Crafting a Successful Holistic Search Approach

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:

  1. Both paid and organic search are targeting the same consumer.
  2. Holistic search strategy and planning is very straightforward to implement.
  3. 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?

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