Development of a search engine marketing model using the application of a dual strategy.

Kritzinger, W.T.

Published Online

Kritzinger, W.T. 2017. Development of a search engine marketing model using the application of a dual strategy. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town. Graduated 12 December 2017.Online:


Any e-commerce venture using a website as main shop-front should invest in marketing their website. Previous empirical evidence shows that most Search Engine Marketing (SEM) spending (approximately 82%) is allocated to Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns while only 12% was spent on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The remaining 6% of the total spending was allocated to other SEM strategies. No empirical work was found on how marketing expenses compare when used solely for either the one or the other of the two main types of SEM. In this study, a model will be designed to guide the development of a dual SEM strategy.

This research set out to determine how the results of the implementation of a PPC campaign compared to those of a SEO campaign, given the same websites and environments. At the same time, the expenses incurred through both these marketing methods were recorded and compared.

Article one was based on an empirical field experimental approach. The authors considered the implementation of both SEO and PPC, and compared the results. Data was gathered from Google search results after performing both fat head and long tail key-phrase searches based in various categories. The websites that were listed in the top 10 of the sponsored section of the search results were recorded. These websites were then checked to see if they also had an SEO ranking within the top 100 for both the fat head and long tail key-phrases. The author then researched and produced article two where the active website of an existing, successful e-commerce concern was used as platform. The company has been using PPC only for a period, while traffic was monitored. This system was de-commissioned at a given point, and SEO was implemented at the same time. Again, both traffic and expenses were monitored. Finally, the author proceeded with article three where various successful e-commerce websites, utilising both SEO and PPC, were evaluated on their Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). The CPA for the e-commerce websites was calculated over a set period. Also, the cost over that period for both SEO and PPC was divided by the number of acquisitions achieved by each, and compared.

It was found in article one that website owners seldom invest in SEO as part of a SEM campaign. This seemed to confirm some of the findings of other authors. Only SEO and PPC were evaluated, as they are the most used SEM techniques. Possible future research could include investigating other search engines' PPC systems - Bing and Yahoo!, for example. Article two's results indicate that the PPC system did produce favourable results, but on the condition that a monthly fee must be set aside to guarantee consistent traffic. The implementation of SEO required a relatively large investment at the outset, but it was once-off. After a decrease in traffic due to crawler visitation delays, the website traffic bypassed the average figure achieved during the PPC period after a little over three months, while the expenditure crossed over after just over six months. It was found in article three that the cost per acquisition (CPA) for SEO, for each of the e-commerce websites, was significantly lower than that of the CPA for the PPC campaigns.

While considering the specific parameters of this study, an investment in SEO rather than a PPC campaign appears to produce better results at a lower cost, after a given period. This research has important implications for SEO and PPC practitioners, and for website owners. It should influence the way budgets for SEM are applied. Finally, it could be used by marketing managers in better utilising their limited SEM budgets. No evidence could be found that this kind of empirical research has been done before, hence the results are considered to be unique and contributing in a major way to the body of knowledge.

As a conclusion, a dual strategy model was proposed. This model should be used in designing a cost-effective SEM strategy, tailored to a specific business. It involves choosing between one or both of SEO and PPC as marketing platforms. The results of the three research articles have been combined and articulated to design this model, which should allow any digital marketer to plan a marketing strategy in a way that will, for a specific situation, reduce costs and increase yield.
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