Ranking high on Google’s search results has become a huge priority to the vast majority of companies, so much so that a whole industry has risen up around it. It’s no wonder that search results have become such a pivotal aspect of marketing in recent years. Research has shown that a massive 81% of customers will conduct research prior to making a purchase and 60% of those will head straight to a search engine before anything else.
The obsession that businesses have with that first page of results may sometimes verge on fanatical but it too is based in fact. Astonishingly, only around 10% of users will continue on to the second page of results and this percentage continues to decrease with each next page. This illustrates just how important search engine placement can be- especially for businesses.
The way in which Google decides the order of their search results can be quite complex. In a nutshell, they utilise automated crawlers to find and index websites and then the website are ordered. Google order the websites according to a number of features- such as content, popularity, images, keywords etc. Websites can even be penalised if they copy content or reuse images. Google are continually changing the algorithms for how they order, so businesses have to stay ahead of the game to keep up.
There are two main methods to improving your position on Google’s search results- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC). Both have their relative strengths and weaknesses and choosing which technique will depend on the individual business and what they’re looking for.
Pay Per Click Advertising
As with many aspects of online marketing- there is a shortcut to boosting your rankings in Google’s search results but it does cost. The way in which this process works is relatively simple, companies pay Google and then Google places their website higher up in the rankings in the form of advertisements. The main upsides to PPC is that it’s an easy and fast method for boosting your ranking and therefore leads- hopefully leading to sales.
Whilst PPC may be a simpler approach, it does have its downsides, mainly based around the overall reputation of online advertisements. Many online users mistrust ads, especially if they believe they were targeted using personal information. Therefore, PPC is better used a short-term boost and not the long-term solution for search result rankings. It’s also worth pointing out the obvious drawback to this method- it costs money. Considering the alternative is free, this is something to keep in mind when choosing. Especially for newer and smaller businesses who don’t have a large amount of money to invest.
Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is basically the opposite technique to PPC- it’s free in theory but it takes much more effort and time, however the benefits can be long term. If PPC is a shortcut to boosting rankings, SEO is the organic approach- working with Google’s algorithms in order to achieve a higher placement on search results naturally.
SEO involves lots of different approaches but the main idea is to create a high-quality website that will organically rise to the top in results.
This includes original and engaging written content, original images and an overall user-friendly website. In terms of the structure of the website, there are many different things to take into account, such as search bars, landing pages, intuitive navigation as well as contact and about me pages. It’s also worth noting that a website that is optimised for mobile devices will always perform better in search results.
An important aspect of SEO is identifying a list of keywords which help potential customers to find your website on Google. You then utilise these keywords within your online content and Google will deliver your website when people search for these keywords. The more accurate and relevant the keywords are, the more likely that your website will appear higher in search results.
In theory SEO is free to do but it can include a lot of work and therefore many businesses outsource. You can also use online tools, some of which are free but others require payment as well. Therefore, the main benefit that SEO has over PPC may not be as straight cut as first thought. However, good SEO can deliver high quality, long-lasting results.
Although we have compared and contrasted these two methods, the truth is that most businesses take a more holistic approach and utilise both. You can adopt both paid advertisements and Search Engine Optimisation in order to get the best of both worlds.