SEO is NOT Advertising
We are revisiting this subject, and this time we have compiled articles for your reading, which give you a wider perspective on the subject “SEO is NOT Advertising.” If we understand the power of SEO and the purpose of advertising, we can ultimately allocate resources to accomplish our website marketing objectives best.
Improvements to your SEO can help your ranking on Google Search by making your page more relevant to users. Search listings are free, and no one can pay for a better ranking because Google is committed to keeping our search content useful and trustworthy. (Learn more about our search policy here.)
Advertisement ads like Google Ads are paid online advertisements next to relevant searches and other web content. Running a Google Ads campaign does not help your SEO rankings, despite some myths and claims. However, Advertisement ads can help connect with a wider audience online.
So which should your business use: SEO or an Advertisement option like Google Ads? Let’s explore how each works and the benefits of both.
A question we are often asked is, “Which is better: SEO or Advertisement?” This is not a question with a general answer, as it really, truly depends on your current situation, objectives, and marketplace.
Certainly, we are big on search engine optimization (SEO) at Bowler Hat. My experience in this industry over nearly 17 years shows me that organic search delivers more volume at a better cost per lead than paid search when done well.
However, this is not the marketing Wild West it once was. New businesses can have a hard time getting started with SEO, and paid search can offer a fast track to search marketing when done correctly.
For me, this all comes back to your digital marketing strategy. Understanding your prospective customers and how they use the web is key to determining whether paid search, organic search, or a combination of both is the best approach for your unique and ever-changing situation.
In this post, I will look at the pros and cons of both SEO and pay-per-click (Advertisement) as a marketing strategy and provide some tips in choosing the right channel for your business. Where organic and paid are suitable, we will look at how to integrate SEO and Advertisement for improved results from your search marketing efforts.
What are the pros and cons of organic traffic from search engines? Let’s begin with the pros:
Awareness. Visibility in search engines for your targeted keywords puts your business in front of potential customers in much the same way as if you were to advertise, and it drives brand awareness.
Branding. Visibility around commercial search terms and informational queries related to your business area can positively impact your branding. Your brand can become associated with and trusted by searchers who ask questions as they conduct the research that will lead to a purchase. You can become an authoritative voice around a given topic.
Credibility and trust. Having your site return in the organic results can influence your perceived credibility with an audience looking for your services. Many users skip ads and trust organic results more highly. Being visible gives your business that all-important stamp of approval. Also, having a strong review and reputation signals in place will deliver further benefit.
Website traffic. Increasing website traffic provides you with more opportunities to drive awareness of your business and educate a prospect on why they would buy from you.
Cost per click. Traffic from organic search is free… sort of. Developing that visibility will take time and effort (money), but there is no direct charge for each impression or click.
Return on investment (ROI). Organic search engine traffic can provide an improved ROI over traditional forms of paid media and certainly improve upon Advertisement.
Cost. While SEO is neither cheap nor easy, it will generally be more cost-effective than all other marketing tactics for delivering brand awareness and relevant traffic to your website.
Sustainability. Unlike paid search marketing, organic traffic does not dry up the moment you stop paying. As such, efforts to develop organic traffic can sustain a business when marketing spend is cut back.
Improved click-through rate (CTR). A higher percentage of users click on the organic results. While there are exceptions to this rule, you will generate more clicks from a highly placed organic listing than from a highly placed paid ad.
More clicks overall. To maximize visibility and clicks, you will want to have listings in the paid and organic results. Keyword-level experimentation is needed here to see if you are paying for clicks you would get for free or increasing overall clicks and CTR in both paid and organic — but to truly maximize results, strong visibility in paid and organic is needed.
Scope. There are so many new queries every day to maximize scope. You will need strong organic visibility. You will not want to pay for all kinds of clicks or advertise every piece of content on your website.
Strategic advantage. Visibility in organic search is not quick or easy — which is a good and a bad thing. Once you have established yourself in the organic results, your competitors can’t simply buy their way in (assuming you have done things the right way). This can provide a strategic advantage over the competition if they are relying on paid search.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows, though, and there are certainly cons to SEO. In many cases, organic traffic can be slow to come by, and you may be wildly outgunned. If you are starting, and the keywords you are targeting show results dominated by titans like Amazon and eBay, you may need to rethink your strategy.
You may also need to develop content assets to achieve strong organic visibility. Not all businesses have the in-house resources to tackle content development, and this can pose a problem. Tactics such as safe, sustainable link building can be difficult to master, and often, a strategy is needed, along with expert support.
Organic traffic may also largely come in via informational or pre-purchase research queries. This is valuable traffic, but a more staged approach may require nurturing those users to purchase. This is a cornerstone activity in digital marketing; however, it is not always easy, and it is not a good fit for all businesses.
How does paid search differ from organic search? With click-through rates and trust heavily stacked in favor of organic search, why would a business look at paid search? Here are some of the benefits Advertisement offers:
Position on the page. Paid search dominates above-the-fold content. With typically four ads on desktop and three on mobile, a user will always see the paid search ads, even if they choose to scroll past them.
Improved ads. Advertisement ads are just that: advertisements. As such, you have far more granular control and more space for delivering your marketing messages. Calls, locations, site links, pricing, and bullet points (callouts) are just some options for creating ads that dominate the page.
Brand visibility. Running paid search advertisements gets you seen by the right people. Even if they back off and conduct a brand search before clicking to your site, that visibility will pay dividends to your marketing.
Budget. Advertisement allows for tight control of the budget. Determine how much you are willing to spend per day (ideally with some initial and ideal ideas of returns), and set that fixed limit.
Targeting. The advertisement provides a laser-targeted way to get in front of potential customers. Ads can be targeted by search keywords, time of day, day of the week, geography, language, device, and audiences based on previous visits. Organic traffic, by comparison, is far more scattershot.
Speed. While developing good organic visibility can take time, an Advertisement campaign can be created in days and ramped up in weeks. There is no faster way to get in front of customers when they are primed to buy than paid search engine advertising.
Agile. Speed provides agility. Want to test a new product? A new marketing message? You can get rapid feedback on a new product launch (or minimum viable product) by running a short Advertisement ad campaign.
Marketing intelligence. Where organic largely hides keyword data in the name of privacy, there is no such restriction with paid search. With conversion tracking and solid integration with analytics software (like Google Analytics), we can determine what keywords convert and what percentage and cost. This intelligence can be fed directly into organic search (SEO) marketing and can inform all other advertising to improve results across the board.
A/B testing. Easily split-test ads, landing pages, and even call-to-action buttons to determine where the very best results lie. Again, this information can be fed back into all other digital (and traditional) marketing endeavors.
Stability. AdWords does not suffer the same turbulence that the organic results can suffer from. There are changes, but they tend to have a far lower impact and are more easily managed. Careful use of match types and analysis of the search term reports allow for removing junk search and an increase in ROI over time.
Cost. Despite what many advertisers believe, an Advertisement account that’s well set up and managed can be a low-cost way to generate leads for your business. If you are a local business targeting a small geographic area and a small set of keywords, you may find that you can generate more than enough leads without breaking the bank. Additionally, over time, accounts can be further optimized to drive down costs and increase return.
As with organic search, there are many benefits to paid search advertising or Advertisement. However, there are also some pitfalls for advertisers to be wary of.
Advertisement can be expensive. It is not always the case, but costs can quickly add up. If you are targeting entire countries or running international campaigns, those costs can spiral.
Paid search advertising is, as the name suggests, paid — so it requires constant investment. Stop paying the piper, and your ads go away, and your lead generation dries up. So long as you have a solid acquisition cost, this should not be a problem, but it can feel like a bad deal in contrast to SEO. Of course, SEO should be ongoing to keep the opposition at bay, but organic traffic can be a little more robust.
There are various options for search advertising with Advertisement, and making smart choices here will influence results. If you see product listings dominating the screen for your keywords, text ads may not perform well. Likewise, if you run product ads, and only text ads are returned, these ads may not deliver the goods.
It is not unusual to get into bidding wars with other advertisers, which can drive costs up. As you start to run your ads, you are often taking a bite out of some other advertisers’ digital apples. Doing so can result in some spiraling costs.
Strategically, Advertisement is relatively easy to copy. If a competitor notices you are running ads, they can run ads. Your messaging can be imitated. Competitors can easily evaluate your entire funnel. This is the digital marketing landscape, and you have to accept that to some extent.
Successful Advertisement needs skilled management and optimization — from monitoring bids, Quality Scores, positions, and click-through rates. Some of this can be done with scripts, but if you are too busy to do this properly, ensure you have an expert on hand to take care of keeping your account in tip-top shape.
How SEO and Advertisement can work together to improve your website
Let’s explore five ways to get SEO and Advertisement working together to improve your website, increase your leads, and boost your revenue.
As you likely already know, improving your website with SEO gives you a better chance at ranking on the first page, or even in the #1 position, for one or more keywords you are targeting. Additionally, purchasing Advertisement ads for that same keyword with a high enough bid allows your ad to appear near the top of the page when someone searches for that keyword.
If you do both of these things for that particular keyword—that is, optimize your website and purchase Advertisement advertising—you are ensuring that your brand dominates the search results and that you have a better chance at capturing those valuable clicks.
You might assume that if your brand is already ranking #1 for a particular keyword organically (naturally on search engines), you don’t need to purchase an Advertisement ad for that same keyword. After all, what’s the use of appearing on the same page twice?
Research at Google study found that when search ads for a keyword were paused, approximately 89% of these ads’ traffic was not replaced by the organic rankings. So this means that pausing your Advertisement ads could actually negatively impact your traffic, even if your site is naturally ranking #1!
By using Advertisement, you’re recovering clicks and interest from searchers that you might have otherwise missed. Even if you aren’t ranking #1 naturally, Advertisement can help you draw in traffic from those looking for your products or services, and often for a minimal amount of money.
Let’s say your website is ranking fairly well thanks to your SEO efforts and is drawing in a fair amount of visitors, but these are shoppers or potential leads who take a while to make up their mind. You can combine your SEO with a form of Advertisement called remarketing to bring these visitors back to your site to complete their purchase or conversion at a later time.
For example, if someone is shopping for office supplies on your website but wants some time to think about it, you can purchase ad space from a website in Google’s network to show them ads for those same office supplies at a later time. This will remind them to come back to your site and complete the purchase.
By combining SEO and Advertisement in this way, you can reach previous visitors and encourage them to come back to complete a purchase or convert into a lead. In contrast, without remarketing, they may have forgotten about you entirely.
Search engine optimization often takes significant time, research, and expense. There may be times that you are thinking about targeting a specific keyword with your SEO efforts but aren’t sure if it will pay off. One way that you can “test” the viability of a keyword for SEO is with Advertisement.
Pick a keyword you think you stand a chance at ranking highly for and should be able to convert for (that is, one you think is highly relevant to your products or services), and purchase Advertisement advertising for it. Monitor the results for a while, and see how your website performs. If you perform very well, this may indicate that you should also begin optimizing your site for it. If your Advertisement campaigns fall flat, you may want to avoid SEO for this keyword.
Since Advertisement tends to be very inexpensive, this is one way that you can test the waters on a search engine without investing significant time or expense in modifying your website for search engine friendliness.
SEO vs. Advertisement: When to Use Which Search Marketing Method for Maximum Profit
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Traffic is the lifeblood of any online undertaking. An online business’s success greatly depends on the amount of traffic it can generate for its pages. This is an indubitable fact.
However, what is subject to a lot of debate is the matter of SEO vs. Advertisement, two of the most powerful traffic generating approaches. SEO stands for search engine optimization. Advertisement stands for pay per click. Though their end goal is the same, they are different concepts that require different techniques and methodologies.
SEO refers to a group of techniques that are aimed to propel a website to the first page of the major search engines.
SEO is essential for online businesses, as statistics show that 80% of the traffic generated for any website will come from search engines.
The biggest search engine is undoubtedly Google, which garners more than 3.5 billion searches per day; hence, most SEO campaigns target this specific search engine.
So, when should you use SEO techniques over Advertisement? Below are some circumstances when SEO would prove highly beneficial for an online business.
- When consistent results are desired, SEO has a relatively long gestation period. Getting to the first page of search engine results won’t happen overnight or even in a week. Getting to the top of the SERPs will take time. However, once your website gets there via SEO, you will enjoy sustained traffic. If you keep up with your SEO campaign, working to maintain and improve results, you can stay on top for a long time and reap long-term benefits.
- When you wish to build an authority site, an authority website is an established resource center for a particular niche. It is the “go-to” website whenever members of that niche need certain information. Once it gets going, an authority website will be able to generate lots of traffic based on URL recall alone. The best way to establish an authority website is by sustainably generating traffic to your pages, eventually building up a reputation until it becomes popular enough to dominate its market. The only way to sustainably generate the traffic required is through clever content powered by smart SEO planning.
- When you want to increase the value of your website, websites are virtual real estate. If you’re planning to sell your website for a premium price, you have to increase its value. Many factors can contribute to increasing its value. Among them is the amount of traffic generated, consistency of traffic generated, page rank, search engine rankings over a period of time, link popularity, and the like. All of these fall in the realm of SEO.
Keep in mind that SEO isn’t “Free Clicks.” It’s a tremendous amount of work to create and promote content, which takes a great deal of time and money.
Now we go to the other side of the SEO vs. Advertisement debate.
Pay-per-click marketing is a method of advertising on search engine results pages. Basically, you bid to have your ads appear in the sponsored results when someone types in a query, including your keywords.
Why is it named “pay per click”? Because you have to pay for every user who clicks on the ad you are promoting.
Popular Advertisement advertising platforms include Google Ads (AdWords), Bing Ads, and Facebook’s advertising platform. Niche-specific Advertisement systems also abound. One good example is PlentyOfFish.com’s advertisement option, which works wonderfully with dating offers.
So, when should you use Advertisement marketing? Below are some circumstances when Advertisement would prove highly beneficial for an online business.
- When immediate results are desired, an advertisement will deliver results fast. Very fast! You can count the minutes before a rush of visitors come cascading to your pages. This is because the moment your Advertisement campaign is approved (provided that your bids are high enough to merit priority placement), your ads will immediately be displayed for millions of people to see. The traffic will almost be instantaneous. Hence, Advertisement works amazingly with product launches, squeeze pages, CPA marketing, and affiliate marketing involving high converting offers, joint venture (JV) projects, seasonal promotions, event-focused marketing, and analogous online business campaigns.
- When highly targeted traffic is sought. Unlike SEO, Advertisement marketing will allow you to narrow down your prospects based on their demographic data. Many Advertisement platforms, like social media sites, allow you to promote to the age range, gender, income bracket, education level, and even marital status of the people who will be able to view your ad. Popular social media sites like Facebook also allow you to target people based on their hobbies. These make Advertisement a powerful way of reaching the narrow band of people your business needs and leading them to your web pages.
- When promoting a time-sensitive offer. Marketing products, services, or events with an expiration date is always a race against time. Often, the long gestation period of SEO campaigns would produce belated results. For these time-sensitive offers, the expedience of Advertisement marketing would be perfect. Promoting an offer that will end in 2 days? No problem. Advertisement can deliver the traffic you need in a matter of minutes.
- When your website isn’t designed for SEO, SEO requires content-rich websites that are regularly updated. This is the only way to 1) inform the search engines that your site is relevant, and 2) remind the search engines to keep your site at the top of the pile. Some websites are not designed for this. For example, squeeze pages won’t have the required content to merit a second glance from Google. For websites such as this, traffic can be generated from Advertisement campaigns.
- Suppose you want to dominate search results for your keyword category. Advertisement results are displayed above the organic search results. This prominent position means that as much as 50% of the search traffic goes to the top 3 sponsored links in many cases. By being absent from Advertisement, you’re conceding the loss of all those clicks to your competitors. If you’re serious about maximizing your click-share of available searches for keywords relevant to your business, you absolutely must engage in Advertisement!
These are some situations when you might have a preference for one marketing method or the other. I personally believe one shouldn’t be thinking in terms of SEO vs. Advertisement – but rather that both SEO and Advertisement are important and complementary parts of an online marketing strategy.
Article compiled by RapidPage.ca, if you need assistance with your Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Advertising, do not hesitate to call RapidPage today.