In marketing circles, a lot of us like to nerd out over search engine optimisation (SEO). It’s this epoch’s vital skill; the maker or breaker of business in the internet age. More importantly for argumentative marketers, SEO is constantly in flux. You can debate the effectiveness of different strategies until the cows come home, without anyone being able to conclusively debunk your position.
This can lead to the layperson coming to view good SEO practice as some sort of arcane art, an attempt at diving the cryptic portents of the search engine oracles. Luckily, it’s not in a search engine’s best interests to be opaque. This guide that Google has put together, will give you a really comprehensive understanding of SEO basics. We encourage you to read it, even if you already know a bit about SEO. Even if you employ an SEO specialist, it pays to be an educated consumer.
Still, one of the common disagreements between SEO aficionados is the effectiveness of organic growth versus paid search. Essentially these are the two broad strategies to get to the top of a search engine’s results.
Organic growth entails optimising your site for a perfect user experience, while generating engaging content. This in turn encourages patronage of your site, as well as stimulating backlinks from other sites. This leads to search engine selection algorithms viewing your site as more valuable to certain search terms, leading to your site being promoted. This process occurs without the need to interact directly with the search engine, hence why it is dubbed ‘organic growth’. In paid search, the search engine agrees to give your site primacy in their results, as long as you pay them for every click through that your site receives.
Is SEO or paid search better?
How long is a piece of string?
I know that sounds like a cop-out answer, but let me explain.
Organic growth relies on the production of engaging content, and maintaining an easily navigated/understood website. That’s something you should already be doing. As a result, it’s relatively cheap. The problem is that it generally takes six-to-twelve months to see your SEO tree bear fruit.
Conversely, paid searches are fast acting, but they rely on your ability to bid for the search terms. The higher the competition for the term, the more expensive it becomes to snag the top spots. Often, this can lead to a situation where the cost of the advertisements swallow any profit they generate.
The issue only complicates when you take in to consideration the interplay between SEO and paid search. Consider a situation where a potential customer knows what they want, and they want it NOW. Through your SEO efforts, you’ve built brand awareness, and are positively framed in the mind of this customer. The problem is, she’s in a hurry, and not willing to dig through the results to look for you. In this situation, a paid advertisement could be the difference between making the sale, or losing it to a competitor.
Ok so, how should I allocate my resources?
SEO is non-negotiable: if your customers can’t find you easily, you effectively don’t exist. What’s more, SEO improves the overall user experience of your page, and aids your positioning activities. SEO should be inextricably linked to your long term goals as a business, allow one to inform the other. As has already been state, it will take time so get planning now.
As for paid advertisement, conceptualize it as a booster shot for your SEO, and as a powerful tool when dealing with time-sensitive promotional activities. Most importantly, do not ‘set and forget’ your paid search allocation. You’re rarely going to smash the ball for six in your first innings, so make sure that you’re constantly monitoring your strategy’s effectiveness and making the necessary adjustments.
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