Digital Marketing

Jul 23, 2009

Pay Per Click Vs Organic SEM

Organic Search Engine Marketing

When we talk about search engine traffic it is important to realise that it is not a homogenous unit. Search engine traffic comes in two very distinct flavours; organic and pay per click (PPC).

When people talk about search engine results, often they are talking about organic rankings. An organic search engine ranking is one that is decided by reference to the subject website and its defining features such as link structure, text content, META tags, link popularity and so on.

Organic search engine rankings are difficult to maintain since the various search engines keep the algorithms they use to decide where a site will appear based on a particular search a strict secret. The ultimate organic position your site obtains is largely out of your hands.

Fundamentally organic optimisation is about ensuring your website makes itself as 'search engine friendly' as possible in the expectation that search engine friendly content is significantly more likely to see the site gain good rankings.

At this point it is important to raise a critical distinction between organic search engine results and what you find on human edited directories like DMOZ. A search engine is a considerably automated beast. It actively seeks out web content by following links to other sites and indexing the web that way. To appear in a directory you need to submit your site manually whereas a search engine will find you so long as a site already in its considerable database has a link to yours.

Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing

Pay Per Click (PPC) traffic is effectively the opposite of organic traffic. With Pay Per Click the vast majority of the factors that influence your ranking position are controlled by you. The easiest way to think of PPC traffic is as bought traffic.

PPC advertising is effectively a keyword auction. The idea is that people bid for their ads to appear on certain keywords, the higher the bid the better the chance of getting the top position. Advertisers also compete with advertising creative as those ads that have a greater percentage of people who have seen it clicking on the ad (click through rate) are given a position boost. The final position being effectively a balancing of keyword bid amount and click through rate.

It is important to remember that the advertiser is only paying for people who click on the ad creative. One advertisement could get viewed a million times a day but unless that advertisement is clicked on the advertiser is not charged.

One final feature worth mentioning is that PPC allows geographic targeting to limit your presence to those people who are your target audience. Through the use of appropriate keywords and geographic targeting you can make sure that you never pay for an inappropriate site visitor.

Organic vs Pay Per Click

Despite their mutually exclusive definitions, Organic and PPC traffic do not operate in isolation. On most search engines around the world search engine results pages (SERPs) provide both organic and pay per click listings on the same page. The degree to which PPC traffic is easily identifiable differs from search engine to search engine. Some bury PPC amongst their organic listings but most will alert the user to the sponsored nature of the link in one fashion or another.

Of the two types of listing it is organic listings that currently generate the most traffic but that does not mean the PPC has no place in a well rounded search engine marketing strategy. The diagram below is an eye tracking heat map developed by EyeTools ( displaying the way people interact with Google. The areas that are red in colour indicate a greater concentration of users focused their attention in these areas, grey spots received little to no visual attention from users. In Google the organic results fill the majority of screen space with just the side bar devoted to paid advertising and occasionally a small header section above the organic results.

As you can see there is a definite preference exhibited by users for organic results over PPC results but this is not to be taken as an indication that one is necessarily better than the other. For a better examination let us visit the advantages and disadvantages of both systems.

PPC Advantages

  • Listing content and positioning is controllable by the advertiser.

  • Only pay for clicks, not impressions

  • Changes are immediate.

  • Custom creative allows advertisers to pre-qualify visitors prior to them clicking on an advertisement.

  • Can guarantee results assuming the search volume is large enough.

  • Allows geographic targeting down to immediate locality in many cases.

Organic Advantages

  • Traffic from search engines is free.

  • Search engine visitors currently show a preference for clicking on organic results making for a larger pool of potential traffic than exists for PPC.
PPC Disadvantages
  • Traffic comes at a cost.

  • Increased competition on certain keywords can inflate the cost of traffic.

  • Organic listings make up a higher percentage of total clicks on a SERP than paid listings.

  • Restrictions on the keyword bids and creative content put in place by PPC providers.

  • Smaller pool of potential traffic than organic.

Organic Disadvantages

  • Traffic from search engines is free.

  • Traffic may be free but labor and other costs associated with ensuring good organic positioning can be quite high.

  • Organic optimisation is reactionary, not proactive.

  • Minimal control over results, organic optimisation is more focused on influencing rankings, not dictating them.

  • Can't guarantee performance.

Ideally a solid search engine marketing campaign will see efforts made with respect to both types of traffic. By having your site appear in both paid and organic listings you increase your brand equity in the eyes of the search engine user, increase the chances one of your links is clicked on and ensure that you don't exclude either people who prefer organic or people who prefer paid listings.

As a final point PPC advertising can also be used in some measure as a way to supplement poor organic results. If there are critical terms your site is not appearing under no matter what you do from an organic standpoint, PPC can ensure that your have some form of presence on those terms despite poor organic performance.

Wildnet Technologies said...

Great information
I believe I shall subscribe to the websites feed too. I an enthusiast about technology…
PPC Services India

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