Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
Official Google Ads Seminar Leader.
Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
(703) 828-5811‬
Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing 3 Ways of Testing SEO With PPC

3 Ways of Testing SEO With PPC

Organic search can be an excellent traffic stream that helps your website increase its visibility, find new customers, and ultimately be a nice source of revenue for your company.

However, organic traffic has some drawbacks:

  • You can’t easily test landing pages, headlines, and templates
  • You can’t get rapid feedback
  • You don’t get traffic on certain keywords until you rank for the terms

This is where your paid search campaigns can help out your organic teams: testing and rapid feedback for tests.

In this column, we will examine a few ways in which your paid search account can help your organic teams get the data they need to make good decisions.

Testing Title Tags

Organic title tags serve two major purposes:

  • Tell a bot what your page is about
  • Serve as a headline on search result pages to get the click from searchers

Many companies are resistant to changing their headlines when they are ranking for certain keywords because it can affect organic rankings. However, if your headline is not very compelling, then searchers will not be compelled to click on your listing to arrive at your landing pages.

A PPC headline’s goal is to showcase your product, draw attention to itself, and ultimately get the click when there is a good match between the search intent and your website.

The overall goals of an organic title tag and a search headline are very similar.

Most search engine organic headlines are 55 – 65 characters.

A paid search headline can be 60 characters when it is display above the organic results; and the description line 1 ends in a punctuation mark.

Title Tag Testing

You can test your organic headlines with paid search to see which ones have the highest CTR.

With these headlines, don’t let you paid search team write them without input from the organic team. The organic team will need certain elements in the title tag for ranking purposes. Therefore, have the two teams sit down and do some brainstorming on possible title tags. When you have a few ideas; use those ideas as your headlines in your paid search ads.

Test Home Pages

Your homepage usually receives more traffic than any other page on your site. A homepage’s goal is to identify to visitors what you do and then quickly segment them further into your site so they can take actions.

However, testing homepages is a scary proposition with organic traffic. You cannot just make a few homepages and tell the search engines to rotate where the traffic goes to on your site. You do not want all of these homepages indexed as that can cause other issues with your site’s rankings. Yet, homepages must be tested as a slight increase in conversion rates across a site can make a large difference in your overall site’s revenue.

There is an easy solution – test with PPC. However, you cannot use your PPC landing pages to test this traffic. Your PPC landing pages are built for conversions. Your organic pages are built for both rankings and conversions.

Have the SEO and PPC teams sit down with a designer and work through some possible homepages that will help both conversions and SEO.

Then, put these pages in their own folder and use a global disallow in your robots.txt file.  If you need more clarification on robots.txt files; please see: What PPC Practitioners Should Know About Robots.txt Files.

Next, send your branded traffic to these various homepages to see which variation has the best lift in revenue. If you do not have enough branded traffic to test, then send some of your very specific exact match traffic to these various pages.

Once you have the results, then you can roll out these changes to your homepage.

Testing Templates

With most content management systems (CMS); you do not make changes to a single page’s layout. You make changes to a template, and that change is reflected across all pages using that same template. This makes it difficult to test large sites for SEO purposes as the CMS is an all or nothing change.

You can use paid search to test your template change ideas. Just as with homepages, you do not want your paid search team to design these on their own as your navigation and other offers will be stripped away to try and increase conversion rates. With your templates, you need to think about site navigation and page information for organic ranking purposes.

Therefore, create a few static pages outside of your CMS; but work with the SEO team on how the pages can be laid out so that if the new template is better, it can be implemented across the site without hurting (and hopefully, helping) your current organic traffic.

If you offer hundreds of products, do not just test a single ad group with a new template and then roll our the changes. Make sure you are testing enough different products and services to be confident that the new template will work for all of your products.

With these pages, also make sure that you are excluding them from being crawled by any bots except the PPC ones.

Mitigating Risk With ACE

While all of these tests can help your organic search traffic bring in more revenue; while you are testing your PPC revenue often drops. Your organic headlines, templates, and homepages usually convert lower than your dedicated landing pages. Therefore, use ACE or AdWords Campaign Experiments for your tests.

AdWords Campaign Experiments

With ACE, you can test a small percentage of your PPC traffic for SEO purposes and then keep the rest of the traffic for your higher converting PPC campaigns.


Organic traffic is wonderful. Ranking number one for a term can bring in a significant amount of traffic. It is difficult to test titles and page layouts with organic traffic. If a test is done incorrectly, it can also hurt your organic traffic. Randomly changing title tags, H1s, and the content of your pages that have nice organic traffic can have detrimental effects.

However, you must keep testing pages to try and increase conversion rates. Landing page testing is essential for both PPC and SEO. It should not be kept just within the realm of PPC. The only additional constraint your have with SEO that PPC does not need to conform to is that the page must also satisfy bots as well as humans.

SEO has lots of traffic; but rankings can be temperamental and you cannot accumulate any data until you actually rank. PPC has lots of traffic; but it also allows for rapid feedback. You can start testing traffic immediately to see what pages lead to higher revenue.

This is where PPC can help our the SEO team. Design tests with both the SEO and PPC teams working together. Use PPC to administer the tests; and when your find better results – roll them out to your website with the help of the SEO team.

When these two departments work together, your website’s revenues usually increase; and who doesn’t want their website to generate more money?


  1. alec
    October 14, 2011 at 9:32 am · Reply

    This post is awesome..i’ve been reading tons of crap posts from other blogs, but shows you have a more educated reader base.

  2. m_seakins
    October 16, 2011 at 2:32 am · Reply

    Great post – some really effective ways that SEO and SEM can work together to achieve stronger results.

    I work at an agency that handles SEO and SEM for some large Australian clients and find that our best accounts are those where we handle both SEO and SEM and ensure that we integrate the services. Recently we’ve done some research into the correlation between AdWords quality score and Organic positioning on generic terms. These has been some really interesting results showing that change in QS over time actually has a significant effect on organic positioning over time.

    I also find that it’s great to provide clients with integrated reporting, this has helped us inform clients of the differences between SEM and SEO and have a stronger understanding around keyword selection for each and also the varied strategies that we have to take.

    Would love to get anyones further ideas on this integration.

  3. nathan pabich
    October 25, 2011 at 11:29 pm · Reply

    Hey Brad – Insightful and informative as usual. The one thing I would add is that when conducting these ad headline tests is that your PPC must be in the top 3 results in order to benefit from the longer headline hyperlink.

    It’s definitely important to “cross the aisle” and get the organic team involved as well.

    The other thing I’ve seen some success with, when the organic side is resistant to title tag changes, is to change the meta description based on successful PPC ad copy. A change here has no bearing on ranking (that I know of) but can still deliver a more compelling message that can help raise organic CTR. This is also easier to test since there will be less variance in actual organic rankings than a title tag change can create.

Leave a Reply