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The 50/15 rule

Despite forming a large percentage of a company’s budget, it is often difficult to know where to start when it comes to distributing the spending on website content creation. Below, we would like to present our US colleagues’ new guideline to SEO and SEM spending. This is the 50/15 rule.

Without a doubt, any successful marketing strategy will be reliant upon the strong online and mobile marketing campaigns. Despite the rocky economical situation in the UK, companies are increasingly choosing to direct their traditional advertising budgets towards online advertising. According to the IPA Bellwether report, traditional advertising budgets were reduced by 2.7% in the first quarter of 2012, in contrast to the Internet ad spending, which increased by 7.8%.


Using Google to spend money

Given that search engines are the first port of call when it comes to making enquiries, it only follows that companies will want to invest in getting their name in front of the right people on the results page. When consumers use search engines to do a commercial search, they show a clear intention to buy a product or service. A search request for London hotels, restaurants in Glasgow or cheap flights to somewhere hot and sunny states loud and clear that the consumer will be spending money, and the chances are high that it will be with a company towards the top end of the listings page.

Many of our clients use our service for their SEO and SEM campaigns. Being that we are a custom content creation company, we are often granted unique insights into the best ways to increase a website’s search engine ranking position. It is more than fair to say that content has a significant role to play in our clients’ SEO and SEM strategies. A search engine largely looks at a website’s content to determine where the site will rank for certain keywords and phrases. While other factors, such as domain names, meta tags and links also contribute to a website’s ranking, search engines are increasingly scrutinising the content’s relevancy to the link it surrounds. Consequently the page will achieve a higher listing in the organic results. It is, therefore, undeniable that content is vital for any SEO project.

The value of good content for SEM should also not be underestimated. Originally, the advertisers who were prepared to pay the most for a click on their ad would be given the top paid result for that keyword. The advertisements following this top result were ranked in accordance to the amount they were paying per click. This all changed in 2002, as Google decided to review the way they ranked the ads, moving those that were clicked on a lot to place them higher in the listings.

Attract more, pay less

The higher number of clicks suggested more relevant content to the target websites, and these ads’ subsequent raise in ranking saw them move higher up the listings page then those ads that were paying more per click. It is now the case that Google creates an overall Quality Score for each ad. This Quality Score not only takes into account the click-through rate, but also checks the content on the ad’s landing page and assesses the relevancy of this content to the keyword searched. It follows that when an advertiser improves the content on its website, and consequently improves its Quality Score for its advertisements, the result will be a higher position in the paid listings, seeing more traffic to the website and, essentially, paying less per visitor to the site.

It is with resounding unanimity that we can say content is a core element to any SEO or SEM campaign. Where opinions start to vary on the subject is when it comes to determining the finer points of this content. How much content, for example, is needed? What portion of the budget should be invested in good content and how often should it be updated? Whilst this will be as different for each company as the opinions on the matter, we would like to suggest a guideline for starters. We have called this guideline the 50/15 rule, and believe it will be useful for marketers when trying to allocate resources for SEO and SEM campaigns.

This rule is simple. We suggest that in any marketing strategy, of the organic or SEO expenditures, 50% should be directed to content creation. For advertisers, we suggest concentrating 15% of their SEM spending on landing page content.

The SEO Budget – 50% on getting the right words

SEO is a fine art. Making sure that only interested parties are reading only interesting content is its focus, and by utilising popular search information, optimal content can be created. The result being higher traffic and conversions.

A keyword remains just a regular word until it has been used properly in creating quality content. And regardless of how many fans and followers there are on Facebook and Twitter, it is impossible for them to discuss and promote content which just is not there. SEO and content go hand in hand, as without the first, the latter cannot exist. Bearing this in mind, it seems more than fair to save 50% of the SEO budget purely for quality content creation.

Apart from anything else, even just having quality content alone can do a lot for a site’s rankings. To name one example, a large retailer in America decided to add a great deal of content to their site in the form of product descriptions, leading to an increase in their organic search listings traffic of 5% in a relatively short space of time. To look at this from another perspective, it is equal to millions of US dollars in increased sales in exchange for minimum investment in relevant content.

PPC Spend – 15% on the words used to sell

Wherever there are words, there is content. This includes among others advertisements such as banner ads and Adwords, meaning that marketers are by no means free from the concerns of quality content. If an ad lacks good, relevant content, Google will come down hard on the Quality Score. Turn this around and it is easy to see that the more appropriate the content of an ad is for the target user, the higher the Quality Score and, in effect, the cheaper the ad will be.

By redistributing the paid advertising budget, it is essentially possible to get the investment in content paying for itself. Jon Wuebben, author of Content is Currency, highlighted the case of a Pilates Studio that successfully managed to reduce their PPC costs through SEO optimised, relevant and interesting content. By making sure that around 15% of the paid advertising budget is used specifically for the content on the ads, visitor satisfaction will increase as they are presented with content which matches their search.

There is no fixed rule to abide by for online marketing, and the 50/15 rule is by no means set in stone. Indeed, no two companies are the same, and it would be ridiculous to claim that each company and each campaign should stick to this rule indefinitely. That said, however, the 50/15 rule is a good guideline figure for anyone unsure of how to distribute the SEO and SEM budget.

It would be a wasted effort, for example, to invest a large proportion of the budget in an SEM campaign when the landing pages are all lacking the informative, quality content with SEO optimised keywords. This will either result in a low ROI, or at worst, a failed campaign. The other side of the coin is that investing, say, 40% of an SEM campaign on content, but then only 60% on the PPC, the ROI will not be optimised and the investment on the content will not have been worthwhile. Similarly, any SEO strategy which is focused on links and not on content, or even with 25% focused on the content and 75% on the links, is going to be frowned upon by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates.

We are optimistic that SEO experts will find our rule a reasonable suggestion as to how to distribute investment in SEO campaigns. Our American colleagues have already discussed this rule with the founder/CEO of Didt, Kevin Lee, who is a renowned expert and advisor for all things to do with SEO and SEM. He responded to our guideline in a blog post:

“…because so many marketers and advertisers under-invest in content, I found myself thinking about all the reasons why those under-investing in content should consider ramping up that investment and how a rule-of-thumb might help them. … Yet, when it comes to getting senior management to approve new budget, sometimes a rule of thumb gets you budget, other times even the most intelligent presentation as to the value of the investment of incremental budget alone might fall on deaf ears. So, feel free to use the 50-15 content investment rule of thumb or create your own.”

We’ll be sharing our guideline with other experts, but your opinions on the matter are more than welcome! We will keep you posted on the feedback as we receive it, together with additional case studies and ideas from those who have pondered on content issues. Let us know what you think, and share your views and experience.

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