What’s the Difference Between Paid and Organic Search Engine Listings?
On other pages on this site we’ve stated that both organic search engine listings “SEO” and sponsored or paid search advertisements “PPC” drive targeted traffic to your website by leveraging a presence in the search engines. That said, they have some key differences to search engine listings as achieved by SEO vs. PPC:
- where they are displayed
- traffic potential
- the cost of ranking
- involvement with your site
1) Where they are Displayed
The most tangible or noticeable difference is where your listing would appear on the SERPS (stands for search engine results page) under each method. See the image above.
As you can see, the PPC listings on a Google results page are displayed as the top two or three listings (in a light blue background and labeled “sponsored results”), as well as on the right hand side column. Note that there are not always PPC ads in the top region, generally you’ll only find that for search phrases where there are alot of firms bidding for traffic. If only a few firms are competing for the paid spots, you’ll generally only see the ads on the right side.
Organic listings are also sometimes just thought of as the “regular” listings. They are displayed in the pinkish area as shown above.
2) Traffic Potential of PPC vs. Organic
Another key difference is the traffic potential of each method. Its generally much faster to obtain paid listings. It only takes a day or so to set up a campaign, although it can be an ongoing process to really manage it efficiently.
That all said, the organic listings actually tend to produce much more traffic for the same search phrase, all things being equal. Generally most studies show users are three to five times as likely to click on a site in the organic listings than to click on a paid ad in the search engines. Ad blindness and/or a bias or preconception as to the relevance of the ads in many user’s opinion may well be the cause.
3) So How Much Does it Cost?
Well, PPC (pay-per-click) literally costs per click. With Yahoo you bid for position – the higher the bid the higher the position you’ll get. In some cases the top positions are well worthwhile, and in some cases you can find better value outside of the top spot. With Yahoo, it’s a set price for each click.
Google’s pricing is much more dynamic, its not really possible to give a true cost, but rather an average cost is used. Looking for a real number here? Well we’ve seen clicks cost as low as 5 cents per click to as high as $20+ per click – so it truly depends on your market, the competition, etc.
SEO doesn’t cost “per click”. Sometimes its referred to as “free” traffic, being that you don’t pay per click. Rather, the cost is simply much less tangible – but it does exist. Essentially the costs for SEO are the costs of building a great site, building awareness about your site online (including attracting links to your site), optimizing your HTML code, and if possible hiring an SEO expert as a consultant. It can be very expensive – especially if you have a new website or if your site does not currently have much awareness and traffic.
SEO used to be about technical revisions and tweaks and such, but nowadays the search engines have improved such that its quite simple – build a really valuable site. Its not just enough to want to rank #1 for a search phrase, you need to justify why your site is truly worthy of that. Sorry, no shortcuts here.
4) Implementation – Do I need to Edit or Revise My Website?
The last key difference between SEO and PPC is the “how” – or the implementation steps. Getting high rankings for organic listings means building a great site, “optimizing” the code and copy, and building a site worthy of citations and references from other related sites (often measured as hyperlinks to your site). As such, its usually necessary to do some major overhauls and additions to your website to improve organic rankings.
PPC rankings can require much less work to obtain. To optimize they also require a time investment, although its possible – for a price – to simply bid more and more and get tons of traffic… if you are willing to pay for it. Most talented PPC management firms can well more than pay for their fees by finding ways to keep the traffic and leads/sales while trimming the cost – thus greatly improving your campaign’s efficiency. PPC listings are simply ads for your site, whereas organic rankings are taken from your site. As such, you do not need to do anything to your site for PPC rankings, though we may recommend otherwise so as to improve your visitor to action conversion rates…