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What You Need to Know About SERPs

Like peanut butter and jelly, thunder and lightning, and Simon and Garfunkel, some things simply go better together. Website design and Internet marketing are just such a pair. The desired outcome of this marriage is more than prime positioning on search engine results pages (SERPs), however. Sophisticated Internet marketing dissects SERPs and uses their hidden opportunities to unlock more comprehensive marketing opportunities than search results, alone.

Why SERPs are Important

We consult with our clients over many forms of cutting-edge Internet marketing, but believe the best place to start is with time-tested methods, including SERPs. SERPs offer more opportunities for Internet marketing than many users realize. In addition to links that a search engine provides in response to a search query, SERPs are rife with other hidden opportunities, and new ones are being born faster than most marketers can learn their names.

Some opportunities SERPs provide include:

  • Organic / non-paid results
  • Paid text ads
  • News results
  • Product results
  • Restaurant menus
  • Local map results

Collectively, these opportunities are called search engine marketing (SEM). SEM is any form of marketing which increases your company’s visibility using search as a marketing channel.

Organic vs. Paid SEM

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll focus on Google to illustrate the two categories of SEM: organic and paid. The image below highlights the two types of SEM on a typical Google results page.

Marketing for Visibility in Search Engines

There are two broad marketing activities 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 hundreds of factors. SEO refers to making changes to a website and modifying factors external to the website with the goal of increasing organic traffic from search engines to your website. In other words, SEO aims to increase the non-paid ranking of a website in search engines so when a user 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 visibility, but pay only when a person clicks on 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 Type of Internet Marketing is Right For My Company?

Both forms of advertising have their pros and cons, and can create extremely powerful synergy when strategically used together. Start by formalizing your company's online marketing goals, timeline for achieving those goals, and 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 a SERP. This is the kind of Internet marketing that most users are familiar with: you type in search words and a page of websites appears. The order in which the results are displayed doesn’t happen by chance. Getting good placement in Google’s SERPs takes hard work, dedication, and time. The more online competition existing in your industry, the more investment it takes to achieve and maintain desired rankings.

Changes to your SEO strategy can affect your ranking on SERPs, so it is important to sharpen your focus, start with a handful of relevant search terms, and from there make incremental changes to expand your strategy.

It is also important to remember that search engines are constantly changing, and competitors are always fighting against you for higher rankings. SEO is an ongoing battle that requires diligent time and attention. It isn’t a one-off practice that you can check off your marketing list. Although the desired result requires significant resources, the windfall can be great.


The perceived downside of PPC Internet marketing is the “pay” part of pay-per-click. Once ROI is calculated and compared to other marketing efforts, however, a well-run PPC campaign has the potential to be one of the most cost-effective marketing methods in your arsenal.

Like organic SEO, PPC requires ongoing management. Competitors are always fighting for placement, and search engines are constantly releasing new versions of their advertising platforms. Ongoing management is also necessary for the ongoing improvement of your PPC campaigns.

A great Google AdWords professional will optimize new features and find ways to reduce costs, as well as refine your target over time to improve ROI and keep ahead of the competition.

This brings me to one of the major pros of PPC: data. All forms of online marketing provide a wealth of data that help in making smart marketing decisions, but PPC provides much more—and much more reliable—data then SEO can. With great data comes great power, allowing you to fine tune your PPC campaign and pursue the ever higher ROI.

Another major benefit of PPC is lead time. Unlike SEO, PPC marketing allows you to change your ads almost instantly. Targeting new phrases, changing text, and adding new terms takes just a few minutes. PPC, unlike SEO, also doesn’t limit the number of search phrases you can target.

Back to the Question at Hand

So, which type of Internet marketing best meets your needs? The answer depends on your goals, your budget, and the level of participation you are committed to. I generally find that employing both methods allows clients to cover all of their bases. For example, SEO takes time to establish, and a robust PPC campaign can help improve your Internet marketing efforts during that lag time. You can then gather data from your PPC campaign to help fine tune your SEO strategy as you move forward.

What's the Return on Investment?

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 dollars to a few thousand dollars per month, plus the cost of clicks on PPC ads. Companies normally start with a moderate monthly budget and adjust it based on the performance of their campaign. This is the great thing about online advertising. If the numbers show some ads aren't working, we adjust or stop them. And when the statistics show they are working, we can often optimize them further and you can increase the resources you put towards them. All providing your organization a great and measurable return on investment.

Crafting an Internet marketing strategy unique to your business and market starts by finding an experienced web marketer you can trust. If you have questions about how you can improve your search results and drive more traffic to your website, reach out to us and speak to one of our web marketing consultants.

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