THE FLIPSIDE OF SERP DOMINATION IS WASTEFUL MARKETING SPENDINGS
For years, Bol.com has been the biggest ecommerce company in Belgium. But the runner up in the sports and outdoor segment is Decathlon, followed by Nike. Decathlon’s e-commerce accounts for 21% of the chain’s total sales in Belgium. It is not surprising that SERP domination is the main driver for online sales. Consequently, 70% of the total digital marketing budget is allocated to Search and Shopping Ad campaigns. In addition, Decathlon has invested significantly in SEO, understanding it is a fundamental channel with tremendous ROI. But it is a long-term and continuous process that requires initial resources and the passage of the time before it begins to show results.
SERP domination means achieving a prominent position on the search engine results pages for both paid and unpaid results. It is clear that for some extremely competitive terms, ranking in position one organically is insufficient to be visible above the fold, as the number of paid ads are pushing down the organic results. But for some terms, having both SEO and SEA results appearing on the result pages, creates a cannibalizing effect. Overlapping results can turn into unnecessary and wasteful marketing spendings, impacting the ecommerce profitability. It is a common challenge for large ecommerce companies that is too often overlooked.
How can you ensure that Decathlon's SEO and SEA investments work together harmoniously, preventing any cannibalization, and maximizing the profitability of the e-commerce marketing budget? By aiming for an optimal, dynamic bidding strategy and budget management in real-time that can increase and decrease allocated budget to PPC campaigns steered by the organic search performance.
BUILDING AN AUTOMATED BUDGET MANAGEMENT SYSTEM OPTIMIZING SEO AND SEO INVESTMENTS
And so Decathlon and Semetis joined forces to build a solution that carefully studies keywords to avoid wasting SEA budget and flags query opportunities that could fuel Decathlon’s ecommerce sales further. The solution was built in four steps.
1. Automatic identification of business valuable pages with low search engine ranking and traffic
Taking advantage of technology, we defined a set of rules to automatically identify the e-commerce pages that have a high-business value from a profitability perspective, yet are not performing well in terms of organic traffic.
- Sport-specific pages with high product margins
- < 100 impressions per week
- > Avg. Position 5
- Status code = 200 (which indicates that the page is working correctly)
Using the API connection of Google Search Console, all pages that met the business and technical criteria set above, were automatically imported into a Google Sheet. The fetching was configured at a daily rhythm. As such, pages that improved over time disappeared automatically from the list, while others were added. So now, we have a daily updated list of pages that required our attention. But what now?
2. Setup of Dynamic search ads in Google Ads targeting a page feed
Dynamic Search Ads, the Google Ads feature that allows you to automatically appear on search queries using a similar methodology as SEO, is brilliant, yet limited. Because the control of which landing pages will be front-loaded with media is decided by Google’s algorithm, and it does not always favor your product pages with the highest profit margins. To overcome this, we leveraged the URL feed, created in the first step, connecting with Dynamic Search ads to control this. As a result we are steering the bidding system to only invest budget for those product pages on the list. If a page no longer meets the business and technical requirements, it disappears automatically from the list, and in turn out of our campaign. In the scenario of a new page added to the URL feed, an ad and budget is allocated in real-time without any manual interference required. Isn’t that pure magic?
We have now created a budget management system that automatically increases budget for product pages, with low SEO performance, and decreases budget for product pages, which have strong SEO performance. As a result, SEO and SEA cannibalization is limited and wasted marketing budgets can be invested in areas that drive direct business value.
3. Monitoring keyword sets that require a SEA boost on top of strong SEO performance
Now this solution successfully avoids cannibalization. What it does not do however, is evaluate and assess the global combined business impact of having both a SEA and a SEO presence on a certain group of queries or set of landing pages. Because as explained in the beginning, for some extremely competitive terms, ranking in position one organically is insufficient to be visible above the fold, as the number of paid ads are pushing down the organic results. To address this challenge, we created a dashboard that measures the combined impact of SEO and SEA on specific queries, with data coming from Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Google Ads. Using this dashboard, we can make data-driven decisions on which set of keywords, linked to a certain sports category, need a SEA budget on top of the already very strong SEO results.
INCREASING ROI BY 17% WITH AUTOMATED BUDGETING AND DATA ANALYTICS
The primary goal of leveraging technology and data, was improving cost-efficiency in our performance strategy. The automated budgeting process was implemented 6 months ago, and the results are impressive:
- A 26% increase in online sales attributed to low-traffic landing pages
- A global 17% increase in the overall ROI of our SEA and SEA efforts combined
- Overall the proportion of high-business value product pages reporting low traffic, decreased by 31%
On a longer time-frame, the investments in SEO combined with the implementation of performance marketing strategies, such as this one, has resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of online revenue generated through SEO, going from 20% in 2019 to 45% in 2022.