Skip to Main Content


Minneapolis 2470 University Ave W
St Paul, MN 55114
(651) 646-0696

New York City 1216 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001
(929) 322-4971

Meet the SERPs

What are the SERPs?

SERPs is an acronym for "search engine result pages." There are a lot of opportunities hidden in SERPs, and new opportunities are born faster than most marketers can learn their names. Some of the current opportunties include organic/non-paid results, paid text ads, news results, product results, restaurant menus and map results. Search engine marketing (SEM) is any form of marketing which increases your company's visibility using any of these opportunities.

Since this article is an introduction to marketing related to SERPs we will focus on Google, and the two categories (organic and paid) that SEM opportunities fall under. Then introduce you to the related marketing activies (SEO and PPC).

Organic vs Paid

The first thing to understand is which SERP opportunities are paid for and which are not. The non-paid results are commonly called "organic results." The following graphic highlights which are which:

[Image that shows the two. Use an image that shows many more of the opporutnities (e.g. map, products, etc). This next image is a quick mockup.]

Search engine results to illustrate difference between SEO and PPC results.

Marketing for Visibility in Search Engines

There are two broad marketing acitivies related to organic and paid placement in search engine result pages:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Search engines use complex algorithms to rank websites based on 100s of factors. Search engine optimization refers to making changes to a website and modifying factors external to the webite with the goal of increasing organic traffic from search engines to your website. Or, in other words, increase the ranking of a website in search engines so when somebody searches for a term related to your business they find your company or product quickly.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) - Advertisers interested in paying Google for visibility on search result pages do so on a pay-per-click basis. This means marketers don't actually pay for visibliity, but only when a person interacts with their ad. This can result in a very good return on investment. But if you are not experienced with PPC advertising and the specific systems (e.g. Google AdWords) provided by the search engine, it is easy to throw a lot of money away. If you are investing in PPC, invest in an expert with a certification and a proven track record to setup, optimize and manage your online marketing.

Which is right for my company?

Both forms of advertising have their pros and cons, and an extremely powerful synergy when strategically used together. Start by formalizing your company's online marketing goals, a timeline for achieving those goals, and an understanding of the degree of competition in SEO and PPC opportunities for your industry.

Organic (aka non-paid) results do not cost your company when a user clicks your website in search resuls. That's great! But that is an overly simplified view. The truth is getting Google placement with SEO takes lots hard work and time to increase rankings. The more competite your industry is online, the more investment it takes to achieve desired rankings and then maintain them. Additionally with SEO it's best to start with a focus on only a handful of search terms, and if you end up switching focus to different terms be ready for another slow process in gaining ranking. Last, since search engines constantly are changing and competition is always fighting for that high ranking, SEO is an ongoing battle that must constantly be monitored and worked on. When you achieve the desired results though, the windfall can be great — just don't expect it overnight and don't misunderstand organic for "free" marketing.

PPC's downside is the pain felt in paying for each click. (TODO: That should be rewritten to no say it is a downside, but it is often the perception until ROI is calculated and compared to other marketing efforts.) PPC also requires ongoing management because competition is always fighting for placement, and search engines are constantly releasing new versions of their advertising platforms. Ongoing management is essentially since there are always more ways to improve your PPC campaigns to reach more people and improve the return on investment (ROI). TODO: A GREAT ADWORDS PROFESSIONAL WILL OPTIMIZE (make this positive): take advantage of new features and find ways to reduce costs, and refine your targeting to improve ROI over time and keep ahead of the competitiion. The rest of this paragraph needs work too. This brings us to one of the major pros of PPC — data! Though all forms of online marketing provide a wealth of data that help in making smart marketing decisions, PPC provides much more (and reliable) data then SEO can. This data allows us to better tune your PPC marketing. Another major pro of PPC is lead time. Unlike SEO, with PPC you can change your ads almost instantly — target new phrases, change text on ads, etc. Last, unlike SEO, you aren't limited in the number of search phrases you target — and in fact the more you target the better.

TODO: Writing needs lots of work. Now that we have went over some pros and cons, let's get back to the original question - Which of these two forms of advertising is right for my company? Though it depends on your situation, it's normally best to do both but because of lead time with SEO, start with PPC. This is because PPC, unlike SEO, will almost immediately produce traffic to your site. Additionally PPC allows you to gain valuable insight into what phrases are best to target when push hard on your SEO efforts. TODO: Get better points in this section. More on synergy. Try to find a related stats (e.g. I read once that visibility in PPC and SEO roughly triples clickthrough rate versus the doubling you would expect... it was something like that).

What's the marketing cost?

Remove "cose" and reword to return on investment perspective.

The cost of SEO and PPC varies greatly from industry to industry because of varying levels of competition. Competition affects the amount you must bid per click and the amount of ongoing work needed to gain, maintain and improve performance.

Ongoing fees for both services normally range from a few hundred to a few thousand per month, plus the cost of clicks on PPC ads. Companies normally start with a moderate monthly budget and adjust it based on the ads performance. This is the great thing about online advertising -- if the numbers show some ads aren't working then we stop those ads, but when they are working everyone only wants to increase the advertising -- Who wouldn't want more when they know the price is worth the sales that are growing their business?

Want to know more? Speak to with a web marketing consultant today.

Change the last sentence to be less sales-y and more welcoming questions. Also tell them to watch our blog for future articles on online marketing.

Note: Make this a series. Part two? Dive into the opportunities further with a simple interactive image of a result page. On click the viewer is shown data on the region (what is this part, quick info, is it paid for, where can I find more info?).

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Join to receive updates, inspiration, and news in your inbox from time to time.