Why PPC and CRO is a marriage made in heaven

By Simon Clark • 22 February 2022 • minutes reading time

Marketing professionals nowadays have their heads down working towards monthly, quarterly and yearly business goals and objectives. We’re offering the opportunity here to take a step back and understand all of the options we have at our disposal.

In the following content series – this being the first issue – we want to dive into some of the methods that have helped our clients achieve their targets, how they work in more detail, debunk some misconceptions and how integrating more than one service can offer far greater results than one service on its own. And, just to be clear, we will be focusing primarily on a company’s brand website.

Firstly, we need to get people through the (digital) door. We are nothing without the customers themselves and this is where acquisition is essential in any marketing plan. Organic Search and Pay Per Click (PPC) are two of the most well-known digital marketing options to get eyes on your product or service, but they are very different in their approach. One may fit your current need more than the other, but you also might benefit from more than one service, especially if long-term growth is one of your key objectives.

Organic Search is referring to the traffic that typically comes through search engines such as Google or Bing. Results are ranked based on constantly updating and very strict algorithms, and are not affected by advertiser payments in any way. Here at Evolved Search, we split SEO into Technical, Content and Digital PR.

PPC (aka Paid Search) does what it says on the tin. You pay per click, whether this is within the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), on a shopping result, YouTube Ad, Display Ad and much more. PPC is considered a much quicker way to acquire traffic – if done right. You are able to pull spend levers up and down where required and it’s a great way to target new audience segments and drive direct revenue targets.

Finally, there is a relative newcomer (15+ years) to the marketing mix: Conversion Rate Optimisation, or CRO.

Much like the relay team in the Olympics, each member of the team must seamlessly pass the baton without hesitation or confusion. In the digital world, SEO and PPC pass on potential customers to a website, and at best hope that the website will convert them. CRO is all about helping the customer have the best experience on said website, so much so that they convert to a sale or lead instantly, or return at a later date.

Now think about your options. Do you go hard on acquisition? Do you sacrifice traffic for conversions? Do you pile all of your yearly budgets into PPC?

None of those is easy to answer, but hopefully, by the time you have read this and the other articles in the series, you will have the knowledge to make that decision or let us help you discover the best integration for your business.

Survive or thrive

What makes a business survive or thrive is probably the million-pound question that we are all trying to answer. What we do know, however, is that the difference between the two can be a game-changer.

Let’s strip the idea back to two small market traders in a busy marketplace. Location is paramount as that will determine what footfall they get and how many eyeballs they get on the products they are offering. A better location will most likely cost more as it comes with a bigger percentage of customers, but this is seen as desirable and a good trade-off.

OK, great. You’ve got a good position within the marketplace, near the door so you have a better chance of someone seeing or passing by you. But, as we all know, that doesn’t guarantee a 100% sales conversion rate. We know that there are things that must be done to entice that potential customer and close the sale. Things like price, competitors, customer service, how the product looks, what information is available to help the customer make a decision, reputation and much more.

A market trader could, in theory, survive in another, less desirable market location, purely by having a cheaper or better product than the one in the better location. They’ve got a great reputation, customer service is excellent, after-sales care is readily available and they offer a trial period or a great bundle. But could they thrive?

Possibly, but in our experience you ideally need a mix of clever acquisition, strong visibility and an enjoyable and comprehensive customer experience when onsite. This is no different to the digital world and this is our proven way to help clients grow, scale and ultimately thrive.

An integrated mix of channels is key

Continuing our marketplace example, the location and footfall within the digital world is matched to our search engine rankings, ads and overall visibility. Once we have eyeballs on our market stall, this is matched nicely to our online customer experiences, such as sales, customer service, value propositions, trust signals, speed, but most commonly our brand website.

Product pages, Checkouts, Live Chat, Ads and SERPs are all part of this online experience and this is where our integration of specialist teams can really push your business on to new heights.

Our day-to-day lives revolve around Acquisition, Traffic, CPC, Rankings, CPA, Visibility, Conversion Rates, Funnels, UX, CRO – the list goes on and on.

In a perfect world you will have a delicate balance of acquisition: the way in which we channel potential customers to your site, and a smooth and enjoyable on-site experience: when they land, is it what they expected? Does it show them what they were searching for? Is the experience easy and friction-free? And does it clearly show them the value that they will receive?

Sadly, this seems rare. But, why is this?

Over the coming weeks, we will dig deeper into what we think holds businesses back from trusting a balance of not only PPC and CRO, but a true integration of PPC, SEO & CRO, whereby every team is working towards an end goal and it doesn’t matter who uses the biggest amount of time or resource.

Don’t tip the scales

Seen as an opportunity to drive instant results, Pay Per Click (PPC) is an advertising model used to drive traffic to your website, products or services.

This model relies on the advertiser paying a publisher when the ad is clicked. Much like many relationships, PPC too often bears a load on its own when it comes to expectations which need to be shared on the journey to finding that lifetime of happiness. What is undeniable is that behind any successful PPC campaign, there has to be a great website with continued optimisation.

Like any great partner, PPC has many benefits whereby when utilised correctly can promote longevity and prosperity. However, when utilised incorrectly something is bound to burn out.

Key benefits of PPC include:

  1. Quick entry into the market in comparison to other channels.
  2. Able to make changes fast and keep up with any changes in terms of the marketing direction.
  3. It’s measurable – performance can be tracked via a plethora of metrics with many implementation options that will undoubtedly match your business goals.
  4. Maximum control over your spend levels with many ways to make strategic adjustments.
  5. Huge potential to target as granularly or broadly as you wish via different audience segments, languages, locations, interests and demographics.
  6. Able to understand your overall competitor landscape and direct competitors in relation to your activity.
  7. Understanding your growth potential can be analysed from key metrics as well as forecasting tools.

Whilst it’s fast and can lead to some quick marketing wins, it’s never all smiles. It’s constant reanalysis, re-strategising and it keeps you forever on your toes in order to keep up with market changes. This means you need to be aware of your weaknesses, own them and work on them to keep the competition at bay.

Below we’ve highlighted a few of the disadvantages that could allow a competitor to muscle in:

1. Landing Pages and Onsite User Experience – Can the user complete your desired goal easily with no obstacles?

2. Stagnant pages with no continued development – once it’s done it’s done right?

3. Communication – Are the client and the paid team on the same page? Is the performance intertwined with wider business operations and are they reliant on the strength of each other?

4. Calls to Action – Does the user actually know what you want them to do or where to go next?

5. Keyword Targeting – Are you being relevant? If you accidentally call your partner the wrong name you’re going to be in a world of trouble…

6. Strategy Development – unfortunately, what fixed everything after that one argument might not work the next time. Your strategy and website need to move with the times.

7. Channel consideration – Know your lane – you need to know what you’re capable of doing but also your limit and how it impacts others.

8. Competition – Are you working to keep what you’ve got? Don’t get too cocky – another website could come along at any time with a better offering.

In all, Paid clicks can be like conversations, you might have them frequently, but are they quality? Campaigns can be as targeted as you like, but if you can’t hold a decent conversation – you’re stuffed. Have you got the engaging messaging to attract and keep your user’s attention?

Arguably whilst the pros outweigh the cons, we know that with a channel integration it could be even better. So why not lend a hand, help bear the load and make something better, when, after all, it’s in your control and best interest to do so?

Why are we reluctant to trust something that will convert more traffic?

A lack of experience. Bad agencies. Zero transparency. Miscommunication. Or a reluctance to spend money that isn’t on acquiring new visitors.

Maybe one of those points or maybe all of them. Whatever it is that might be holding a business back, it shouldn’t be underestimated how a balance of PPC and CRO (and SEO) can boost your business growth and if these two are done well, your growth could be supercharged.

A bold claim, but one we see first-hand daily. Our service delivery teams work seamlessly together, sharing knowledge, ideas, issues and working towards one goal – how can we help our clients scale, grow, and ensure maximum gains.

Whether this is lowering the cost of acquiring customers, improving conversion rates, finding new less competitive PPC keywords, or improving Quality Scores for the keywords you bid on.

The Relationship Experts: CRO

Conversion Rate Optimisation isn’t a new thing, coined by Conversion Rate Experts way back in 2007. That means, at the time of writing, marketers have been optimising websites for well over 15 years.

But why does CRO even exist? Well, because websites, in our opinion, are generally designed to look nice and fit within everyone’s viewport (hopefully!). There aren’t many who start with tidying up their Analytics, running in-depth audience research and creating a website that works for every customer type, Paid Ad, Display Ad, Search Engine, Social post etc. before building it and making it live.

So, this is where CRO becomes incredibly important to all the channels listed above. We iron out the creases, make things enjoyable and ensure the link between the ad and landing page are joined up. Nobody has time nowadays to be stuck on a task for longer than necessary, so why make them wait?

A marriage made in heaven

So, how do we trust that integrating CRO with PPC is a marriage that will last?

Well, past/current experience working on many campaigns together and confidence in our team’s collaborative processes. We’ve seen a truly multi-channel service work wonders for conversion rates and user experience on many clients, allowing spending to go up (in a good way) and customers to go away happy and return for that all-important second purchase.

CRO begins to strip away the noise, delve deeper into user motivation & annoying pain points, and instil a customer-centric methodology across the business. This ties into the User Research phase of conversion research, and is probably the most important aspect to uncover the real log jams within a website’s user journey and understand who your audience really is.

To do this, we simply listen, ask questions, and observe natural behaviour in real-world situations. Much like a marriage counsellor scribbling down notes of information before they can confidently pass judgement.

Without this phase we would be going in blind, making wild guesses and turning to those unhelpful best practices (every website is vastly different, which is why we don’t do this). We are the fresh pair of eyes that everyone needs.

Before the next phase (Implementation), we must collate and begin to digest what we have found from our research. This then needs to be prioritised, cross-referenced with the client and then agreed upon.

The final phase is Implementation. We should now have a long list of ux issues, errors that need to be fixed, missing information/content and ideas for potential solutions or new features. Communication between teams is absolutely crucial here. We need to know what the client and PPC team are working on. A synchronised plan will generate the best results and also ensure all stakeholders are aware of what work is being done.

Without CRO, you are placing all of your bets on red and hoping it comes in. A 50% chance, huh. But what if you could increase that winning chance to 60%, or 70%. A much better bet, right?

CRO has a long list of benefits for all traffic to a website, but when becoming more active with the PPC team specifically (and SEO), we know that we can aid the following:

  • Improved Site speed: speeding up landing pages could equal lower bounce rates and thus, better conversion
  • Improved UX: creating a better page landing experience will mean a smoother website journey and better conversion
  • Improved matching of search intent: by creating landing pages that are relevant, clear and valuable (and with less friction & distractions), we will improve conversion
  • Improved credibility & trust: by improving trust signals (very relevant to New users) we will enhance the brand credibility
  • Improved Mobile experience: if we improve the mobile landing page experience, we can increase conversion on what is normally the biggest share of traffic
  • Improved PPC performance: an improved landing page experience, site speed and overall relevance will guarantee a much stronger quality score, which ultimately will reduce your PPC costs significantly

Up next in this series…

Within PPC and CRO there is so much we can discuss. We’ve chosen to discuss in more detail, three main topics: the synergy between Channels, eCommerce and Lead Generation, which over the coming months, will give you a well-rounded view of both services and how they work seamlessly together.

In an increasingly competitive world, to grow your business in a sustainable way, you need to maintain sales in the short term and find ways to increase them in the longer term. You need to eliminate leakage through your website and stop losing customers to your competitors.

You are competing over customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To gain & maintain a competitive advantage over your main competitors – who may be optimising already – you need to continuously adapt, innovate and you need to start early.

In the series, we’ll also be talking in more depth about conversion research & optimisation, ‘bad’ websites vs ‘good’ websites, website & conversion copywriting, eCommerce & Lead generation, landing page & form optimisation, mobile experiences, and much more. All with a deep connection to both PPC and CRO.

Thinking back to the start of this piece, are you surviving or thriving? We’ll hopefully help you on the way out of survival if that is where you are right now or give you some ideas on how to move forward if you believe you are thriving. There is always something we can help with.

There really isn’t any chance to stop in this digital industry. What was seen as a priority at the start of 2020, has probably been blown out of the water by the pandemic. People do things differently now. Some who did not shop online now do and others need more persuading. And it’s obvious that there is now more competition than ever before.

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