The rela­tion­ship between SEO and SEM is such an inter­est­ing topic.  I have clients who will ask me why we are bid­ding on brand terms when those are the terms we rank best for nat­u­rally?  Why spend the money when we can get the clicks for free?  Wouldn’t it best to allo­cate those funds to our more generic cam­paigns and reap the ben­e­fit of main­tain­ing vol­ume in brand through SEO while gain­ing more mar­ket with larger bud­gets in our other cam­paigns?  All of these are great questions.

A client who focuses on lead gen decided it was time to find out.  Brand is a huge dri­ver for the client and I was extremely hes­i­tant to turn off our brand cam­paigns because I was wor­ried per­for­mance would dip sig­nif­i­cantly.  We knew we had very strong rank­ings on our brand terms, but I wasn’t con­vinced the rank­ings would make up for the leads we wouldn’t be get­ting from paid search.    We were ahead of our yearly goal thus far and con­vert­ing under where we needed to be, so we decided to turn off brand for a week and then measure.

Mea­sur­ing week over week data our find­ings were very much in favor of our SEM brand campaigns:

  • We saw a 44% dip in our paid leads while our costs only dropped 4%.
  • Since our main con­ver­sion met­ric is cost per lead you can imag­ine what hap­pened to that met­ric with this change; 71% increase in CPL!
  • Another inter­est­ing find­ing was that leads from other chan­nels includ­ing SEO only went up 3% for the week and total leads dropped 18% from all channels.

The test was very suc­cess­ful.  We found that SEM brand cam­paigns are a very low cost fac­tor for them, but have huge effects on the over­all per­for­mance of our lead gen pro­gram.  Bid­ding on brand terms even while rank­ings look great in SEO can sig­nif­i­cantly lower your cost per acqui­si­tion and improve per­for­mance across many chan­nels.  Now when I have clients who are naysay­ers on SEM and SEO work­ing together, I have ammu­ni­tion that con­firms my belief, brand is not a waste of money.