What follows is some basic information about Google “organic” listings (the free ones) and Google “AdWords” listings (the paid ones).
The key differences:
Organic are the free listings where results are ranked solely according to relevance. Performing well in the organic results takes time and skill. Help from an experienced search engine expert may be needed.
AdWords, also known as pay-per-click. are the paid listings that appear under ‘sponsored links’ or in a yellow box on Google search results pages. With this approach, a site owner nominates a series of keywords and then bids for how much they are willing to pay for each site visitor attracted by their listing.
Here are a few basic questions to help you decide which avenue is going to serve your business best.
How fast will traffic arrive?
Organic traffic can take anything from a few days to many months to make a real impact. If you are in a very competitive space such as travel or finance, you will be competing for the attention of Google with hundreds or thousands of equally motivated businesses around Australia. Success will take patience and skill and even then it is not guaranteed.
By comparison, an AdWords campaign can be set up in a matter of minutes and your listing can appear right at the top of the page from day one.
Want more articles like this? Check out the SEM strategies section.
How much will I spend?
Google does not charge anything for an organic listing. You will possibly spend money on a search engine consultant to get the best results but the listing itself is free.
The cost of AdWords, however, can vary massively, depending on your keywords and the page position desired. You could pay anything from a few cents to many dollars each time someone clicks on your listing. Google offers some great tools to control your daily spend and ensure things do not get out of control.
Which approach brings more traffic?
The percentage of users clicking on AdWords listings is on the increase. However, organic listings still attract the majority of traffic – somewhere between 60% – 80%.
What will work for my business?
This depends on your site and what you need it to do. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses. For most Australian websites, good organic results can be achieved given time, discipline and an appropriate long-term strategy. For many sites this does not have to include expert assistance. On the other hand while you are waiting for organic success, an AdWords listing can start driving traffic to your site from day one.
I will leave you with an interesting point that was made at a recent conference. It was suggested that when a website appears in both organic and AdWords results on any given keyword, the website is more than twice as likely to receive a click on that keyword. Often, people using Google for search have a preference for either the organic or AdWords listings and as such it can be effective to present them with both options. In addition, the more your business appears on results pages for your keywords, the more likely you are to benefit.
Flying Solo has many great articles containing additional information on the topics raised here. If you want to read more about things you can do to improve your organic rankings I would advise you start with this article on how search engine optimisation (SEO) works. This article is a great place to start for more information on Google Adwords.