Paid Search vs. Organic Search

    by Brian Halligan

    Date

    May 29, 2007 at 3:18 PM

    We meet many small businesses who ask our advise about buying CPC ads versus optimizing their sites for optimal organic results. 

    The benefits of optimizing your site for exposure in the organic results of the search engines relative to paying for PPC campaigns:
    1.  If you rank high for organic results, it is (typically) long lasting.  So, the time/money you spend helping yourself move up the ranks is relatively persistent while the PPC campaign is money spent over and over again.
    2.  Organic results are clicked on a lot more than paid results, especially for well educated crowds.  I read a study that showed dramatic differences as you moved from high school eduction to associate degrees to bachelors to masters to phd's.  The more educated your prospect, the less likely they are to click on an advertisement.  If you are selling to high school students, you should buy cpc ads.  If you are selling to engineers or professors, you need to think more about seo because that's where the volume is.
    3.  Organic clicks convert at least as well as paid clicks.  Marketing Sherpa's Search Marketing Benchmark study of 3,217 marketers showed that organic clicks converted at an average of 4.2% v. 3.6% for paid.
    4.  Often times searchers visit your site more than once before self-selecting into a form, whitepaper, etc.  We track this data carefully at HubSpot and notice that a decent portion of the leads we get are from people who have visited the site through multiple searches over multiple months.  Organic search campaigns have more latency.
    5.  Marketing Sherpa reports that in the b2b environment, less than one-fourth of b2b buyers to look to paid listings in their first try at accessing information. 
    6.  Many think of Google as a search company, but I think of them as a modern media conglomerate with an ultra-efficient mechanism for selling advertisements that work particularly well in the longtail.  Like other media companies, Google benefits from efficient pricing of advertising.  As more and more niche companies start to advertise on Google, their prices will become more efficient and their rates will become less and less attractive relative to other media outlets.

    The benefits of buying CPC ads versus organic seo:
    1.  It is fast.  You can be up and running with paid ads the very same day you are inspired to move.
    2.  You can experiment cheaply.  The good thing about advertising on Google is that you don't have to create a huge budget for advertising, you can throw as little money as you want, experiment efficiently, get the ratios where you want, and then expand.
    3.  You can send the clicks to custom landing pages crafted for just the words you bought.  [In theory, this should dramatically increase the conversion rates relative to organic results that more often than not land on your home page, but the Marketing Sherpa numbers say otherwise.]

    There are big benefits to both, so I recommend doing both.  To get maximum benefit, I recommend optimizing around some keywords for organic results and buy other keywords. 

    -- Brian Halligan.

     



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