Organic search is pretty vital for any business, PPC ads are increasingly clicked on by a higher proportion of searchers, and with Google Hummingbird, social is likely to become more important for long tail search results.

Anthony Robinson, Head of SEO at Razsor, Auto Trader’s search and web design arm, talked us through how these three disciplines should be seen in the round.

First off, Anthony encouraged us to think of the tangible differences between Google and Facebook. Tangible in the sense of how users input queries into each.

Google, though it serves more contextual results, is used for plain searches for information whereas users will turn to Facebook if they want to spend time looking for friends’ recommendation, perhaps from friends who live a certain part of the world.

Despite the differences between Facebook and Google, and the fact they often seem siloed, Anthony argued we need to break down the digital rivalry. Planners need to work across multiple platforms and the lessons from each should be shared around.

Part of sharing insights across SEO, PPC and social is making sure every role in your team feels like they are part of the overall strategy.

Using PPC keyword data to create organic content and to optimise landing pages is important, as is increasing the authority of content via social media.

Refining and reiterating AdWords copy also continues in the background. Being reactive with PPC and social will help Autotrader to be first in the market when it comes to new models of cars.

Some brands are moving away from ad spend

Anthony gave Ford and Mercedes as examples of leading lights in the automotive sector. Mercedes are moving towards making content instead of buying ads.

The Mercedes site’s performance in the SERPs hints at a link profile that’s twenty times bigger than that found in actuality.

So how can Mercedes’s effectively outperform its link profile? Through social media activity around its content.

Where in the tail?

Anthony acknowledged that motor they can’t always compete with car manufacturers when optimising for brand names in organic search. Midtail search terms are more important. At the longer end of the tail, social targeting is important.

This is often for contextual search terms such as ‘where can I buy a ford?’.

Social is an area that SEO managers have control over. Whilst you can’t do anything about the number of brand searches or the age of your domain, search managers can try to control social activity.

Even tweets to product pages are going to be important for ranking in the long tail.

In summary

  • Don’t rely too heavily on PPC. After all, clicks cost money.
  • Don’t rely too heavily on SEO. Google can always change its algorithm and the game.
  • Use social media. Google plus pages appear in 30% of brand Google searches, so you have to be working with them.

What about (not provided)?

In the Q&A, Anthony gave an interesting answer to this question. He said Autotrader uses an attribution model and works on cost per lead.

To give some idea of the keywords behind traffic, the team apportions URLs to search terms or groups of search terms. So a visitor to ‘about us’ is deemed as having performed a brand search, and so on.

On top of this, they use wordchecker and searchmetrics day-to-day for keyword research.

What if you’re limited to SEO?

A delegate from a pharmaceuticals company asked about the best plan of attack for those that can’t buy ads or do social media.

Anthony encouraged them to investigate the user journey and the SERPs from mobile voice searches and other contextual searches that will only proliferate over the next couple of years.

If content can be optimised for these mobile contextual searches and voice search, then good results may be achievable without ads or social.

Ben Davis

Published 9 October, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (9)

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The (not provided) solution for organic search traffic works well on larger sites, blogs and online stores, but doesn't help much for smaller sites whose homepages rank for both their brand and keyword searches. Incorporating AdWords keyword data and Webmaster Tools search queries can help in these situations.

almost 5 years ago

Andreas Pouros

Andreas Pouros, Co-founder & COO at Greenlight

RE: So a visitor to ‘about us’ is deemed as having performed a brand search, and so on.

This works for brands such as Autotrader where there are limited brand extension searches. For other brands where more brand extensions exist a different approach is necessary. For example, if you are Topshop there are likely to be far more brand searches such as 'Top Shop dresses', 'Topshop skirts', etc, and these searches would land on the same page as someone searching for 'dresses' or 'skirts' generically. In those circumstances you cannot use the landing page to determine whether a search is brand-based or not. The solution to this is a more sophisticated attribution model that looks beyond the landing page using some clever maths.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

"Google plus pages appear in 30% of brand Google searches..."

But, as an active user base, is used by how many? Can't help thinking G is continuing to flog a dead dog to the consumers with it's limp social network that isn't getting any popularity in the market.

It seems to be purely a 'tick the box' social network, to get some extra visibility in search and to contribute to rankings...but not because people use it.

almost 5 years ago

Andreas Pouros

Andreas Pouros, Co-founder & COO at Greenlight

The change to YouTube that requires users to log in with their G+ credentials to post comments suggests that it's a bit too early to say it's a dead dog being flogged.

It is not Facebook but it doesn't need to be.G+ has always been about identity management, cross-device tracking, ad serving, and general Google user governance. Within that context it has been fairly successful.

The YouTube change is big - YouTube by most accounts is the second most used 'search engine' in most countries (mostly after Google's traditional search engine) and so requiring users to log in to G+ to post comments not only links Google's traditional search and YouTube user profiles, but also fixes a long standing problem with YouTube, which is that it can't be used to build a community because of all the trolls and spammers diminishing it to 'just' a passive video channel.

almost 5 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

thanks for the comments guys.

re URLs and keywords, Anthony did talk about having a more complicated attribution model and using AdWords and webmaster tools, but I didn't get further detail I'm afraid.

almost 5 years ago



I've been a long time lurker on the SEO scene but I feel I must comment here. This article contains little substance and that which is does provide is misinformative at best.
Whilst it's true that social does affect the rankings, Google+ being at the forefront, it does not mean that you shouldn't also rely heavily on GOOD SEO. It is true Google does change its algorithm but it is also true that those who perform SEO with a focus on users and not solely on performing well in the results pages routinely achieve higher rankings and are less affected by algorithm updates and data refreshes.
On the (not provided) front, attributing branded traffic to certain pages is a false economy. The solution we and many other companies are using is to try and target keywords to specific pages and measuring their rankings. It's then possible to plot month on month organic traffic to specific landing pages alongside keyword rankings being tracked. Further, using the CD parameter from the referral string does allow you to attribute some organic traffic to certain keywords but is best used as a guide rather than a KPI.

Just to summerise, I think the most telling thing in this article is that a pharmaceuticals company was told to focus on user journey and mobile voice searches. They bear very little relevance to garnering traffic to a pharmaceuticals website. This article is nothing but buzz words fluffed up with a smattering of SEO related keywords.

almost 5 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Thanks for commenting. Sorry if I misrepresented Anthony here.

He was very much talking about content (and the user) as the focus for one's efforts.

On the pharmaceuticals front, although he mentioned voice search, he also mentioned Google maps and the mobile user journey. I think the point was generally to investigate how your content is engaged with - are there contextual searches you need to be more aware of? how does your content display on mobile? etc.

As I'm not an SEO, I hope this isn't too fluffy, but the main point I feel is that SEO, PPC and social have to be looked at together (and I think Google are doing more to enable this).

Please do continue to read and comment as it will certainly improve our blog. :-)

almost 5 years ago


Mary June, Marketer at SMD

Wow, Google plus is really a very important factor these days. I have been reading and learning that integrating social media helps a lot in your ranking, especially with Google plus.

almost 5 years ago


Robbie Hardy, PPC at Guidance

It seems that pay per click (PPC) is becoming more important. I think it needs to be done correctly or it won't be much help. As I've researched more about it and looked at heat maps of Google search results I've noticed where the majority of traffic is looking. It seems it would be an excellent idea to get more familiar with PPC and use it more often for your site if you want to get a lot of traffic.

over 3 years ago

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