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Crafting a successful holistic search approach

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Now more than ever, brands are looking to maximize ROI for their marketing spend. Yet when discussing holistic search strategy and planning, I often get: “Everyone talks about holistic search, but no one’s doing it.” This always surprises me for three reasons:
Both paid and organic search are targeting the same consumer.
Holistic search strategy and planning is very straightforward to implement.
It can maximize both performance and efficiency.
For these reasons, holistic search should be a central part of any campaign. Below are the five areas that I believe are essential to crafting a successful holistic search approach.
1. One purchase funnel, one shared keyword set
Understanding the consumer and their search behavior is essential. This provides the insight that allows us to build a comprehensive picture of both the path to purchase and the consumer’s informational needs at each step of the purchase journey. From here, key topics and themes can be identified and extensive keyword lists developed.
Keyword research is often an area of duplication across both paid and organic channels, resulting not only in an inefficient use of time, but also varied keyword sets across the purchase funnel. A holistic approach eliminates these issues.
With a detailed purchase funnel and shared keyword set in place, performance across paid and organic search can be mapped out with the coverage gaps highlighted.
2. Optimize overall search performance
With the coverage gaps identified, they can be prioritized based on search volume, competition, purchase funnel stage and contribution to sales. If the gaps sit toward the top of the funnel, the search terms may not be direct sales drivers but will drive significant traffic volume; consumers research their purchases, which in turn increases the likelihood of making it onto the consideration set and fueling sales growth later in the purchase journey.
At this stage, position within the funnel, combined with short-term versus long-term growth targets, plays a key role in channel focus. For short-term growth, paid search should be deployed for instant impact to build search visibility. However, if focusing on mid- to long-term growth opportunities, paid search can be tested to validate the viability of the relevant keyword group. If the test proves successful, an organic search campaign can then be deployed to develop overall search visibility.
3. Share performance insight for quick wins
Cross-channel insights provide a wealth of quick wins that can drive incremental performance gains. Paid and organic search teams should be analyzing and discussing performance on a continuous basis, exploring areas such as:
top-performing ad copy. What learnings can be applied to increase CTR?
keyword performance. Are there any high-performing keywords where either paid or organic search has limited coverage?
landing page performance. If separate paid media landing pages are in place, how do conversion rates compare to organic landing pages? What learnings can be taken from the top-converting pages, and how can these fuel UX and CRO testing?
4. Create a measurement framework
It’s vital to look at search holistically to understand the impact of each channel on overall search performance. It is even more vital that this is done using a single data source, i.e., site analytics, to ensure fully de-duplicated data. At a minimum, the measurement framework should review traffic and conversion performance by channel and for search in total.
Brands often review performance for paid and organic search in silos; thus, performance increases and decreases are taken out of context. For instance, if a competitor starts bidding on brand terms, triggering a response to protect performance, this could reduce organic search performance but maintain overall performance.
It is important to ensure both paid and organic search teams are using consistent reporting data to ensure the dots are connected across channels.
5. Communication and process
Communication and process are the absolute key to a successful holistic search approach. If paid and organic search teams aren’t collaborating and discussing performance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, then failure is guaranteed. In contrast, if there are clear processes in place with regular catch-ups, then the right data gets analyzed and the best insights surfaced. This will drive performance gains for search overall.
In summary
Implementing a holistic approach is essential for driving overall search performance. By fostering collaboration across paid and organic teams to develop a single consumer-centric planning process and measurement framework, we can increase efficiency and make better, more data-driven decisions. However, it is communication and process that will ultimately dictate the success of the holistic approach.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

David, is Business Director – Owned Performance at Ecselis, Havas Group and is responsible for leading and developing their propositions and service solutions, specifically around SEO, Content and CRO in-order to deliver long term strategic results for clients. David has over ten years’ experience in delivering business growth across start-ups to multi-national enterprise level clients, as well as launching brands’ web presence in new markets. Having worked client side across paid, earned and owned media and held senior SEO agency side roles, David brings thought leadership from multiple viewpoints and a leading performance-driven approach. David was named the 12th most influential search marketer in The Drum’s Search Top 50 in 2014. In addition, David speaks at conferences such as SES and Search Leeds.

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