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.

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