30 | Leveraging PPC & Digital Data for SEO with Arnout Hellemans


What do we do? “We optimise stuff” says Arnout Hellemans, my podcast guest this week. I loved our chat and learning something completely new as it’s all about leveraging PPC and other digital channels for SEO.

Arnout is Dutch and lives in Amsterdam. He has been freelancing, doing SEO, PPC and conversion, analytics work since 2008/9. He has worked in mostly SEO/Adwords but in past few years he’s getting more interested in the psychology side of things and analytics.

How would you leverage PPC for SEO?

Google took away search data and now it offers ‘not provided’. Everybody went onto keyword planner tool to get good ideas of search volume and what they should be focusing on. Arnout grew sceptical of the tool so he checked the data by looking at his Adwords account. The data says this but is it actually true?

Go to search terms report then look at impressions and clicks, impressions especially, and look at search impression share. You can work out the real search volume surrounding that keyword. Instead of aggregated data you’re looking at your own actual keyword rather than similar keywords that are plurals etc. That’s a great source of ideas with real data.

You can use that data for digital PR campaigns as well as keywords to optimise pages for. You can also look at proper intent. Find words that are saying the same thing as that’s great for keyword research.

Interestingly, there are bots going around and skewing our data. Arnout mentions Julia Logan spoke about this topic but essentially Adwords data will show you the best information because you’re paying for it. Google is giving you real data because you’re paying for it. The rest is all sampled.  

You can also use those to optimising for meta tags and meta descriptions. Ads are essentially snippets so you can run a test via PPC whether you should focus on delivery or lowest prices by the clicks that you get. Test the call to actions and use the winners for page optimisation, page titles and meta data. Via PPC you can get results via 1 or 2 days dependant on the traffic volume!

Amara Example: SEOs don’t usually leverage sale as a way to increase click through rates (CTR.) There are implications which offer issues such as Google showcasing the sale messaging even after the sale has finished due to crawl wait etc. My team and I ran a couple of tests for a major sale and Black Friday in 2018. We firstly took a group of pages to ensure we have a group of page to focus on and ensure they’re manually crawled and recrawled to normal messaging afterwards. We added sale messaging to the meta descriptions only and saw a very good click through rate, in fact we’ve proved that it increased over that period. As Black Friday was a week long event we added 50% off for certain brands messaging but not only to meta descriptions but also titles. I probably shouldn’t be sharing this but we saw great results from this and will definitely do this again for 2019.

Seasonal pages:

Many brands create a page purely for a seasonal event. Arnout gets annoyed with that because they might get links and shares so says don’t remove it and leave it there throughout the year. Create a sign up page and incentivise potential customers to shop with you. Useful for post-GDPR world too where everyone’s email list has decreased.

You can also test pages in a similar way, of course it will depend on quality score and content but you might want to test a sign up page with product listing page or something else. Check if they work with negative keywords too, as SEOs you can’t do it but with PPC you can. Arnout says that’s one of the holy grails.

Leveraging Display Advertising and Retargeting lists for Link building

These can look at who spent more than 2 minutes on your site to display Ads. You can look at their placements as a lot of cases you’ll have the exact URLs where that ad was displayed.

Example: if you’re selling homes in Ibiza. You’ll be able to see what sites your Ad is showing up so that you can see the blog posts that you can do collaborations with and get relevant links.

Arnout can create an Ad with no clear call to action to show the brand name fully there. You get that brand awareness so if you have the link it’s not just for those who have been on your site but those other people who are similar who can come to your site also.

Check the negatives as well. Check what’s irrelevant as a brand then gets rid of those but with logged in users, some competitors were displaying Ads so now he can run a campaign within their closed environment and get those potential customers coming over to his clients brands rather than competitors. It’s a form of prospecting.

This is where your audience hangs out. Google has this data based on DNS servers and chrome usage, etc. They can figure out what are the commonalities between the brand and where the potential customers are. You’re offering the link to fulfil the intent of that person where they might already be situated. If they’re reading that content already and the display Ad is showing then it’s relevant and makes sense for your brand to be there permanently.

DSA – Dynamic Search Ads

These are where you tell Google that you want relevant traffic to these pages. Google crawls the site using the Organic ranking mechanism (on-page contextualisation to understand it.) You write the headline etc. You can do this for all your long tail keyword focused pages as you want control over the generics. Google will essentially write Ads for those in an automated way. Go into the DSA campaign and get all the keywords in there to see the keywords that they’re using. This is the future, Arnout says.

DSA experiment: if you’re launching a new site. You can feed Google URLs and it will be crawled and indexed in order for them to be eligible for this. It’s also a good way for the site to appear in Organic search much quicker.

Improve Organic to Turn off PPC Ads

When I was at Tesco we went through a time of testing turning off PPC Ads when we had high Organic listings. User testing showed that a lot of people still don’t understand the difference between what’s paid for and what isn’t. Arnout says that if he has a high intent or it’s a high value purchase then he’d go for an Ad. If they’re spending a lot of money to get onto the site then Arnout would open all of them. User testing also found that people are likely to trust the brand if they’re happy to spend a bit more.

People are too focused on Keywords

Go into the organisation and see what questions pop up. For example the 10 most frequently asked questions etc. Most SEOs don’t look at this but this is essentially where you can claim the SERP. Covering your basics. These are asked to customer services but firstly these are probably searched on Google.  

It’s a great opportunity to get people into the store, especially if the answers are positive. Also, with featured snippets being more prominent, it’s important that the brand is appearing for those questions and answers.

Tesco Example: Loads of people searching for how to change the address on their Tesco account. Instead of calling customer services, we’ve added steps as to how customers can do this themselves which was a great time saver for them (hopefully,) but nonetheless reduced the amount of calls customer services received about it.

Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)

Use Answer the Public or mainly the SERPs where you click a result but then click ‘back’ to see ‘what other people also ask’ as this shows up only if you take this route. Optimise that process so that it’s flawless as it’s good for the brand. Get out of that bubble and look at what Google is serving and have a look at the intent of that search too. Google have a great feedback loop so you can learn a lot from it.

How to Prioritise Optimisations

Use PPC data to look at most search volume, most profit, average margin, most converted and map out the important pages and priorities to do testing for call to actions, implementing schema, rewriting meta data etc.

On the flip side, you can look at the low converting pages with high volume so you can change or improve those pages. Look at CRM and not just optimising for SEO there.

There is no one way to do it but think about the data that you can have and leverage it to make a positive impact!

Related Episodes

  1. Digital Marketing with Daniel Rowles
  2. Guaranteeing SEO results with Rory Truesdale

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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