One of the questions we’re often asked by customers is what works best for a business’s search engine optimisation – paying for it using Google Adwords or taking the more ‘organic’ SEO route?
And the answer is that it depends. It depends on a number of factors and in this blog post we try and cut through the bluff and the blurb and give you the lowdown, so you can decide what will work best for you.
One of the best ways of setting the scene for the SEO Vs Adwords debate is to picture yourself at the bottom of a mountain. You want to get to the top but on one side is a sheer cliff, giving you a fast but painful way up. The other side is a gentle slope which winds its way slowly skywards; it could take you a long time to reach the summit but it will save you some pain. Understanding the difference between SEO and Adwords will help you decide which will work best for your business.
The Adwords Cliff
The way Adwords works is that it allows for businesses to bid on sponsored positions for favourable keywords that web visitors see when they use Google. It’s a bit like an auction in that you bid on how much you’re willing to pay per click (or per impression). Google then takes this bid amount, relates it to how relevant your ad is, amongst other factors, and the ad’s position on the page is then determined. It all makes for an effective way of marketing your business, or a particular product or service.
But it’s not cheap.
Think of Adwords as having to climb a cliff – it’s hard work, you need to put in effort and investment but it could get you to the top fast (of Google’s page rankings). But put a stop to the investment and you fall off the cliff quickly.
Here are some of the advantages of using Adwords:
- A fast way of getting to the top of Google.
- You don’t get charged for cpc (cost per click) unless someone clicks on your link.
- A high click through rate means a lower cpc to have the same ad position.
- Keep track of your marketing spend by setting daily budgets in Adwords.
- It’s great for getting a large amount of traffic to your website quickly, raising awareness of your brand.
- You target the type of customers you want.
But here are the downsides of paid campaigns:
- Without a high conversion rate, Adwords can cost you much more than it brings in, as you pay per click even if the customer doesn’t convert.
- You need to be monitoring your Adwords campaigns constantly, adjusting your bids to avoid your ads disappearing (you may be outbid, or you reach your budget maximum…)
- To make the most of your potential profits, you need to be fine-tuning your ads and keywords all the time.
- You can suddenly find you’ve spent a lot of money very quickly with not much in return.
- A lot of search engine visitors deliberately avoid clicking on ads and the stats bear this out – only 20% of all search traffic comes from clicking on sponsored links!
The SEO Slope
Using organic SEO (search engine optimisation) on the other hand is more like a gradual slope upwards. Once you’ve trudged your way to the top, you’re far more likely to hold on to your position. And once you’re at or near the top, you can remain static for a while without you losing that position. So, you’re in this for the long-haul, not the quick fix.
As with Adwords, let’s look at the plus points:
- Invest in your future and it will give you long-lasting returns.
- Get to the top, or very nearly there, and you can rest on your laurels a bit without affecting your rankings.
- Web searchers trust organic rankings – 80% of search traffic is generated this way.
- You’re not paying for every click that converts into business.
- You can spread your marketing spend – an expensive day on an Adwords campaign is not going to catch you out.
- Google Local has made it easier to appeal to web searchers in your area with organic SEO.
And the minuses:
- It’s going to take a long time.
- It’s more difficult to push off the top-ranking sites from their positions as their keywords are very well established – sometimes this can seem insurmountable.
- It requires a lot more effort than putting together an Adwords ad.
- One piece of virally-shared content can very quickly push itself up the rankings, providing a setback for your SEO.
What’s right for your business?
How to answer whether SEO or adwords for your business depends on what you’re aiming for.
If you want to raise awareness in a short period of time of a new product, a new service, a discounted item or a sale then having an Adwords campaign is a great way of driving large volumes of traffic to your website. And clever management of your budget can bring rich rewards.
But if you want to invest in the longer term and you have the patience for your reputation and brand awareness to build more slowly, then organic SEO is what we recommend.
What you can do, of course, is to have the best of both worlds and get Adwords and organic SEO to work together to your benefit. An example of this is to use the Adwords keywords tool (freely available) as a basis for research for what you want to target in an organic campaign. Or boost your organic rankings by using Adwords ads to drive short-term traffic and raise overall awareness of your brand.
So there you have it, our summary of answering that age-old debate of SEO vs Adwords. The answer could well be a clever synergy of them both!
For more information on our SEO and Adwords services, get in touch!