Google Finally Supports Paid and Organic Co-Optimization

Google has now made it possible to “analyze and optimize your search footprint” with the new AdWords Paid & Organic report.

Adding this functionality was a bit surprising, since Google has done all they can to stop co-optimization analysis from happening. They have threatened to take away, and actually taken them from some, the APIs that make this easy.

Here’s what Google said the benefit of this reporting is:

  • Discover additional keywords. Use the report to discover potential keywords to add to your AdWords accounts by looking for queries where you only appear in organic search with no associated ads.
  • Optimize presence on high value queries. Use the report to improve your presence in paid results and monitor your high value queries for organic results.
  • Measure changes holistically. As you test website improvements or AdWords changes to bids, budgets, or keywords, you can more easily report the impact across paid, organic, and combined traffic.

Of course, Google wants you to use it to “find more words” so that you can spend more money on in AdWords. I really love the second point – “Optimize presence on high value queries”. At first I thought they might actually mean to monitor the collaboration, but it is to improve your presence in paid results.

I am completely biased on this topic. I have spoke about co-optimization concept since GoTo offered paid ads in 1998. For the past two years I’ve been developing a tool that doe this monitoring at an enterprise scale. The biggest problem barrier have been ad agencies that don’t want to lose revenue and marketers that don’t want to tell their bosses that SEO actually matters.

Google provided little details on how to use it so I tried to dig into it a bit and using their provided screen capture we can see a few interesting things:


Organic Listing Improved Paid Click rate by 64%

Yes, that’s correct – the lowly organic listing improved paid clicks. This is exactly why paid and organic need to be integrated. Lets look at the contribution of the newly achieved organic listing.

The paid only click rate was 14.95 percent, which seems pretty high until I saw the CPC at $0.06, which suggests it’s a branded or a long-tail term. Nevertheless, like magic when the organic listing appears, the paid click rate jumps to 41.77 percent, which is a massive 64 percent increase.

Wow that is an amazing increase. Strange that if I can increase my click rate that much by increasing my organic rank Google should do all they can to help high major brand CPC advertisers rank better and have crappy snippets – oh wait, they do that already.

If I had to guess why the click rate increased it would be due to brand recognition added by the organic listing or a specific offer for something in paid. It’s possible while the organic brand awareness is powerful, the organic listing wasn’t as effective as the paid ad.

I wrote about this last year with an example from Adobe where their paid ad offer was overpowering their organic. The key point: when the organic was added, paid performance improved. This is why co-optimization begins by understanding how many of your top paid keywords don’t have organic listings.

In my Advanced Keyword Modeling Session at SES Conferences I give that as homework to the audience. So far, 187 people have told me they looked at the lists and only two had more than 15 of their highest CPC words ranking in top three positions.

Organic Listing Increased Overall Traffic nearly 4x

Let’s assume the organic listing didn’t appear in the top positions. Paid search alone would have only 23,956 visits (160,244 total queries * 14.95% [the paid only click rate])

So by adding in the top organic listing the total clicks from both paid and organic increased to 110,171, or nearly 4x the number of clicks that would have happened without the organic listing. Organic alone brought nearly 50,000 clicks, just over one-third of the total queries.

Pause Paid to Reap in the Organic Windfall

Now some of you will say that once you have the organic listing, you don’t need the paid listing. We could make that argument since that organic listing alone had a nearly 37 percent click rate, which is 2.5 times the paid click rate and brought in 49,377 visits at no cost and was significantly more than what we would have had with paid search only.

You can also argue that the organic click rate was cannibalized by 6.59 percent (36.88 percent vs. 30.29 percent) when the paid search was running.

We can now quantify the efforts of the SEO team by showing the organic traffic value since to buy those “free clicks” would have cost us $2,962.62 (49,377 organic clicks * paid only CPC $0.06).

Before you turn off the paid, we can’t ignore that 64 percent improvement in paid click rate. The impact of the organic listing resulted in an additional 60,736 paid clicks for an incremental cost of $5,466.24 (60,736 paid clicks * $0.09)

That is exactly why you need to monitor them. If you were budging based on the 14.95 percent click rate you may not have the budget for those incremental clicks and missed out on the incremental impact.

Monitor Paid & Organic Collaboration

From this single listing we can see the benefits of co-optimization. The things you should do immediately are:

  • Turn on this function in AdWords and authorize in Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Make a list of your highest CPC keywords and match them to your organic ranks and see how many aren’t ranking.
  • For those that have paid and organic simultaneously is the correct page ranking?
  • If the correct page is ranking are the messages collaborative or cannibalistic?

No matter what you believe just take the time to look at the data. I’ve seen hundreds of cases where when you dig in you can find a significant number of opportunities on both sides of the search aisle.

Related reading

Interview Marie Haynes: What you need to know about E-A-T
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Differences between B2B and B2C link building tactics
siddharth taparia SAP on embarking on search transformation projects