9 key elements of a search marketing strategy

Search marketing connects you with your target audiences as they actively search on platforms like Google. It incorporates search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search (mostly PPC) to maximise visibility throughout the customer cycle. This integration of SEO and PPC causes a bit of confusion for new businesses and marketers, but it’s the same nine key elements that make a search marketing strategy successful.

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What is a search marketing strategy?

A search marketing strategy encompasses all of the opportunities available to a brand via search. You can split these into two broad categories (organic and paid), so search marketing is basically the integration of SEO and PPC:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): Develops and optimises an organic search presence to consistently generate traffic.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC): Pays for targeted traffic by showing ads on high-value queries.

New marketers and businesses often think of SEO and PPC as a choice between paying for traffic or getting it for free. Firstly, SEO is by no means free, but you’re also not getting the same type of traffic from organic and paid search.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

With SEO, you’re generally targeting audiences at the upper end of the funnel, meaning they’re further away from making a purchase. However, keep in mind that the vast majority of your potential customers base is, at any given time, somewhere in this stage of the consumer journey.

top of funnel SEO search results

A good SEO strategy captures as many of these prospects as possible early on, so you can nurture them along the funnel, bringing them closer to the purchase at every step.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Whilst PPC can work well throughout the entire user journey from awareness through to conversion, it is highly-effective at the bottom of the funnel where people are are ready to buy now or in the near future. Where SEO focuses on nurturing leads, PPC tends to be more focused on converting high-value traffic.

bottom of funnel PPC search results

Of course, the most obvious difference is that you’re paying for PPC traffic and the visitors disappear as soon as you stop paying. Although it takes time (and money) to generate SEO traffic, an organic search presence continues to generate more traffic over time.

Bringing it all together with search marketing

Brands need both types of traffic SEO and PPC generate. Paid search gives you the immediacy of visitors who are in shopping mode while SEO provides the long-term brand power that keeps bringing in new prospects (and keeping them away from your competitors).

By integrating SEO and PPC, search marketing does a remarkable job of covering the entire customer cycle – from the very first search to the first, second, third purchase, and beyond. Search is the only channel that really provides this depth of coverage, provided you’ve got the right strategy in place.

Further reading:

What are the key elements of search marketing?

Integrating SEO and PPC is daunting for new marketers, but the same nine key elements build success for each channel:

  1. Goals
  2. Audience research
  3. Keyword research
  4. Competitor analysis
  5. Opportunity analysis
  6. Content & copywriting
  7. Analytics & reporting
  8. UX & CRO
  9. Audits, optimisation & updates

The trick is that you’re setting different goals for SEO and PPC. You’re targeting audiences at different stages of the consumer journey as their needs evolve and this brings different opportunities, challenges and competitors along the way.

Search marketing brings these key elements together, connecting you with audiences at every stage of the customer cycle.

1. Goals

First, you need to set clear goals for your SEO and PPC strategies, understanding the different strengths of each channel and their role throughout the customer cycle. Chances are, you’ll prioritise lead generation with organic search and focus more on conversions with paid ads.

2. Audience research

Knowing what your target audiences are looking for is crucial for search marketing. Beyond this, you’ll need to map out how their interests change as they progress through the customer cycle and how SEO and PPC connect you with them along the way – eg: buying advice via organic search, special deals through paid ads.

3. Keyword research

Typically, user queries are broader towards the top of the funnel, where they’re most likely to interact with organic search. As prospects move further up the funnel, their focus should narrow to a more commercial mindset, where paid ads can take the lead.

Aside from knowing what your audience is searching for (keywords) throughout the customer cycle, you need to know what their queries say about their mindset (intent).

4. Competitor analysis

First, determine who your commercial rivals and search rivals are (not always the same companies) for SEO and PPC. Know their strengths and their weaknesses, so you can formulate a strategy that matches or beats their qualities and exploits their flaws.

5. Opportunity analysis

A lot of companies (and agencies) seem to think opportunity analysis ends with audience research, keyword research and competitor analysis. This can help you draw up a lot of potential opportunities, but it doesn’t give you a complete list and it certainly doesn’t help you prioritise opportunities based on reward, difficulty and timelines.

You need a more in-depth analysis to pinpoint your biggest opportunities, easy wins, long-term targets, etc. There are a whole range of intelligent automation tools to identify opportunities to help give you the edge over competitors.

6. Content & copywriting

Content and copywriting are the substance behind all great SEO and PPC campaigns. These are the messages that, ultimately, motivate your target audience to take action. It’s easy to think of content marketing as an SEO strategy and copywriting specific to PPC, but they’re important for both channels.

7. Analytics and reporting

One of the most common mistakes brands make with search marketing is keeping too much distance between their SEO and PPC analysis. Yes, these are two different channels, but – as we’ve said before – they’re two sides of the same coin. So, you need an integrated analytics and reporting system for search marketing that shows how both channels work together.

8. UX & conversion optimisation

UX and conversions aren’t the only factors to optimise in search marketing, but they probably cover the most ground (technical performance, content, engagement, meaningful interactions, etc.).

Again, it’s tempting to think of UX as more important for SEO and CRO for PPC. After all, Google has several UX signals as ranking factors (mobile-friendliness, loading times, etc.) while conversions are particularly important for PPC campaigns. However, UX is integral to conversion rates and try telling board members that SEO doesn’t need to generate ROI.

9. Audits, optimisation and updates

The other big optimisation process every search marketing strategy needs is an ongoing system of audits and updates. Rather than optimising for specific goals (eg: conversions), this focuses more on maintaining results and fixing any technical issues that can naturally develop over time – eg: broken links, slow loading times, rising CPCs, etc.

Do you need help integrating your search marketing strategy?

If you need help integrating SEO and PPC into a seamless search marketing strategy, our team can help. Call us on 023 9283 0281 or submit your details here and we’ll get back to you.

Lee Wilson profile picture
Lee Wilson

Lee has been working in the online arena, leading digital departments since the early 2000s, and oversees all our delivery services at Vertical Leap, having joined back in 2010. Lee joined our company Operations Team in May 2019. Before working at Vertical Leap, Lee completed a degree in Business Management & Communications at Winchester University, headed up the online development and direct marketing department for an international financial services company for ~7 years, and set up/run a limited company providing website design, development and digital marketing solutions. Lee had his first solely authored industry book (Tactical SEO) published in 2016, with 2 further industry books being published in 2019, and can be seen regularly expert contributing to industry websites including State of Digital, Search Engine Journal, The Drum, plus many others. Lee has a passion for management in the digital industry and loves to see the progression of others through personal learning, training and development. Outside the office he looks to help others while challenging himself, having skydived, bungie jumped and abseiled (despite a fear of heights) with many more fundraising and voluntary events completed and on the horizon. As a husband and dad, Lee loves to spend time with his family and friends. His hobbies include exercising, trying new experiences, eating out, playing countless team sports, as well as watching films (Gangster movies in particular – “forget about it”).

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