The difference between Organic and Paid SERP listings


New Internet advertisers often question whether organic or paid SERP is a better investment. SERP stands for search engine results page. Search engine optimization (SEO) results in organic results. Paid SERP advertising is more commonly called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. The two types of advertising do not necessarily compete with each other. In order to learn how to use these potentially powerful tools, future advertisers must first understand how they work and which one, or both, is best suited for their needs. When an Internet user conducts a search on the Internet, their browser presents them with a SERP. This results page is the primary way that Internet users find information. It is also the vehicle that search engine operators use to generate revenue. Financial analysts predict that online PPC revenue will surpass $50 billion in 2015.

Importance of Ranking

All Internet marketers strive to appear in the first page of a SERP’s listing. The first organic link receives the most clicks. The second listing has a click-through-rate (CTR) of less than half of the first result. Results after that amount to fractions of the rankings before it.

PPC Pros

80 percent of buying consumers are more inclined to buy from a seller’s advertised website. PPC provides immediate visibility and traffic. Also, a PPC campaign can produce results in as little as 24 hours. The return-on-investment (ROI) for PPC advertising campaigns are more quantifiable than SEO campaigns. This quality makes it easier to manage an advertising budget and measure its results. As a result, data gathered from PPC advertising efforts provide a guide for actionable steps for improvement. Website marketers can use PPC advertising to see A/B testing results almost immediately. With PPC advertising, the seller is in control of where a user lands when they click a link. Finally, PPC ads are immune to search engine changes.

PPC Cons

PPC ads can become very expensive. If they are not planned carefully, they can eat through an advertiser’s budget rapidly with little results. PPC advertising requires intense keyword and ad group research for optimal results. Successfully waging a PPC campaign often requires the help of a consultant. PPC advertising requires intensive A/B testing to find a combination that works. This process is time prohibitive and in-house staff typically cannot devote the time necessary to test properly. PPC campaigns require constant optimization, another time-consuming task. Another drawback to PPC advertising is that the life of PPC campaign ends when an advertiser’s budget runs out.

SEO Pros

60 to 80 percent of Internet users consider organic search results more credible than PPC listings. Web surfers will click on organic search results 90 percent of the time, leaving PPC advertisers competing over the remaining 10 percent. The return-on-investment (ROI) of SEO increases over time. A change in search engine policy can ruin an SEO campaign. Earning a top ranking SERP position gives a website massive exposure and credibility. Internet users inherently feel that SERP results are more trustworthy than PPC advertisements. A website that ranks in a top position on one search engine will rank high on other search engines as well, and a optimized website will continue to produce results long after the work has paused on it. Additionally, SEO marketing campaigns are a great solution for firms with little to no marketing budget.

SEO Cons

A high-ranking SEO listing can take months or years to cultivate. Due to fierce competition, SEO advertising shares the same drawback as PPC when it comes to requiring an outside specialist to help wage a successful advertising campaign. SEO optimization is very complex and time intensive. It takes place with each digital footprint that a content provider leaves. Although SEO results see a larger share of user click-through, they share PPC’s quality of operating in a highly competitive environment. Algorithms are programs that search engine providers use to analyze and rank web pages. A final concern with SEO is that an update to this algorithm can ruin an organization’s SEO efforts completely. In 2013, Google alone made over 500 changes to their algorithm.

Deciding how to market online is not a matter of choosing between organic or paid SERP advertising. Savvy Internet marketers realize that the two mediums can play nice together. Determining what mix of each type of advertising depends on an advertiser’s availability of time and money. Increasingly, it is getting harder for search engine users to tell the difference between SEO and PPC results. The Internet advertising landscape is changing rapidly. For now, PPC and SEO marketing complement each other nicely.

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