Is Organic Enough? Why SEM May Bring in Results Faster
When it comes to garnering traffic from search engines, there are really only two options: You can choose organic search engine optimization (SEO) tactics or you can utilize search engine marketing (SEM). Both have benefits and drawbacks. For marketers operating with little to no money, organic SEO fits the bill, but it requires a substantial investment of time and effort before any significant increase in traffic is realized. If time is of the essence, you may want to consider using SEM tactics like pay-per-click to drive traffic. Let’s take a look at why SEM is faster than SEO in bringing in results.
You Get the Best Positioning
One of the biggest benefits of using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is the premium placement your site receives in the search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, etc.). For example, when you set up an ad using Google AdWords, your website will typically appear in the top third or on the right sidebar of Google’s search engine results page (SERP). Countless eye-tracking studies have confirmed that these areas are considered to be the hot zones of a web page, drawing the most attention from Internet users. With organic SEO, you have to navigate algorithmic factors to rank your site high enough to appear in Google’s top 10 organic results, all of which are listed below the paid results. Using a pay-per-click program such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads automatically places your site in the most highly-sought-after real estate on the search results page.
SEM Works for Brand New Sites
It is a well-known fact that Google will not recognize a brand new site until a certain period of time has passed; this is known as being “in the sandbox.” This doesn’t mean that your site won’t be indexed by Google; it just means that it will be quite a while before your site will rank for the keywords you’re trying to target. With SEM, you can immediately drive targeted traffic to a brand new website, as Google does not require the site to have any kind of history before it can be approved for Google AdWords. Just make sure to follow the basic guidelines for obtaining a decent AdWords Quality Score, and your site will have optimal placing in the sponsored results.
Offers Superior Testing Capability
The primary objective for most marketers is to achieve high conversions, but this is much trickier than it looks. SEM requires constant testing and experimentation to determine what will improve conversion rates. Before any solid conclusions can be drawn, enough data must be generated from the traffic that your site receives in order to find out what converts well versus what converts poorly. Purchasing traffic through PPC ads is one of the fastest ways to obtain the data you need to quickly test and adjust website variables in order to achieve high conversion rates.
Provides the Most Accurate Traffic Estimates
Many times marketers will spend weeks or even months using organic SEO to rank their website in the search engines, only to find out that the keywords they were targeting actually don’t get much traffic at all. When you set up a PPC campaign, it only takes about 24 hours to find out. Paid traffic will quickly give you the best idea of which keywords are the most valuable to your advertising campaigns.
Makes Your Website “Immune” to Algorithm Updates
The Internet is full of stories about marketers who relied solely upon organic SEO for traffic, only to wake up one day and find that one small Google algorithm update completely wiped out their search engine rankings. SEM ensures that your website will be immune to whatever adjustments Google may make to its ever-changing algorithm. Paid traffic provides you with a steady stream of visitors, keeping your website independent of changes that could adversely impact sites that depend upon organic traffic.
But What About the Cost?
Cost is the primary factor that causes most marketers to hesitate where SEM is concerned, but there are ways to go about it that won’t break the bank. You can start off with a small budget and only test highly targeted keywords at first, and then expand your keyword list to include more general search terms later down the line. For example, if your website sells auto insurance, it may not be a great idea to bid on the keyphrase “auto insurance” at first, as these terms are often very expensive, and can eat through a small advertising budget very quickly. It would be better to bid on certain “long tail” keyphrases such as “auto insurance low down payment”, as these keywords have slightly less traffic and cost less money per click, and then work your way towards the more generic keywords as your campaigns prove to be profitable.
Although there will always be an organic v. SEM debate as to which is better, the fact that paid advertising can yield traffic almost instantaneously is a feat that only the most skilled organic SEO practitioners can pull off. This is not to say that organic SEO is not a worthwhile endeavor; after all, once you have established a solid organic ranking, you are basically receiving free targeted traffic every month. Many successful companies use a combination of organic and paid traffic to maximize their results, so the use of one method does not necessarily mean excluding the other. Consider your own marketing objectives, and use the insights listed above to help you determine if SEM is right for your business.