PPC Search Engine Marketing vs Search Engine Optimization

by Irune

Search engine marketing involves both paid PPC placements and search engine optimization strategies. Which one is better?

As a website owner you are probably familiar with the term SEM, or Search Engine Marketing. It means nothing more than using search engines to drive traffic to a website, either by organically placing on the top search results or by paying a fee to have your website displayed on the search engine results page (SERP) when specific keywords are used on a search. This amounts to paying to rank the SERPs, but your ad will be clearly marked as a sponsored ad and won’t have the same CTR as a real organic search result. Deciding between PPC Search Engine Marketing vs Search Engine Optimization is easier once you know how they work.

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Location of Paid and Organic Listings

In this article we are going to be focusing on Google paid and organic search results, but most search engines follow a similar pattern when designing their result page. The central area of the page is dominated by organic search results, while the paid ads are placed above and to the right and clearly marked as sponsored ads by having a different background colour. Most internet users are clearly aware of the difference, and so the click rates for organic and paid search results are about 70% versus 30%. 

Sample Google Search Screen
Sample Google Search Screen

Pros and Cons of Organic Search Marketing

Organic search results get generally more clicks, and you don’t need to pay for each click. That would make them the clear winners if it wasn’t that getting to the first place on the SERPs for a competitive keyword is generally speaking, expensive and time consuming. It's extremely important to adhere to search engine marketing best practices or the website could be removed from the search engine indexes permanently.

Whether you do your SEO yourself, or hire SEO or freelance content writing services do it for you, you’ll need to wait several months to actually see results, and depending on the keyword you’ll need to spend time creating content or paying to buy SEO articles. On the bright side, once you rank for a keyword the results can be felt for months without any further big SEO investment (though a bit of tweaking will always be required). 

Pros and Cons of Paid Search Marketing

Making an ad for your website appear next to high traffic and competitive keywords is relatively easy: you just need to be prepared to pay top price for the ad slot. There’s no delay, no weeks to see if your SEO efforts worked and your website ranks for your desired keyword, and you can technically ignore all the factors affecting the ranking of a website. As soon as you are ready to start paying, it works. 

While this is great, the fact that people know that you are paying for an ad makes it less likely than they will click, preferring in most cases to trust the organic search results or the wisdom of the crowds, factored into the search engine algorithms. And the moment you stop paying, traffic will stop, which means that your marketing budget may only give you traffic for a few weeks before it’s depleted.

PPC Search Engine Marketing or Search Engine Optimization?

It’s a common misunderstanding that you actually need to choose between organic and paid search marketing. In fact, using both of them is often the best approach in order to drive traffic to your website. Paid search engine placement will bring you traffic from the day you open for business, while organic SEO will help you build passive and highly targeted traffic on the long term, using low cost tactics such as article marketing for link-building. If you specialise in writing for money you may find writing articles for SEO is an on-demand skill worth adding to your portfolio. 

In the case of search engine marketing for beginners, you need to make sure you don't bite more than you can chew. This means, in the case of SEO, choosing keywords with low levels of competition where you know you can get results relatively quick. If you use only pay-per-click (PPC) ads means that you only pay if people click, you just need to make sure to carefully choose your keywords to get the maximum ROI. 

Updated: 01/25/2012, Irune
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Mira on 08/25/2012

Right. I agree that you should play with both paid and organic search results, but it's hard to find money to invest. Somehow it's easier to find time (even if that, too, is very limited) and wait.

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