Over 90% of online searches happen on Google.
Every other search engine takes up so little of the search engine market share that we can consider them irrelevant for the time being. Everyone knows that getting to the top of page 1 is the best way to increase your traffic, but how do you go about doing this? There are two types of results that compose the first page of Google after a search:
- Paid search results
- Organic search results
Can you make it to the top with your website? Which category do you want your listing to be published in? We’ll answer these questions and more in this post.
What’s the difference between “paid results” and “organic results”?
Paid search results are usually the first thing you see at the top of a Google search results page:
They have a small notation next to them that identifies them as “Ads” and they direct you to a landing page, or present you with the option of navigating to multiple landing pages. These positions are gained by starting an ad campaign in Google Ads, doing keyword research, and bidding on positions. Every time a visitor clicks on your landing page, Google charges a fee for the traffic, hence the name Pay Per Click advertising (PPC – also commonly referred to as SEM, or Search Engine Marketing). The cost of the position and traffic depends on the competition level of the keyword you’re targeting, and your chances of making it to page one depends on how much you’re willing to bid.
Organic search results are all of the links that Google provides, aside from their ads.
The main goal of Google’s algorithms is to provide the searcher with the most relevant and highest quality content. In order to get a first page ranking you must utilise SEO best practices as well as create informative and engaging content. This takes more time and extended effort than PPC advertising, but can prove incredibly valuable for your business.
Pros and cons of paid traffic
In order to have a chance at appearing at the top of the search results soon, you need to pay. PPC is the only way to achieve quick results, however as with everything in the world of marketing, these results are not guaranteed. The bidding system is quite complex, and competition is incredibly high in the PPC world these days. Here’s a quick and simple breakdown of the pros and cons of paid advertising methods:
- You can target specific audiences and utilise methods such as retargeting and remarketing to optimise your strategy
- The results are measurable. You can see how many people viewed your ad, clicked over to your website, and took action on your landing page. This way you can determine whether you’re seeing an ROI or loss easily.
- Your results will come quicker than a traditional SEO or Content Marketing strategy.
- You can track your ads in real time, which gives you the ability to see how you’re performing and change your ads to cater to successful strategies.
- You can advertise locally or globally, depending on the audience you want to reach.
- There is a large potential ROI for businesses that are able to maintain a high conversion rate, or have large profit margins on their packages/products/services.
- PPC is complicated. It may sound simple to create an account, set up a campaign and publish your ad, but once you dive into your Google Ads account, you realise just how many variables you need to manipulate in order to see success. It’s a very complex system, and it’s easy to lose money if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Advertising isn’t what it used to be. Many people, especially of the millennial age and below, don’t trust traditional advertising as much as previous generations. They look to user reviews, social communities and trusted influencers for information, while remaining skeptical of ads.
- Your ads disappear as soon as you stop paying. As opposed to published content that remains as long as your site is up.
- There is a large potential for loss. On a small scale, when you’re first starting out, PPC doesn’t have to be a huge investment. But the only way to see significant results is to invest a significant amount of cash into the Google ad network. If you do it right, you’ll see a big ROI. If you do it wrong, or your service just doesn’t benefit from ads, you’ll see a big loss.
Pros and cons of organic traffic
Getting to the top of page 1 results for specific keywords is the holy grail for every SEOer. The ability to do so is contingent on number of “ranking factors” that determine your position in the results. These factors are constantly changing as Google updates their algorithms in order to try to bring the best and most relevant content to the top of the results for their users. Here are the basic factors that most experts agree make you first-page-worthy:
- A secure and accessible Website
- A fast page loading speed (including mobile age speed)
- Mobile friendliness
- A good URL, domain age and authority
- Relevant, useful, optimised content
- Technical SEO
- A straightforward and positive user experience
- Links (backlinks, internal and external)
- Social signals
- Real business information
Google has never offered an actual breakdown of how their algorithms analyse sites, but years of research performed by experts around the globe have led to this general consensus.
SEO comes with it’s own set of complications, challenges and rewards. Here are the main pros and cons of creating and implementing an SEO campaign:
- The traffic is free. Now don’t get too excited. The content that you need to create will cost you, either in effort or monetarily. However, this is a one time cost, vs PPC where the traffic flow stops when you stop paying.
- Your content stays put. Once you create and publish a page or post, it stays there until you decide to change or remove it.
- SEO targets users looking for solutions. People who are looking for information on how to solve a problem are less inclined to click on ads, they want in-depth content that teaches them and provides a trustworthy solution.
- SEO generates high converting traffic. Since you’re providing effective solutions for targeted audiences, the traffic that comes to you organically is very valuable.
- SEO generates industry authority and increases brand trust. By writing the most useful content in your industry, people will come to recognise you as a source of knowledge and a trustworthy business.
- SEO incorporates many facets of digital marketing including web design, on-site optimisation, citation audits and cleanup, blogging, social media, link building and networking.
- Time. It takes months for results to show from an SEO campaign. And even longer to see an ROI. Meanwhile you’re investing money into the strategy. Many business owners start to feel anxious about paying for something that isn’t achieving measurable results.
- Google hates SEO. Ok, that’s not really true. However, SEO analysts often feel that way. Google is constantly updating and changing their algorithms, and changing the information available to the public, so there is no “perfect formula” to achieve first page rankings. In order to achieve “SEO Expert” status, you have to be up to date on all industry news.
- Success requires a hefty investment. Because a comprehensive SEO campaign incorporates so many aspects of digital marketing, it can be quite an investment. You essentially need a team of analysts, writers, designers and marketers working together in unison. This is no easy nor cheap feat.
So what’s the verdict?
PPC and SEO are both valuable strategies that generate traffic to your website. Most marketing experts agree that the optimal strategy is to use both simultaneously. However, that’s a very big-budget way of thinking.
We believe that if you’re going to invest in either SEO or PPC, SEO generates more overall value for your business.
This is because the value of SEO reaches far beyond the first page of Google. The content that you create for your marketing efforts is more useful than a one-time ad. It can be repurposed for all sorts of inbound marketing strategies, including email marketing, blogging and link building. Building a meaningful, trustworthy and helpful online presence is the best way to appeal to every demographic of your audience, and a comprehensive SEO strategy will do just that.