Comparing SEO with SEM
The idea behind SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is that it makes sense to bypass the whole idea of advertising. As I’ve noted, the most effective and targeted ads are themselves on search results pages. So, why not simply arrange for them to be in search results—and specifically somewhere at the top of the search results—returned for a given query? Surely there’s more credibility in being within the top so-called natural search results rather than paying for placement. After all, anyone can buy an ad. In addition, more users tend to click on natural search listings than on ads. Taking these factors into consideration, the goal of SEO is to appear high in natural search listings. Studies have shown that most people go no further than the first three pages of search results. Since Google defaults to 10 results per page, your goal should be to be within the top 30 results for the search terms you target. Of course, the first few search results get far and away the most clicks, so ideally you’d want to be number five or above. However, this may not be realistic, depending upon many factors—and a successful SEO campaign targets many different keywords and phrases, with logical but differing expectations. You should bear in mind that the traffic fall-off is steep. There’s a world of difference from an SEO viewpoint of being in the top three as opposed to on the second page of results.
Plans Crafting the Blended Campaign
The goal of core SEO is to obtain high natural listings. As the world of search has grown, however, the SEO discipline has also expanded. There used to be considerable stigma associated with obviously paying for listings. Since Google has taken the high road and labeled all paid content as advertising, there’s absolutely no stigma associated with paid listings, particularly when using a program like AdWords that appropriately labels content. If paid listings help drive the traffic that you need in a cost-effective fashion, they should be considered a valuable part of your extended SEO campaign management. In fact, to generalize, SEM advertisements reinforce SEO natural listing placement. If a prospect sees both an advertisement and a listing high in the search results for the same product or company, that person is more than twice as likely to click one or the other. Perhaps this is because the natural listing implies that the site being promoted has genuinely relevant content, and the advertising link implies that a solid company (or at least one with an advertising budget) is behind the site. The ideal of the blended campaign should be to expose prospects to both advertisements and natural search results. Paid advertising can reinforce search listings as I’ve just explained. It can also extend the reach of a natural search engine ranking campaign by using ad placement for terms or phrases that do not correspond to a high natural result.