It's always tricky to decide how much resources (time, effort, money) should be invested in your search marketing efforts versus other online activities. This decision will depend on a variety of factors, such as your key marketing objectives (awareness vs. action), your target audience's behavior (e.g. search engine usage), and your company's comfort level with various online media.
Even once you've decided what kind of investment you'll make in search marketing, it becomes more difficult deciding how to split this budget between organic and paid search activities.
This column aims to help guide you when attempting to make an appropriate allocation between your organic and paid search initiatives.
Conventional wisdom might ask: why would you pay for a ranking when you can get one for free? That may have held true in the days where all you had to do was throw some keywords in your meta data and you scored a great position. However, these days, it requires much more work and dedication to secure and sustain strong organic search rankings.
But does that mean you should abandon organic SEO all together?
Before we decide, let's look at the pros and cons of paid vs. organic search:
|Paid Search||Organic Search|
|Key Advantages||You can "buy" your way in (guaranteed placement). |
More control over editorial.
Enables testing and optimization of various messages.
Instantaneous results (campaign live within minutes).
|You don't pay for clicks (no on-going media investment). |
Users may more readily trust organic listings.
Organic search tends to generate a higher conversion rate.
|Key Disadvantages||More expensive; paying each time someone clicks. |
Requires ongoing tweaking and analysis for success.
Sponsored ads may be seen as less trust-worthy by some users.
|Cannot guarantee placement. |
Lack of editorial control.
Requires long term, ongoing efforts.
Unpredictable environment (search-engine algorithms changing, etc.).
Off-site tactics difficult to influence (e.g. in-bound links).
This table unequivocally demonstrates that neither paid nor organic search efforts come without risk or reward. Both of them offer distinct advantages. But if that's the case, then how do you choose one over the other?
The answer is: you don't. In my opinion, you employ both. Paid and unpaid search can work together in harmony to produce a well-rounded search presence.
There are several ways you can employ the two to create a well-balanced search strategy. Here are some suggestions to leverage them together:
There are countless ways that paid and unpaid search efforts can complement each other and work together. Therefore, you can exploit the best of both worlds by employing both to some degree. So whether you split it 50/50 or 80/20, it makes sense to leverage both search strategies to achieve a desirable and profitable online search presence.
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Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.
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