Look out, the web is getting increasingly...webbier? What I mean is, no single marketing channel exists in a vacuum. Increasingly, different channels are relying on each other to further help push their own efforts. Truth is, that's exactly how Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter and the other big players in search and social like it. The more signals they can get for your content, the better they are able to rank it, promote it, share it or even trash it.
In the early (good ole') days of Google, links drove the majority of the relevance for a single piece of content in organic search results. Someone links to your page with the anchor text "discount shoes," and Google counts that as one vote that your page should rank for a search for discount shoes. Simple, right? Now, a couple hundred factors influence where your page ranks in search results, including social signals---but we'll more into that in a moment.
On the social front, Facebook and Twitter didn't have much reach beyond their own domains. Then, the social graph was introduced, mapping out millions of pages and relationships on the web.
Today, SEO, PPC and social media are intertwined, and success in one channel can easily translate into success on another. In other words, without a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, you're probably missing out.
How SEO Influences PPC
Someone asked me this question recently, which actually inspired this post. First, improving PPC performance can mean a number of things. Improved conversions, clicks, impressions, quality scores and lower CPCs can all be considered "wins" depending on your strategy and goals.
The first component is how SEO can improve your quality scores, which in turn leads to lower CPCs and higher average positions. Part of good SEO includes optimizing your entire website for a list of well-researched keywords and integrating primary pages well into the site. By choosing these well-optimized pages as landing pages for relevant keywords in your PPC ad groups, you can boost quality scores and positions while lowering your costs.
Also a key component of good SEO is eye-catching calls to action and easy site structure. These components can lower bounce rates and increase conversions, which are successes that translate into both SEO and PPC.
Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that SEO is the long term strategy and takes significant time and effort to build an effective presence in SERPs. When you're still working your way up the organic rankings, PPC serves as the perfect short-term strategy for maintaining a presence on page 1 until your SEO efforts take over.
How Social Influences SEO
This one is a little more recent. In the past couple of years, both Google and Bing have acknowledged that certain social signals influence organic rankings. First, Bing and Facebook took on a well-known partnership, announcing that the number of likes a page (via the Facebook Like button) receives is a ranking factor.
Then Google came along and created the +1 button, shortly followed by Google+. It wasn't long before +1 buttons were integrated directly into search results, so it was no surprise when they admitted that +1s did indeed influence organic rankings. In fact, Google places so much emphasis on +1s and Google+, that one of the quickest ways to get a new page indexed by Google is to +1 it.
However, it doesn't stop with just buttons. The more a page is shared on Facebook and Twitter, the more likely it is to benefit in organic rankings. Additionally, in Google, if a page appears in search results that has been given a +1 by people in your circles, you will see their faces directly next to that link. Same goes for Bing and Facebook, recently going so far as to include the option to connect with Facebook from within Bing search results (pictured right).
How Social Influences PPC
This relationship is still relatively underutilized. Currently, if someone within your Google+ Circles +1s a page, and an ad linking to that page appears in search results, you'll see that information along with how many people gave the page a +1, with the option to follow that company on Google+. These elements add a level of "social proof" to what is otherwise a machine-generated list of links and ads.
To take your PPC account to another level, you may have considered ad extensions to improve CTR. These can be in the form of location extensions, call extensions, sitelinks extensions, mobile app extensions and social extensions. With social extensions, you can pull that Google+ data into your ads, even if nobody has given a +1 to the specific page your ad is linking to.
How PPC Influences SEO
Just kidding, it doesn't. Spending a boatload of money in Google Adwords and Microsoft Adcenter won't get you to page 1 for organic results. I'm sure Google and Bing wouldn't complain if you tried, though.
Basically, the same elements that make for a well-structured, successful PPC campaign also apply to SEO---well structured pages, easy usability, clear calls-to-action and solid optimization.
So does this mean that if you are invested heavily in SEO but aren't engaging customers in social media, that your strategy is doomed? Well, yes. Sorry to be blunt, but if current trends toward social + SEO integration continue (they will), you simply cannot afford to be absent from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Also, if you are thinking about PPC performance without batting an eye toward SEO, you are significantly limiting the performance of both channels.
In short, with these trends, businesses today need a comprehensive, multi-faceted digital marketing strategy. Without considering how SEO, PPC and social work together, you could be severely limiting the performance of your online efforts.