   RSS Feed


email-news-env

Sign up for our email newsletter

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Susan Newton August 10, 2010 Reply

    Hi Bill,
    Thanks for your ideas. It’s interesting to understand alternative ways to operating advertising our business organically while not pulling out entirely.

    I’ll be sure to share your article with others. Sarah Shaw and Lana Goldenberg also talk about this as well. Whenever we see a drop in our retail orders, I can almost hear our op mgr screaming "Fund Google Adwords now!"

    Perhaps there may be other ways of doing business.

    Again, thank you for sharing your knowledge so openly!
    Susan

  2. Russ Somers August 11, 2010 Reply

    Great article, Bill. Highlights that there are a lot of low-hanging-fruit opportunities for retailers to move from PPC to organic.

    One other is using video and submitting a video sitemap to Google. This is a huge way to stand out, as Forrester finds that video with a properly done sitemap can increase the chances of a front-page Google placement by 53x. If you do a few videos, a video sitemap is not hard to craft – [http://www.google.com/webmasters/videositemaps/](http://www.google.com/webmasters/videositemaps/) shows just how easy it is. Doing them at scale is harder – my company (Invodo) does that for it’s clients. But if you have just a few videos, doing it yourself is a high-power and simple way to stand out.