September 17, 2013
About the Author:
Long time SEO enthusiast, IT & Billing director of FrostSEO UK, involved in dynamic web design since 1996, published in popular magazines across Europe. Huge fan of Star Talk & Burn Notice. Follow at @tmpkn
More from the Author:
Last week, we received an inquiry from an e-commerce business owner, who had been in the market for 2 years. After sending our Free Quote, we gave her a call to find out what she thinks about our offer. During the phone call, we couldn’t help but feel she was quite skeptical about the SEO. As it turned out, it was her first attempt at organic methods, which she agreed to give a try as a result of her friend’s advice.
Her reluctance towards Search Engine Optimization was there for a reason. As we learned, for the past 2 years she’d been investing heavily in a PPC campaign run by a local agency. They convinced her that SEO is a very uncertain and volatile method for promoting her business and that she would do way better with AdWords. And there was a good reason why they needed this distrust of organic methods planted in their customers minds. Simply put, they did not have in house SEO specialists, so they had to establish some sort of insurance policy to prevent their from clients for seeking this service elsewhere.
This example pretty much sums up what’s been happening in the e-marketing world for the last few years. Unfortunately, it does nothing but add to an endless list of rants and conflicts between two factions behind competitive IT products – like Apple vs. Microsoft, Xbox vs. Playstation and so on. One can argue that these holy wars do have some positive consequences – it’s one of the most established rules of free market that competition has great affect on quality and price and benefits the consumer greatly.
But in our case, the same merits do not necessarily apply. And in order to understand why, let’s have a quick roundup of both services.
Search Engine Optimization originally focused only on the website source code. Back in the early days, it was way more important to make sure your business came up in the search results exactly as you wanted, rather than worry about competition. Mostly because there wasn’t any. Pioneers of online marketing had the indisputable advantage of being the only ones at that stage, so getting all lights on them was not a big issue.
Fast forward a few years ahead, and suddenly everyone’s online. No matter what sort of product or service your business offers to the public, if you have no online presence, you have very low chances of being successful. That is due to the fact that most people these days would search for what they’re after using Google rather than yellow pages. The originally empty stage quickly became very much crowded and getting some attention became a key challenge.
As a consequence, SEO has evolved into a far more complex procedure, which covers a vast number of steps that have to be completed in order to successfully get to page one of search results. Due to constantly changing policies of the search engine in regards to what is allowed as a promotional technique, a line has been drawn between White Hat and Black Hat SEO, the latter involving methods banned by Google. Unfortunately, in this race for high ranking, some people forgot about the most important factor of e-commerce: the customer’s user experience. Some agencies convince their clients to dedicate enormous budgets into campaigns, which do not always get them the expected return – even though it might seem like occupying high positions in the results listings should warrant a successful business.
But it doesn’t. The same way as attracting hundreds of neighbors to an open house with promises of free cookies, does not guarantee getting a better offer. Those blind campaigns, focused solely on search engines, gave SEO some bad press and pushed Google into responding by taking some serious actions: like not providing search keywords in http referrals.
A proper approach to SEO requires both studies: of the website and of the online community around it. Only by combining these two factors, can you expect to achieve the ultimate goal, which are continuous spikes in your business performance, not just in the web server logs.
Google introduced AdWords three years after launching the search engine as a main source of revenue for the company. The principal of AdWords is displaying customer’s ads around the natural search results for a given set of keywords. This provides a quick and easy way to appear online with a new website or brand name, but it comes with a price. Every time somebody clicks on your link, you are being charged acertain amount of money – hence the abbreviation PPC (Pay Per Click).
At first glance, is seems like AdWords can deliver the advertising results in a compelling fashion without all the headaches that come with SEO. You can appear on top of the search results almost immediately by simply offering to pay per click more than your competition. This simple approach attracted a lot of advertisers, who quickly discovered they can promote their accounts with next to no IT expertise. Some of these agencies became the great advocates of PPC – all they needed was some brainwashing to make sure their customers don’t look into SEO too much.
This easiness of appearing in the very top of search results by simply being able to pay more than the others quickly became an issue for Google. For most users of their search engine, the position of a website is tightly related to its quality and popularity, which made it way too simple for certain types of pages to attract attention of the masses. Talk about fraudsters, spammers, low quality landing pages and all sorts of content which was gaining benefit from being legitimized by coming up high in the search results.
Luckily, Google handled the situation quite well and few years after launching AdWords, they introduced some preventive measures. Those turned out to be quite revolutionary for the whole PPC market: to cut a long story short, they dethroned rates as the only ruling factors to ad positions. Instead more focus was put on quality of both the advertised websites, as well as the ads themselves. Components like the condition of landing page, historical click through rate and promo texts relevance (to keywords) came into play in a form of Quality Score. The higher the value of your campaign’s QS, the lower are the asking prices for page one immersions.
Changes introduced by Google, along wish some policy changes, had tremendous influence on PPC campaigns. By promoting the innovation and original, high quality content, they opened a window of opportunity for smaller advertisers and more ambitious agencies. Other, dishonest companies decided to hide it from their customers, putting the blame for rising rates on growing competition.
Recent developments in search engine algorithms and Search Engine Optimization techniques tend to reward campaigns utilizing both SEO and PPC. A good example of this theory is handling the issues with keywords not provided. What began as two very different approaches to e-commerce marketing are now two techniques with many similarities, sharing many of their characteristics.
A direct result of this marriage is the growing importance of quality and originality of content served on customers websites. This affects the conversion ratios, as well as ROIs of your customers. Also, it simply makes browsing the World Wide Web a better experience for all of us.
My final advice would be to always consider joint campaigns, consisting of both SEO and PPC. This provides an SEO agency with a wider selection of tools and as a consequence often reduces the cost of these two promotions than if ran separately. I would also recommend to be wary of anyone trying to discourage you from any one of them.