Specialist Ask-us-anything

Caitlin Dawes

At a time when marketing resources may be low and in-house teams may be taking on more than before, we wanted to offer our support with tactical solutions to current challenges. So, last week we teamed up with our friends over at Genie Goals, a specialist PPC agency, to host an open ‘Ask-us-anything’ Q&A session live and online with our Head of SEO, Will Nye and Head of PPC at Genie Goals, Imogen Collins.

Here we’re sharing some of the more common questions that came out of this session and our answers in an effort to share expert tips across marketing disciplines. We’ll be hosting more of these sessions in future, which means this article will be updated to include the latest challenges and solutions discussed as they unfold – so stay tuned!

Quick wins for the current climate

[PPC] I’ve been thrust into PPC as parts of my team have been furloughed. What are the things I should be doing to ensure nothing breaks?

Imogen: If you are tasked with looking after PPC and haven’t done it before, I’d definitely recommend doing the free Google fundamentals training course to learn the basics. The most important thing to do will be to not make any drastic changes, especially not towards the end of the week, and to monitor your KPIs every day to check spend and KPIs – setting a daily budget at the right level is important at this time where search trends are fluctuating on a daily and weekly basis.

[SEO] On-page ranking quick wins for clients pulling budgets but needing impact:

Will: If you’re in a scenario whereby COVID-19 has depleted your resource, meaning that tech changes are off the table and campaigns have been paused, then I would use the opportunity to focus on on-page SEO in areas where there is still demand – specifically the ‘low-hanging fruit’, pages where you’re already ranking towards the bottom of page 1 or the top of page 2 for your target terms.

This could be approached by:

  1. Analysing your keyword set to determine those with stable or growing demand
  2. Using a tool such as SEMrush or your own ranking data to establish the low-hanging fruit
  3. Reviewing the on-page optimisation including:
    1. Title tags and main headings
    2. Subheadings
    3. Optimisation of the existing content
    4. Expanding the existing content (e.g. adding related questions)
    5. Improving internal linking to the page

On-page SEO changes are typically reflected quickly within rankings when compared to other activities, which makes it an excellent quick-win activity. Even a small change, such as amending a title tag, can make a big difference. 

[All] I’ve seen a lot of blogs suggesting that now is the time to be putting money into brand awareness activity, is that true?

Imogen: At the moment brands are largely split into 4 categories –

  1. those who are focussed on maintaining business continuity and cash flow
  2. those who are doing OK but with a lot of uncertainty about the future
  3. those seeing big changes to their business which are presenting both challenges and opportunities
  4. those who are seeing a lot of growth who are in a position to increase their market share.

Brand awareness activity is only appropriate right now for brands in the last two categories – this is particularly important for brands who rely heavily on types of traditional advertising which can no longer work when customers aren’t leaving their houses (tube ads, billboards, storefronts). This type of advertising spend has started to pivot heavily into online channels where users now spend their time, such as banner advertising, paid social and YouTube advertising. Of course, serious thought needs to be put into messaging to make sure that any previously planned brand awareness activities are still going to resonate in the current climate.


[All] What is the best way for marketers to understand how demand has changed around COVID-19 and to stay up to date on what’s happening?

Imogen: Google trends is a fantastic free tool to see indexed search trends for different keywords and categories. I would also highly recommend signing up to the Think With Google newsletter, as there are so many resources being shared at the moment.

Will: We recently shared this article on search behaviour changes we’re seeing in our clients’ data right now which could be useful.

[PPC] What do brands need to do as a minimum regarding PPC so they’re not stung when business resumes post COVID?

Imogen: If you’re in serious triaging mode then we’d suggest only investing in marketing activity which is profitable within the next 30 days. Use the most up to date data you have to spend only on products which are profitable and only up to the point where ROI is positive.

Latest Google updates

[All] Google announced this week that Google Shopping listings will now be free – what should we be doing across SEO and PPC to adapt to this change?

Imogen: At the moment what we know is that firstly this only affects the shopping tab rather than PLA activity in the SERP, which accounts for about 5% of the shopping traffic we see on our clients typically, but does have a higher conversion rate so it’s a fantastic opportunity to reduce costs for traffic you were paying for, but on the other hand this could mean an influx of new competitors into the space, which could mean a reduction in traffic. It’s going to be more important than ever to optimise your feed as you can’t use bidding to affect your rankings here.

Will: To make sure you’re eligible for this, you’ll also need to ensure you’re opted into the ‘surfaces across Google’ programme. This can be done within Google Merchant Center; those with valid product schema markup will automatically have products shown.


[All] What third-party tools do you use for keyword discovery?

Will: In addition to the usual suspects – Google Keyword Planner and Search Console – the main tools we use are SEMrush and Ahrefs.

Both allow you to analyse your own site to establish the keywords you are already ranking for, which may not be present in Search Console if you are not ranking in the top 10 positions, because no clicks have been recorded. Additionally, you can check competitors and incorporate any relevant keywords they are ranking for that you are not.

To expand your list further, SEMrush’s keyword magic tool is great. You can feed in seed keywords and get suggestions of related terms. The functionality in this sense is similar to Google Keyword Planner, but the automatic keyword grouping feature makes it far easier to remove unwanted terms en masse and it has other advanced filtering functionality – Search Volume, SERP features, etc. – that Keyword Planner lacks.

To discover questions and other types of informational searches, we also tend to use Answer the Public and Alsoasked.com.

[PPC] In your experience, do you think that bidding on your brand is worthwhile, even though you may rank first for the term in SEO? Some people think it is better to have a double listing within the SERP, whereas others say that’s one of the biggest wins when you want to save PPC budget. What are your thoughts on this?

Imogen: In my experience, the answer is different for every client. If anyone is competing on your brand keywords and appearing above your organic listing either through search or shopping then it’s important to bid on brand, and it’s a great way to control your copy and landing page for particular searches. We use different levels of brand bidding for every client depending on their individual circumstances and the amount of competition on different keywords. There’s a myth that bidding on brand helps your overall account quality score and reduces costs overall but this is not something I’ve ever seen proven.

[PPC] If you could just give us one piece of advice regarding anything related to bidding automation, what would that be?

Imogen: If you can, definitely use it. Google smart bidding has become one of the most powerful bidding tools available and it’s completely free to use. Make sure you set a strategy which is completely aligned with your business objectives, and that the tool has enough data to make good decisions.

[All] What are the easiest and best ways for PPC and SEO to work together?

Will: Avoiding the obvious answer of sharing keyword data, one way I think SEO can really benefit from PPC is by analysing the call to actions being used (which will be optimised for maximum CTR) and incorporating these in title tags and meta descriptions.

It is very common to see an organic snippet that doesn’t include any of the CTA’s being highlighted by paid search; equally, by just searching for a couple of keywords relevant to a landing page, you can also see what competitor brands are pushing as USPs, which may also be relevant for your brand.

If you’ve got digital marketing questions yourself, get in touch or let us know in the comments – we’re here to help.

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