Most businesses are aware that the search engines can drive massive traffic to their web properties. Not just any traffic, but traffic that actually converts into leads and sales. Even though there are other ways to gain online exposure, Google still leads the pack when it comes to helping you get the best bang for your marketing buck. This is mainly due to its huge user base and market share.
Not all businesses will have the need or even the budgetary resources to deploy paid marketing campaigns. However, every business needs to embrace organic marketing. It’s not an option. Here’s why. A marketing strategy built only on paid is shallow; it won’t help you to build an authentic connection with your customers. If all they see are ads – with no educational content, informational emails, or even engaging social media posts to complement those ads – you lose the mindshare of your customers in two ways:
Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns generate paid traffic. The goal of running a PPC ad campaign is to increase visibility of and traffic to your website by showing up in the paid search results – you can identify ‘paid’ results easily as they are brief advertisements separate from the organic results. These ads are prompted when a user types in a relevant keyword into the search engine.
With stats like that, you’re probably wondering why you should even bother with organic posts. Although organic reach is low, it’s still important to have an active, consistent presence on social media. Your Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter profile, etc. are often where people turn to for updates from your company or to ask questions. Low organic reach doesn’t mean you should stop posting organically all together—it means you should focus more of your efforts on a paid social media strategy while maintaining a solid organic strategy.
In 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Lens.com, Inc. v. 1-800 Contacts, Inc. that online contact lens seller Lens.com did not commit trademark infringement when it purchased search advertisements using competitor 1-800 Contacts' federally registered 1800 CONTACTS trademark as a keyword. In August 2016, the Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against 1-800 Contacts alleging, among other things, that its trademark enforcement practices in the search engine marketing space have unreasonably restrained competition in violation of the FTC Act. 1-800 Contacts has denied all wrongdoing and is scheduled to appear before an FTC administrative law judge in April 2017.
You may be wondering, why pay to show up in search engines and have people click on your website pages? Can’t you just improve your website’s SEO and get online visibility and organic clicks for free? The answer is that organic search isn’t actually free. SEO strategies are very beneficial to your business, but SEO takes time to take effect, (up to 6 months) and the tactics involve a lot of work toward producing quality content. With SEM/pay-per-click advertising, you see results right away, in the form of your business name on page one of a search.
Companies that employ overly aggressive techniques can get their client websites banned from the search results. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company, Traffic Power, which allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients. Wired magazine reported that the same company sued blogger and SEO Aaron Wall for writing about the ban. Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.
On April 24, 2012 many started to see that Google has started to penalize companies that are buying links for the purpose of passing off the rank. The Google Update was called Penguin. Since then, there have been several different Penguin/Panda updates rolled out by Google. SEM has, however, nothing to do with link buying and focuses on organic SEO and PPC management. As of October 20, 2014 Google has released three official revisions of their Penguin Update.
Blair Symes is the Director of Content Marketing at DialogTech, the leading provider of marketing analytics for phone calls. Over the past 20 years, he has published hundreds of articles and eBooks on a wide range of marketing topics, including phone call analytics, conversion optimization, and omni-channel attribution. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices. Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's list.
Facebook Ads and other social media ad platforms, for example, are pay-per-click platforms that do not fall under the SEM category. Instead of showing your ads to people who are searching for similar content like search ads do, social media sites introduce your product to people who happen to be just browsing through their feeds. These are two very, very different types of online advertising.
By 2004, search engines had incorporated a wide range of undisclosed factors in their ranking algorithms to reduce the impact of link manipulation. In June 2007, The New York Times' Saul Hansell stated Google ranks sites using more than 200 different signals. The leading search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo, do not disclose the algorithms they use to rank pages. Some SEO practitioners have studied different approaches to search engine optimization, and have shared their personal opinions. Patents related to search engines can provide information to better understand search engines. In 2005, Google began personalizing search results for each user. Depending on their history of previous searches, Google crafted results for logged in users.
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective like paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator's goals. Search engine marketing (SEM), is practice of designing, running, and optimizing search engine ad campaigns. Its difference from SEO is most simply depicted as the difference between paid and unpaid priority ranking in search results. Its purpose regards prominence more so than relevance; website developers should regard SEM with the utmost importance with consideration to PageRank visibility as most navigate to the primary listings of their search. A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site's conversion rate. In November 2015, Google released a full 160 page version of its Search Quality Rating Guidelines to the public, which now shows a shift in their focus towards "usefulness" and mobile search. In recent years the mobile market has exploded, overtaking the use of desktops as shown in by StatCounter in October 2016 where they analysed 2.5 million websites and 51.3% of the pages were loaded by a mobile device . Google has been one of the companies that have utilised the popularity of mobile usage by encouraging websites to use their Google Search Console, the Mobile-Friendly Test, which allows companies to measure up their website to the search engine results and how user-friendly it is.
Kristine Schachinger has 17 years digital experience including a focus on website design and implementation, accessibility standards and all aspects of website visibility involving SEO, social media and strategic planning. She additionally specializes in site health auditing, site forensics, technical SEO and site recovery planning especially when involving Google algorithms such as Penguin and Panda. Her seventeen years in design and development and eight years in online marketing give her a depth and breadth of understanding that comes from a broad exposure to not only digital marketing, but the complete product lifecycle along with the underlying technology and processes. She is a well known speaker, author and can be found on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.