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SEO versus paid search engine marketing. Round one

Pay per click, Google adwords, search engine marketing and sponsored listings are all names for pay per click. You choose a word or phrase you want, you bid a price, then an advert is displayed when someone types the word or phrase into Google. When someone clicks, you pay.

Search engine optimisation – or SEO to the cool young internet types – is the process of inducing "Google love". Basically, tweaking the pages of a website to make the search engines love them. I know there are other search engines, but at the moment Big G rules!

On the other hand, pay per click allows hungry entrepreneurs to have their websites ranking on the front page of search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) within as little as three hours. Yes, you have to pay but you get visibility. Another great benefit is that you can run multiple adverts, all 128 characters of them, to test the best hooks. Google will even tell you which one people love the most.

Search engine optimisation is the long game. You tweak your site, you wait for the search engines to update their listings, you tweak again, you wait. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. But boy, when you get it right! The first result on page one is better than the icing on the cake, it’s internet nirvana.

Let me share one word of warning. It’s fine being number one, but you need to make sure you are number one for a word which people search when they want to buy, not just browse.

SEO, I love it, but my best advice is to always run a PPC campaign first. Choose your keywords, test them and make sure your site converts. When it does, crank up the SEO.

Get them both right and there’s gold there in them there hills!

Guy Levine is the chief executive of search engine optimisation firm Web Marketing Advisor.

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