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Search Engine Marketing: Pay Per Click vs. Organic

If you want to get your company on the first page of Google’s search results, you have two options – buying pay per click sponsored ads, or using search engine optimization (SEO) methods to improve your organic search results. So which is best for your business?

Blue Fly Web Marketing founder Robert Weil says that there is a time and place for both items. Each method has both benefits and drawbacks, he says. You can get up and running with pay per click ads almost immediately, he says, and get traffic literally tonight. It’s a relatively quick and easy process to get the ads up and running.

But those ads will cost you each and every time somebody clicks on one. And that can run up your bill pretty quickly. Also, since placing those ads is so simple to do, many of your competitors are doing the very same thing as you, driving up the bidding on your keywords.

On the other hand, organic search results, which come from SEO, will take a while to bear fruit. SEO is the process of improving your rankings in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, with the intention to drive traffic to your site and increase business. Doing SEO is “a marathon, not a sprint,” says Weil. It’s not quick, not necessarily easy, and it takes patience, but in almost all cases, it ultimately will be more effective for your business than pay per click.

Weil says that in his experience, the return on investment with SEO is almost always superior to pay per click. He has one client who is currently getting 4000 site visitors per month from organic rankings in the search engines.  This client pays him $2000/month.  To get this same traffic with pay per click would cost approximately $24,000 per month.

In addition, sponsored ads don’t have quite the same credibility cachet as organic search results do. Weil says that there is more credibility with the latter, because they come with Google’s “stamp of approval” being that if Google is showing it on page 1 in organic, Google feels it is the best and most relevant result for your search.  In pay per click search, it may just be the person who pays the most who ends up on top.

While studies have shown that only 10% of searches click on the pay per click sponsored results (versus 90% on organic) you can still drive good traffic with paid search.  This is because Google allows what is called broad match which means they will show your ad for the keyword you want, but also lots of variations and related keywords.  This can be good for traffic, but be careful to ensure that you are happy with what keywords are actually driving you traffic.  You can set up conversion code on your site so you can see what keywords are actually resulting in “conversions”.  Conversions for you might be that someone fills out a form, or if you are an ecommerce site — it may be that they buy products.

If you want to get results in both the short-term and the long haul, one idea is to do both pay per click and SEO at the same time, says Weil, use pay per click while you’re waiting for your organic search rankings and traffic to improve.  Once you are getting good organic results, you can play with bringing down your paid ad spend.

Robert Weil is President of Blue Fly Web Marketing, a performance based search engine marketing company.

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