93 per centIt is well known that over 90% of b2b purchases start with a web search, but with the changes to the Google algorithm, people are re-evaluating the best ways to be found on the web.

The simple answer to being found used to be search engine optimisation (SEO) because Google pay per click (PPC) sponsored search results used to be treated with less trust than organic search results.

However, the situation appears to have shifted and these days people are just as likely to click the promoted PPC link as the non-promoted link. Whether it is a coincidence or not, this shift in mindset has coincided with some major updates to Google’s search algorithms.

Those updates have changed how SEO campaigns need to be run (see here for more details) and caused many companies to question whether to switch from SEO to PPC.

While the best option is undoubtedly to pursue both approaches, the website design and content needed for effective SEO or PPC campaigns have to all intents and purposes converged. However, the resource needed to manage the off-site components of both programmes can prove prohibitive to some.

No matter how visitors end up at your website, the metrics Google uses to measure the relevancy, quality and ‘stickyness’ of your site are all pushing marketers towards the same website design criteria: landing pages that provide links to more in-depth content.

Google can only detect if a visitor finds the site useful if they click to go deeper within the site (if they don’t click a link within the site, the visit is counted as a ‘bounce’ and that can negatively impact search engine rankings). However, the recent Hummingbird update to the Google search algorithm actually favours longer form content.

So having a mixture of short snappy content that is easily consumed that links to longer-form, more in-depth content for those that are really interested in a particular subject or topic is strongly advised.

For organic search rankings, Google still measures site authority by determining the number of links to the site and its pages, but the weight it gives those links depends on how ‘natural’ they are and the authority of the linking site or social media account.

A similar set of algorithms exist for the PPC Ad Rank[1] calculations that determine the position of your ad on a page and the cost per click. Ad Rank is calculated using your bid amount and Quality Score, which determines how relevant your ads, keywords and landing page are to the person seeing the ad along with the bid price.

The Quality Score[2] is calculated using a number of measures including the quality of your landing page (determined by relevance, transparency and navigability), geographic performance, and how well your ads have performed on different types of devices (you get a different score for laptops, mobile devices and tablets)

Of course, relevance is in the eye of the beholder, and Google cannot determine if a webpage is being read or is only open, so relevancy is measured by how many people click further within a site rather than ‘bouncing’ from the site.

The Quality Score also includes measures of the relevance of your keyword/ad and keyword/search, your keyword’s expected click-through rate (CTR), previous CTRs of the site and display URL as well as your account’s overall CTR history.

However, getting someone to your site is really just the start of the sales process, as you need compelling content to make sure the prospect engages with your site. To really make the most of your outbound search efforts, you need to have a website that works for you, collecting leads and nurturing them with email and social reminders along the buying journey.

If you are committed to making your website drive sales growth, you can’t go wrong by combining on- and off-site SEO and PPC activities with great website content and an inbound marketing campaign.

[1] Ad Rank, Google
[2] Check and understand Quality Score, Google