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SEO&PPC - Yin and Yang #3 (e-Commerce)

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Transcript

Introduction

Halide: Welcome to another episode of the SEMrush series SEO&PPC. This is actually the third episode of the series and in today's episode, it's all about e-Commerce. Whether it's a big online shop or a small retailer, they all need net traffic at some point and what's more important they need sales and revenue to keep their business running.

Whether it's paid or organic they both are usually the main traffic drivers for e-Commerce websites and in today's episode, we will discuss which one maybe works a little better or how both can be used in an integrated strategy. 

I am Halide Epshinolou. I will be hosting this webinar today. I am the co-founder of the international SEM and SEO agency Cubix digital and I'm also running a project called Woman Digital, a community to support women working in online marketing. 

I'm really happy to host this SEMrush webinar series as my goal was always to bring SEOs and PPCs together to benefit from each other's expertise. Because I think that most of the times both teams don't know how much they have in common.

If you look at in-house teams or agencies most of the time SEO and paid marketing departments are separated and usually have nothing to do with each other. I think this needs to change and hopefully, this webinar can contribute at least a little bit towards the goal.

I have two experts today who will hopefully support this and will prove my point that SEOs and PPCs are actually friends working towards the same goal and not against each other. 

My first guest is Mike Yuhauski. Mike is a senior director at Tinuiti, one of the largest independent performance marketing agencies serving the trilogy of Google, Facebook and AdNauseum. Tinuiti was one of the first agencies to build out a team of experts exclusively dedicated to PPC shopping, data feeds and shopping ads.

Luke is my second guest today. He is an e-Commerce growth consultant with 12 years experience in strategy, convergence and search who parks his butt right between SEO, UX and CRO. CRO is conversion rate optimization. Having worked in a number in a number of in house e-Commerce and SEO agency worlds including product owner, SEO lead and account manager, Luke is obsessed with working with people, data, tech to deliver tangible and core goals for businesses.

Okay, so Luke and Mike have prepared some presentations about e-Commerce in SEO and e-Commerce in PPC. We will start with Luke first and hopefully we'll get some nice and helpful insights.

Some Pitfalls of PPC

Luke: I'm going to jump straight into this so first of the big filthy stereotypes that I hear frequently... is PPC is like quick wins and SEO is all about long-term strategy and all of that good stuff and I'm not so sure. 

The reason why I say I'm not so sure is you can net quick wins in both PPC and SEO. Sure, PPC you can probably see a return in maybe an hour. Maybe even sooner but in SEO you can probably see a return or at least a change or an uplift in maybe as little as 24 to 48 hours. Let's not try and pretend that SEO is always this big slow three-month/quarterly turn-in thing. 

Jumping straight into the rap battle of the situation, here's what I really don't like about PPC okay? Maybe, Mike, you can relate to some of this stuff as well but it's pay to play. It is what it is. It's pay per click so if you got no money you can't play in the space and I think many stakeholders, many clients are all about ROI. It's all about the constant return on that spend you have and that sometimes makes it difficult because sometimes you maybe need to see the bigger picture with things like display. Things about acquisition of a brand and building a brand. That's not always easy to do when you're in the world of paid search.

That stitches on to my point that budget really is absolutely everything when it comes to paid search. If you have a really broad, almost like a bottomless pit, if you like, of cash then that's great. But in reality that never really happens and people want more and more for their money which makes things tricky and I think quality score is a big deal. Constantly chasing perfection in that space to try and get the most efficient money out of paid search. 

But here's the crux of PPC and this is why I don't personally dig it too much: Google is happy to take your money if your site doesn't work. If your page 404s, if it times out, if it doesn't work, if it's got the wrong content on, hey, you're still going to have to pay for that click man. 

And you may realize after a day or two days but the point is when you compound this over a number of days or a number of URLs that's a potentially expensive problem. 

The Pitfalls of SEO

To even out the playing field I've also added things I don't like about SEO because I don't want the PPC crew literally sending me death threats in my LinkedIn DMs. SEO; it's considered free traffic and it absolutely isn't. Yes, it doesn't have a direct cost but sure you've got people, recruitment time, development, resources. It's not free traffic. 

Its value can be challenging for stakeholders to work out typically because it can be perceived as slow or because the returns aren't necessarily immediate. And because it's quite technical it takes a certain type of person or a certain personality to be able to speak the language in the boardroom and then speak the technical language to developers and product teams. 

No, SEO is not finished. There will never be a point where, for a site, SEO is done and we can sack everyone or move that budget away from the agency. It's something that lives and breathes all of the time. These are the four big things that I hate about SEO and this isn't exclusive to e-Commerce. It's SEO in general but I think even more sensitive in e-Comm because things are granular and moving around all the time.

PPC Makes Google Richer, SEO Makes Google Better

In my opinion, PPC makes Google money and I don't think anyone can dispute that and I personally feel that SEO makes Google better and I'm going to explain the difference here. 

Unless you've got money to spend Google doesn't give a damn about you. But, the funny thing is Google is powered by what we do. Websites are important whether you pay or whether you're organic. Anyone with a wad of cash can pay to play. Anyone with a lot of money can pay to be at the top of Google but you have to earn the right to be the best query for that particular search or that particular search result and that's hard. That is really hard for both us as SEOs and also as Google. 

If you want traffic fast we need Google but for Google to understand who is best and why then Google needs us. Google needs SEOs and there's a lot of different elements we really haven't got the time to go into. 

SEO and PPC Needs to Involve Product Owners

As someone who has been a product owner and has worked in-house in a number of roles, I don't think SEOs and PPCs working together is enough. I think product owners need to get involved as well and whether you call them product owners or devs or IT or whatever, the people who hold the keys to what gets deployed on a website. In this example, I'm going to call them product owners.

This triangle of digital love happens when you're in a situation where we can start to work with products to get the data to stop bidding on things that are out of stock because literally no one can buy anything if it's not in stock but you've paid for the click. Like I said, Google will take your money. That's important. 

Secondly, people in paid search can be in a situation where they stop spending money on clearance items because when you think about it an item is clearance for a reason. It's because demand is low or it's because availability is too high. Whatever it is, typically people don't want these sorts of things. 

When something is in clearance the price has typically been reduced. Why would you then make it worse by adding a paid search spend on top of something that may already have no margin? You may be only making a loss on. You can potentially get rid of that and let organic do its thing. When someone searches organically for that very poignant product, that very specific item hey, they'll buy it. 

Internal search is super powerful so everyone is using keyword research tools which are important but your most important keyword research tool that is context-driven, that is customer-driven, that has no banks to how much data they give you, is right in front of your face. Can you use that information and pump that into paid search? Have a conversation with your product teams and get access to that information if you don't already have it. 

Equally, SEO teams can do better as well because we can work with the guys in PPC to identify the times that haven't been indexed and to be in a situation where we work with them. Hey, look we've got 60,000 items in our index but there's 350, maybe 500, maybe 5000 products that haven't been indexed. 

Can we fill that gap with PPC on those specific items to get them to sell? It's a conversation we could have. We could be in a situation where variations don't rank organically because they're blocked or canonicalized or whatever.

But on top of that, we can work with both PPC and product teams to reduce the bids on promotional items. They're on promotion so unless they're funded by somebody, by a brand then you're in a situation where your margin has already been squeezed. Don't squeeze it any further by on top of that using paid search to burn your margin. If they're on promotion there's a good chance they're going to be promoted anyway via email via the homepage, via social. You don't need to go and spend more money on those items on paid search.

This is one of my final points but this is one I personally love. Imagine being in a situation where SEO, product, and PPC teams can be in a room and say hey how can we rank well and how can we generate ROI for X? X can be a Black Friday campaign, X can be a new brand rollout, X can be a new website, X can be as broad or as narrow as you want. 

Having the power to have the keys to dev, the keys to SEO, and the keys to paid search all in a single spot is what needs to happen. This is what we need. Instead of being like this and being frustrated, and on the phone to your account manager or your boss screaming at you like why didn't we think about this? 

Halide: Thank you, Luke. Thank you. This is really great. This is really proof that SEOs and PPCs are friends. Real friends. We should use that slide more often. You actually underline my statement that PPCs and SEOs should work more together definitely. There are also some areas where they should do their own thing. Something which connects also SEO and PPC is CRO. Conversion rate optimization and usability because this is something where both teams, SEOs and PPCs can benefit from our work also together. I think this is also a very important issue. Mike, if you want to go ahead with your presentation?

The Link Between E-Commerce SEO and SERP Shopping Ads

Mike: Perfect, so I am 100% in the belief that we should all be friends for PPC and SEO. I think after you work in this industry for long enough, the idea that you're in competition with someone else who's on the other side of the office is absurd. I've seen people shift their focus dozens of times working in online advertising. There's too many things for us to work on.

I'm going into a little bit on how shopping ads on the SERP actually have a lot more in common with what SEO marketers are doing in their day to day work. Hopefully, it'll give us some opportunities to at least know what's going on on the other side and be able to work more closely together.

This is your regular search results page and that text down on the bottom is really the historical way we thought of Google's paid search ad. That keyword-driven ad copy. 

Shopping ads are blowing up across Google. They've taken away text ads’ share of the SERP. They've taken away organic ads share of the SERP. It's above the fold. They're on mobile. You can expand them and get 20 or 30 of them. It's also what my team at my agency focuses on and what I've been working on for the last nine years since Google actually made them paid and not free. 

But really, what I want to talk about with shopping ads is that the basis of the way that shopping ads work is very similar to what you're doing in terms of good e-Commerce SEO. When you think of keyword research, keyword stuffing, reporting on certain keyword-rich descriptions. That's all something that we're doing for shopping ads on the e-Commerce side as well.

You can see in this example here. Google shopping product titles on the right and then the title tags on the left from an SEO standpoint. But basically, behind the scenes, you have your html markup. Getting all your SEO juice into that page to get Google to crawl what you need to rank higher right? 

For Google shopping ads we have this product data theme that I think a lot of e-Commerce companies spend time trying to troubleshoot. Trying to get it to work so it's more of a functional thing. “We have all this information, how do we get it to Google?” 

But they don't really think of their product information in terms of an SEO mindset where you can see that the titles that are in this example are not great titles. It might be what you call your product in your inventory system and in your backend system. 

You’ve got to stop doing that. You need to think in the same way you think of SEO in terms of enriching your keywords and your titles and your description. The same way you think about that, you need to put that into your product data feeds that you're sending to Google for PPC ads.

I'm going to give you a very common example that I see all the time. We work with a lot of fashion clients and they tend to have a ton of crazy names for colors so in this example from MadeWell, the color they have there is Wisteria Dove. 

I don't think that if you look at the keyword research for people searching for Wisteria Dove, you're going to find much there. I don't think that that is a good use of information to give Google and when you look at the results page, all of the advertisers that are in this first position actually have pink in the titles. They do not have Wisteria Dove.

One change that you could make between SEO and PPC is looking at things that you have on your website, in your internal system, that don't make sense to copy and paste and send out to Google. You should be optimizing these for user intent; what people are actually searching for so Google will reward you.

Color is a pretty easy example but there's more nuance to this than you might imagine. One of our clients sells girl's t-shirts and someone on my team decided to run a test because they were looking at some of the search query reporting data that we have for paid search and saying “woman”. 

It seems like these products are actually doing really well for people searching for women's shirts, not people searching for girl's shirts. So what we did was we ran a test in our product feed to change out all the instances of girl's with instances of women's in the title. It may seem very nuanced but what it showed us is that we are meeting customers where they are.

We already saw that the volume was there for this term for us to go get it and once we implemented that, we were able to improve the impression, the click-through rate and most importantly, the conversion rate. You can run these types of tests all the time and it's an easy way to share information back and forth between SEO and PPC.

Moving from Keyword Research to Product Research

Going into the next section for you guys, I think a lot of times we focus on keywords across SEO, across PPC. It's what we're obsessed with right? We're doing the research. We're seeing what search queries match the keywords. But there's really a lot of benefit to thinking in terms of products and merchandising, and product teams, and release schedules. 

If you search generic terms on Google, is your most popular product showing up? Why not? Do some digging to figure that out. When you look at what you're showing up on the SERP, are you using audience targeting? One of the benefits of PPC in shopping, in particular, is that you can actually influence which types of customers get shown a certain product. 

A lot of times we layer audiences on to our ad campaigns and say “I want a bit more on people who've been to my website.” It might be great to figure out what products I actually want to show people who've been to my website.

One of the clients that I got to work on in the beginning of my career sold party supplies. I learned a lot from this business in terms of merchandising and seasonality and thinking like a retailer. You may look at the keyword party supplies all year and see the performance but are you showing different content based on what time of the year someone is searching for party supplies? 

You may be showing party supplies in October that are not relevant. It may make some sense to push products in your paid shopping campaigns for Halloween related party supplies to show up for broader terms like this.

Lastly, we do a lot of things with audiences on PPC to really get our customers further along the funnel. A lot of the feedback we get from our clients is that shopping ads, PPC ads; they have a high bounce rate. I'm paying all this money to send someone to my site and they're leaving the page as soon as they get there but you have a lot of levers to improve that bounce rate once you're sending someone to your website. 

In this instance, someone is searching for party supplies but if I've already got that user’s cookies on my website, maybe they created an account and I know that they've been shopping for wedding supplies for an hour, I can use Google's levers to say I want to show wedding party supplies for this customer, not just regular party supplies. 

These levers are not looking at search query performance reports and saying it's all about the keywords. It's thinking about what's going on behind everything you're doing. What's going on with the client's product set? What's going on with seasonality and merchandising? 

A Shared Dashboard for SEO & PPC

Lastly, some advice. I would say that Luke's point about it's a struggle for us to figure out ways that even if we're in the same room, how we're going to work together. I think that's the hard part so the way I've been able to get around it is figuring out ways to save time. Working towards each other's 80/20 rule. 

You're always looking at too much data for SEO, for PPC, there's an immense amount that you could get lost in but making these shortcuts and saying what do I want to see in a shared dashboard between what I'm doing on SEO and what I'm doing on PPC.

You're looking at keywords. You're looking at search queries. You're looking at top products. You're looking at things that are moving. What's getting worse? What's getting better? 

Get better organic traffic to bring attention to new products, but there's all these opportunities to work more closely together on how those new products are doing for PPC as well. We might have some insights on the PPC side from launching a new product, especially if it's not doing well, to tell the SEO side. 

Once you have that shared dashboard people like Luke and I can look at the same stuff. I feel like the next roadblock becomes that you have a lot of cool data to look at but nobody ever does anything with it 

How we think about working with each other is that I really don't need a bunch of reports; I need reports that make things happen. All of the stuff that we do is about accountability where when we have those top keyword reports, the top mover reports, I create them in a way that I can export them to Google and say “here are the changes I'm making based on that report”. Or I create them in a way that I can say “here are the changes I'm going to make to my titles and my description based on information that I'm getting from the SEO team”.

It sets this expectation that we're not just sharing information. We're not just meeting once a month. We're not just doing this nice thing. It's actually doing something. It's getting us into running tests.

A lot of times we take over our clients advertising product feed and we spend weeks and weeks optimizing their feed titles, and feed descriptions, and all their content and then we never think to say “the SEO team is meeting to go over their quarterly goals for the next year...maybe we should send them the things that we've done that have made an impact on our titles and our descriptions. Maybe this will help influence what they're doing, what they want to accomplish.”

Google is doing a lot more to make the product feeds that we use for advertising also available for SEO purposes in terms of rich stuff on the SERP. They released a popular products section on the search engine real estate now that is all powered by SEO metadata and advertising product feeds. 

There's always opportunities with the search control reports to be able to say I want to see how products are doing across PPC and SEO and then be able to make changes and track the overall impact. I think that is all I've got to go over with you guys.

Halide: Thank you very much, Mike. That was really lots of information. Lots of inside knowledge about shopping feed and shopping ads specifically. Shopping ads are a great format and I think it's a huge and massive traffic driver for e-Commerce websites. 

Luke: I think the difference between PPC and SEO is that SEO, as we speak about all the time, is beyond the SERP. As SEOs we talk about content, we talk about UX, we talk about web design. 

I'm not to say that PPC doesn't but I think one of the big stereotypes right here is that PPC is all about what happens up until the point of the click and SEO is all about what happens up until the click on the SERP. When actually, SEO has had to evolve because like Halide said earlier, trying to identify where the money has come from for organic is difficult.

This goes back to a point I made before the call which is SEOs are closer to product teams than paid search people are because we need to think about integrating schema, we need to think about content plans and we need to think about UX designs and all this sort of stuff that potentially paid search aren't necessarily interested in or have the relay to control.

This is where I think paid search needs to evolve. Where paid search is just as powerful, or just as impactful or just as interested in post-click as what SEO has to be now. Because if SEO is focused on rankings and SERPS then we have no business model. SEO is all about now UX. It's all about customer surveys. It's all about feedback. 

I think if paid search could think about how SEO has evolved and leverage that. Rather than thinking about redefining how you drive keywords and redefining how you drive traffic, and redefining how you would go to better leverage budgets, actually forget all that. Let's not spend any money yet and think about the actual user experience. Think about the customer. Why are they even here? 

Before anyone is even looking at any kind of keyword tool, you've got to work out what it is the customer wants. There's SEOs who are sure just obsessed with the SERP and not what happens post-click but if you want to be successful in this industry you have to think about way before that. 

I think maybe one of the biggest ways in which paid search and SEOs can work together is in the reporting. If you think about a typical board meeting or a scrum meeting or whatever in the world of SEO and PPC, the question always is what are we doing for SEO this month or what have we returned for SEO this quarter, this year and what have we done for paid search. 

We ask the question to two separate teams when it should be collectively. What have we achieved via Google or via any of the search engines? The way Google Analytics does it is all about last-click attribution. If someone discovered a brand via organic and then seven days later gets an email and then they search for the brand and click the paid ad for that brand keyword then hey, who gets the glory? It's paid search. 

Naturally, you're going to be in a situation where you count that because you'll need to justify your ROI while with organic we're like eh. We're looking at traffic. We're looking at graphs. We're looking at trends. We're not necessarily looking at the investment immediately on ROI.

But, if in a boardroom or to the C-Suite we're saying, let's talk about the return on search engine efforts. This is traffic; it shouldn't be divided by pillars because GA doesn't report on it properly anyway. Let's be honest. It's frankly terrible so why are we looking at it by channel when if it's money in the till, it's money in the till. 

It doesn't matter really where it came from although it'd be nice to know. Let's forget about channels and let's think about actual money in the till and how we can make that better. I think that might get rid of some of the behaviors of thinking no we're team PPC and we've got this and we're team SEO and we've team SEO and we've got this.

Halide: Everyone needs to be involved to be successful. It's not only PPC although usually in the reports it says paid search ads or paid PPC ads are bringing the most revenue. But everybody needs to be aware that it's really teamwork of different departments and once you really solve this problem in contributing revenue and traffic to one channel I think then you will win the game. 

As you said before SEO is not really SEO anymore. It's not about ranking. It's not about position. It's not even maybe about traffic. It's about really understanding the user and working towards the goal to fulfill the needs of the user. I think here whether it's SEO or PPC, call it what you want. They should work towards the same goal. Understanding the user first and then set the marketing strategy or product strategy afterwards.

Duplicate Content and Product Variations in E-Commerce SEO

Halide: Okay, we have five minutes left and we have some more questions from the audience. Farhad is asking for e-Commerce websites for any product which is sold on different websites, the details of the product will be the same. Is that a risk of duplicate content?

Luke: I think what Farhad may be asking here is if you're a brand that resells products from other brands. Let's say you sell white goods or a Panasonic TV that's sold everywhere. The answer to that question is yeah and I really don't want to throw out it depends but I think that the answer is yeah. It's duplicate content. But how much of an impact that has on your SEO is dependent upon so many different variables. 

Everyone who is selling this TV, for example, could have the exact same description but if you're ranking on result one or if you're a selling product, I think the case here is to work out whether it's worthwhile investing in developing your copy to make it unique or spending that time and resource somewhere else to make your e-Commerce offering better. Whether that is paid search, or SEO content or a search engine or maybe user surveys or who knows? It's tricky. Duplicate content isn't automatically a red flag but it can be. Especially in the world of e-Commerce. It can be.

Halide: There's actually a part two of the question. Also having the same type of product with different models, say 20 product pages. How to avoid the duplicate  issue.

Luke: I think he's talking about product variation here where you might have five different sizes, four different colors but this goes back to the whole canonicalization and management of parameters and duplicate URLs. 

That's more about the architecture of your SEO to prevent that from happening. The way to prevent this is to ultimately prevent crawling of those variations on product pages. 

Halide: Thank you, and I think in the future hopefully with ours and also other contents and information spread around we believe that in the future really PPCs, SEOs, product managers, devs and everything ... also social media managers, hopefully they will work together towards the same goal.

I think we’re finished. Already we are on time and thank you very much for joining our webinar. Thank you very much and hope to see you soon at another webinar.

Luke: Take care guys.

Mike: Bye.

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