SEO Or Google Adwords? Or Both?
A lot of people ask the question if they should use SEO or Google Adwords, or both. Tony Roocroft wrote this article in response to this question, and the insights are quite valuable. Read more about SEO and Adwords at the respective links.
I am often asked about SEO maybe because people are more familiar with SEO or perhaps the idea of so called free traffic is more attractive than Pay Per Click.
In the not too distant past it was pretty easy to get good first page rankings on Google for almost any market except the really competitive ones like accommodation and travel using SEO systems that were not well known. I well remember when I had 9 of the top 10 results on Google for important search terms associated with my gardening market. This was achieved by using a number of different websites on similar topics all of which were SEO’d and interlinked and it was this interlinking combined with good page structure that was the fundamental “secret”. This method still works to some extent but Google has been able to detect such over-linking strategies for quite some time now and it has made it very difficult to achieve anything like the same results.
Going back further to about 2002 just using the right keywords in meta tags was often enough to get good rankings. Today Google completely ignores such tags for ranking purposes. I find it hard to believe that so many web designers still peddle the importance of meta tags to potential customers as a mechanism for getting good rankings.
The point of this bit of nostalgia is to make a critically important point in the debate about SEO and PPC… the point is that you and me have no control over what Google decides to return on the free results side of the search pages. This means that any organization building a strategy on SEO alone is running the direct risk of losing its position on the search engines just as happened to me those few years ago.
This does not mean organizations should ignore SEO… far from it. In many respects SEO is more important today than it ever was but not as a self standing strategy. Here’s why…
- Organizations with any kind of commercial intent have to control, as much as possible, their own destiny online. Quite frankly this means an investment in online advertising whether we like it or not. By far the best online advertising medium is Google Adwords in terms of reach, control and directly measurable cost effectiveness.
- The cost AND effectiveness of running a Google Adwords campaign is a function of Quality Score. This QS parameter is built into Google’s PPC algorithm and varies between 1 and 10. In simple terms the higher the QS the less you will pay for a click and the higher your ad will appear on the search results page. In many cases a QS of 1 will require a very high bid price just to allow your ad to show and even then it will show very infrequently.
- Quality Score is a function of the relevance of a website to a search query. This means any website poorly constructed from an SEO perspective or one containing few pages will probably suffer from low QS. Until quite recently Google did not take into account the “quality” of a website in determining QS. Now it does and while no-one knows exactly how website or landing page QS influences overall QS you can be pretty sure it has something
You can now see why running a Google Adwords in complete isolation is unlikely to get you the optimum results you want. Your ad will show less of the time, your click cost will be much higher than it needs be and your conversion rate will also be much lower. Building good fundamental SEO into a website preferably before starting an Adwords campaign is of paramount importance. The fundamentals of SEO are easy to learn and quick to implement. The cost factor associated with SEO is that of time required to create content. However it is time well spent.