The What: Understand the Difference Between Advertising and SEO
It is not infrequent that clients say they are doing SEO, when they are really just doing search ads. While the point of each tactic is to get you on page one of Google, search ads (e.g., Google Adwords) and SEO are very different things. Search ads are the listings you see at the top of the search results page when you conduct a search. They are labeled as ads. See below. The red arrow marks where the organic search results begin. Everything above that listing is an ad, marked with the little green Ad symbol.
The business bids in an auction to have these ads show, and pays each time a searcher clicks on an ad. SEO, however, is the effort to show up on the search engine listings below the ads. These are called “organic” search listings. They are organic because no one paid to get there. Organic search listings got their position by having a page that Google deems among the best when it comes to authority on the exact topic that best matches the phrase searched.
Adwords or SEO: When to Use
Adwords yields results nearly immediately (there’s a brief optimization period). With well-constructed ads, good landing pages, and proper management, ads will get you at the top of the search engine. Proper execution of Adwords is likely to result in an increase in business relative to the amount you spend.
SEO is an investment in your organization. The benefits are long-term and stick with you, but you have to wait for results to grow while you build your authority with Google. With some hard work, the result is that you show up at the top of page one of Google without having to pay each time someone clicks.
Another criteria for when to use Adwords versus SEO is your ability to create content on a regular basis. One of the three major components of SEO is regularly-published content. If you have no resources to, or interest in, creating content, paid advertising may be your only option for results. SEO, social media marketing, and digital marketing are all based on content.
Note on using Adwords for SEO: This is a myth. Using Adwords for SEO is not a real strategy. There is no evidence (and it has been thoroughly tested by search engine optimizers!) that Google favors websites in organic search results because they pay for ads.
Adwords or SEO: Why Choose One Over the Other?
SEO results are not immediate. Think, “slow and steady wins the race”. Just like you may prefer to grow your business organically overall, there are major benefits to growing your search presence organically. Use search ads when you must have immediate results, or as a supplement to SEO. But if you can wait for a slow start to the increase in results, your Return on Investment over the course of a couple years and beyond will be much (often exponentially) greater. Always have a web analytics expert help you understand your short and long term return on investment. Ideally, you should be measuring this for all of your marketing and advertising efforts.