Lately, it seems that every time I talk to a business owner about marketing, “free” (organic) search pops up (no pun intended). On the one hand, I think it’s great that so many business owners are becoming familiar with search engine marketing and the value it can deliver. On the other hand, it drives me (slightly) insane that so many owners focus on “free” search without even considering the benefits of also launching a paid search campaign.
With few exceptions, free search is not free – you just receive the bill a bit differently than you do with a paid search campaign. The cost of paid search comes in very small increments spread over time for as long as you are running the campaign. Free search listings (typically) require a large investment on the front end with periodic re-investments to regain or maintain your position. The frequency and size of the re-investments depends almost entirely on the competitive landscape of your market/industry.
Very few businesses dominate the organic listings without a significant investment. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but unless you’re in a non-competitive market/industry, or you have gotten lucky, you’ve probably had to work more than you would like to admit on getting those rankings. If you got there via luck, I can guarantee you this – at some point that luck will run out. It’s like falling (or doping) in the Tour de France – it’s not IF it will happen, but WHEN!
Once you acknowledge that “free” search results are not free, consider how a paid search campaign can compliment your organic optimization efforts:
1) Paid search can help you quickly identify the best keywords for which to optimize your site:
Optimizing a website to rank high in the organic search results takes time. Few people have the time or money to optimize for every possible keyword combination. One goal with organic optimization is to find keywords for which you can rank — i.e. those that are not overly generic, but that also have a decent amount of traffic. I read over and over again about the magic and value of “long tail keywords”. We have walked into lots of companies where they rank number one for dozens of long tail keywords…that are used by NO ONE!
So, launch a paid search campaign and organize it by creating different ad groups with different keyword categories, types, etc. Depending on the search volume for your product/service/market, you could have your top performing keywords identified in as little as a week.
**Obviously, this tactic ONLY works IF you a) have clearly articulated goals and b) you have an accurate system in place to measure your progress toward those goals.
2) Top organic listings drive traffic (and sales), but conversion rates (visit-to-sale) tend to be even higher for paid search traffic:
Here’s an example from a real Blue Corona Client:
Online Sales: 7
Google Pay Per Click (paid search)
Online Sales: 12
This statement might not be universally applicable, but we see it more often than not across many client accounts and across many different industries. Another search blogger hypothesized that Google is positioning organic search to be more about finding information (research) and paid search to be more geared toward commerce.
Whether or not this is actually Google’s intention, we definitely see it happening. It used to be that the paid search ads DID have their fair share of gimmicky ads that directed searchers to a service/product that they were not seeking. Google has made some serious strides and I personally find it extremely rare when a paid ad does not take me to exactly the product/service I’m seeking.
3) Finally, the search results page is a land grab:
What do I mean by this? Simple – the more times you can get your business listed in the search engine results – paid or free, the greater % of available clicks you’ll get. If you have a high ranking in the organic search results, add a paid ad and watch what happens. We saw this strategy first hand back in the days of Yellow Page advertising and now history is repeating itself. We’re not suggesting that you try and “juice the system”.
Google has measures in place to prevent companies from setting up multiple paid ads on the same search results page, but if you already have solid organic search rankings, no one will stop you from adding a paid ad to the mix (and vice versa). Don’t believe us? We are a marketing measurement company. Do you think we would make a statement like this if we didn’t already know the answer?
**AGAIN, the caveat here is that you have to a) have clear goals, b) have an accurate system to measure your performance toward those goals and c) be sophisticated with setting up, managing, and optimizing a paid search campaign.
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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