Search Engine Marketing: Organic vs. Paid Results

11/2008 - Some of our clients and business acquaintances both here in Austin, Texas and abroad have asked us how much of their search marketing budget, if any, should be spent on search engine optimization. We like to respond by outlining some Search Engine Marketing basics. (This is just a very basic overview.)

Search Engine Marketing is generally comprised of a combination of Paid Search results and Search Engine Optimization in order to achieve better organic search results. Search results on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and all other major search engines include both paid results and organic results (non-paid results.) So, it stands to reason that your web site will receive more traffic if you show up in both areas of the results page when a user enters a search term that is relevant to your web site. Therefore, at the very least you should put some of your Search Engine Marketing budget towards both Organic Search and Paid Search results.

Paid Search Campaigns:

Paid Search campaigns involve Pay Per Click (PPC) ads that appear on search results pages. These ads are automatically targeted by keywords. That is to say, when you set up a PPC campaign in Google's Adwords program, for instance, you associate your ad with specific keywords that you deem relevant to your web site's audience. You enter a bid amount of what you are willing to spend on these placements and Google places ads on its search results pages based on the winning bids at any given time during the day. There is a lot more to Paid Search Campaigns and this is just a very brief overview. Visit Google's Adwords program for more detailed information.

Search Engine Optimization for Organic Search Results:

Organic Search results are the non-paid results that appear when you enter search terms into Google, Yahoo, MSN or any other search engine. These results are rendered in a paged format where the first 10 or 20 results are shown on the first page and the rest of the results are displayed on subsequent pages. It is best for your web site if pages from your site show up on the first page of results because that's where the highest frequency of clicks occur. Many search engine users will never go on to the second, third or fourth pages. So, there is competition for this coveted first page of results. In order to compete for good organic search placement, you need a strategy that involves:

  • Choosing relevant keyword phrases (including some that have a low level of competition)
  • Building (or re-building) your web site in a search engine-friendly manner
  • Setting up a linking campaign (getting other sites to link to your site)

We recommend that site owners definitely spend money to accomplish the first two items because it creates a foundation for your campaign and because the rules for building a search engine-friendly site are defined and public, so you should take advantage of this. Many site owners do not bother take these first steps, so you will most likely see improvement in your Organic Search Engine placement just by taking them. The third step is an ongoing process and involves discretion on how much time and money you are willing to spend. If, after performing the first two steps, you still see room for improvement (and you will!) then consider how much remaining budget you have to devote some time each week toward link building.

Again, this is just a very brief overview for those who are just getting familiar with Search Engine Marketing. There are many resources on the web with further details.

Contributed by Erik Pearson, Visible Contact Web Services, Austin, Texas USA

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