In a search marketing strategy, each of your channels is primarily geared toward a distinct goal with its own ROI:

  • Organic search—to acquire customers by ranking high on the search results page for targeted, high-value phrases for as long as possible.
  • Paid search—to acquire customers by testing a wide range of phrases in controlled locations on the results page for as long as budgets permit.
  • Internal site search—to acquire customers by letting your visitors tell you what they want to see so you can serve up the most important, valuable, and relevant result.

When it comes to tactics and planning, each channel requires a different approach in the beginning. For instance, the real work in organic search is in choosing just what high-value phrases to target.

For paid search, your effort goes into spreading your budget evenly across as many keywords as possible, casting a wide net so that you can see what works, what has potential, and what does not work. For internal site search, the focus is on tracking your visitors’ thought patterns (behaviors) as they navigate your site.

While the tactical approaches differ for each of these channels, there are several important commonalities to consider:

  1. Search Box as Transmitter: The search box is where all the magic happens, whether on, in a browser toolbar, or on your website; it is the window opening up a whole world of possibilities.
  2. You as Receiver: Your marketing department—or agency—is a receiver, ready and waiting for incoming messages.
  3. Receiver tuned to Transmitter: To be effective, the receiver must be tuned in to the transmitter at all times. This may sound simplistic, but disconnections happen all the time from either mistakes or a lack of time and resources to get the job done right.

Once the connection is in place and messages are being received, the goal then becomes placing the right result in front of the right visitor at the right time. Here, no amount of quantitative analysis is too much. You’ll likely find all three channels support one another, acting as one large portfolio driving overall insights and actions.

For instance, let’s say an auto parts online retailer learns from internal site search data that “HolyCow Jeep Winches” are a hot item this week, with purchases originating from paid search on the generic keyword “Jeep Parts.” The PPC manager can make a decision to split out “HolyCow Jeep Winches” into a new ad group and possibly reduce spend on generic terms. How much weight is placed on these actions depends on target metrics like total revenue, revenue per item, and cost per sale. This might also prompt the SEO team to analyze recent performance of Jeep winches keywords in the organic portfolio. Perhaps the organic landing pages could really benefit from re-optimization, too.

The feedback from one channel to another is an endless cycle. Making decisions simply requires a solid sense of business goals, metrics, and targets, as well as getting internal departments all talking and listening to each other.

As you continue to shift budget to inbound marketing—with search maintaining a pivotal role in that mix—make sure you’re positioned to get the best overall ROI possible by tightening the loop on channel data.

Joey Muller is PPC Director at CPC Search, a San Francisco SEM agency, where he oversees campaign management, client onboarding, reporting, and business development.