Whether you use paid search advertising, organic search optimization, or a mix of both, marketing your website is a key component of growing your business on the web.
An interesting survey of professional marketers last April indicated they would lean towards paid search advertising rather than SEO if they had to make a choice between the two.
Events of the last year have only further heightened the need for website operators to carefully consider where to apply their new client acquisition budget. But for those operating a small business, there is one factor that may be of particular importance before taking your marketing in one direction or the other.
Paid Search: Soft vs. Hard Marketing Costs
Before you can make a well reasoned decision on whether paid or organic search is what you should focus on, you will need to consider the soft versus hard costs of paid advertising compared to SEO.
The bottom line is that in order to facilitate either process, a certain amount of intellectual capital (a soft cost for many small businesses) will be required.
In the case of paid advertising, the same keyword research, crafting of advertising/marketing/message optimization copy and the building of landing pages needs to take place. But, to manage placement costs for paid advertisements, a higher level of coordination between keyword, ad copy and landing page content is required.
Combining the acknowledged fact that the hard costs of paid search advertising (direct listing fees) produces a consistently lower percentage of successful engagement with potential site visitors, with the soft costs of placement at the same, or even higher level of development as noted above, means you will do more work and potentially pay more out of pocket for a somewhat lower return than with SEO.
Additional Benefits of Paid Search
Of course, there are unique benefits to be gained from paid advertising, not the least of which is the availability of a clear chain of effort-to-effect that SEO has trouble matching. You can get a better idea of what’s working and what’s not with paid advertising, and that is no small thing. Plus, you can take advantage of things like trackable phone numbers that allow you to measure the off-the-web impact of your marketing effort.
SEO: Building on an Existing Foundation
On the other side of the coin, if you have not been doing any paid search advertising to this point, you will have the added time or monetary cost of learning how to implement a paid advertising program. And, possibly even more importantly, if you have not to this point done the work of optimizing your existing website for the best possible search results, then you probably will be better off, certainly in the short term, by working to optimize your current site pages for organic search engine result placement.
This is an effort that you may be able to manage in-house, through the use of an SEO plugin for WordPress such as the industry leading Yoast SEO. Or, of course, you could pay a web developer to optimize your on-site SEO (most likely using the same sort of plugin, but leveraging their experience with optimization to do the work more effectively and in far less time than it may take to do it yourself).
If you do hire an outside resource to optimize your website, then of course you are looking at a hard cost in the same way as paid listings have a hard cost associated with them. However, while this can be an ongoing expense, it can also be a contained cost if you are willing to take on the ongoing management of the on-site optimization effort once it has been completed by a vendor.
An Ongoing Effort
One way or the other, marketing your website will be an ongoing effort, though with either paid advertising or on-site optimization, the work that is done will lead to the building of a foundation that you can grow from and find enhanced results in the long term.
Another way of putting it is that you really can’t make the wrong choice in which way to go in paid search versus organic search optimization, but you can certainly enhance your early results by finding the right balance in how you apply your soft and hard expenditures in the effort starting from now.