In the world of modern business, the key to success is getting your product seen and understood by your target audience. Simple numbers don’t always accomplish the goal – it doesn’t matter how many millions of vegetarians see your commercial for Grade-A double-plus chuck steak, after all. The key is advertising to a targeted audience, the ones who need or at least want the goods or service being offered. The best way to accomplish this goal of course will vary among different media, however, having a target market strategy is a must on the Internet.
In particular, the Internet has embraced this truth and virtually exploded with a variety of means toward the end of successful, specific advertising. Internet advertising campaigns range from the obvious and the notorious (tasteful banner advertising versus badly-worded spam emails) to the clever and the outrageous (Amazon’s ‘Still not big enough’ television campaign from the late 90s, and Halo 2’s legendary ‘I Heart Bees’ viral marketing alternate reality game).
Obviously, some of these efforts are more successful than others, and some are successful in all the wrong ways. The exiled Nigerian prince who wants to share his vast wealth with lucky, lucky you has become a pop-culture meme and in-joke, practically an obligatory reference in any discussion of modern marketing or Internet spam.
However, a great deal of web advertising is quite a bit less flashy than the aforementioned efforts, yet is seen by every user who runs a request through a search engine. When engines return a search, they generally include two sections in the result. The first is the target of the search itself, which is the Organic SEO result, the second is a series of advertisements off to the side of or above the organic result, known as Pay Per Click advertisements.
For those who don’t know what SEO is, this acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization. In short and simple terms, every search engine provides results based on a series of criteria, generally keyword and content related. The engine compares the search request to its index of websites and their descriptions, and provides the most relevant answers it can, ranked in order of precedence.
The first sites to come up are the most closely related to the search terms as the engine understands them. This is why different engines may rank sites differently – Yahoo, Google and Bing have different indexing and keyword criteria, so their responses to a particular search may vary. It is termed Organic SEO because the results are returned organically, or naturally – there is no external interference or override changing the results, they simply return per the standard operating practices of the search engine.
Organic SEO has the advantage of having no inherent costs associated with it. Proper search engines don’t charge businesses for their ranking in the list, so the only required investment is building a noteworthy site that generates the traffic and keyword results that will bring a high ranking. The downside is that it requires a great deal of research to properly take advantage of this strategy. Craigslist alone abounds with writing jobs catering to experienced SEO writers, and entire websites exist discussing the ins and outs of the practice. In addition, it relies entirely on users searching for terms that relate to your site, leaving the situation far less in your business’s hands than some owners may be comfortable with.
In pay per click advertising, businesses contact a search engine and bid on certain keywords they feel are particularly relevant to their website. For example, a company making horse saddles might bid on keywords pertaining to horses, riding events, and saddles. Then, when someone searches these terms, the search engine provides a link to this business in the form of a pay per click advertisement. The name pay per click comes from the fact that the company must pay the website a fee every time a user clicks the advertisement.
Pay per click advertising is attractive because it increases the odds of really snagging a targeted audience. Rather than having one result possibly come up in a search, there’s another result just off to the side, increasing the chances of gaining user attention. On the flip side, PPC can quickly become a cost burden. Every single click must be paid for, and there’s no guarantee that every click will result in a sale, meaning costs could skyrocket before a business is prepared to deal with them.
Making the Choice
Often times, the best choice is to strike a balanced approach between SEO and PPC style advertising. Just where that balance lies depends entirely on the business in question. The savvy web advertiser will carefully consider keyword popularity before choosing a PPC campaign, and perhaps even set aside an actual budget to account for those users who will click through but are not looking to buy.
Additionally, there are literally thousands of experienced SEO writers available for employ at inexpensive rates for short term work, meaning the organic SEO standing of a page can be improved with relatively little investment. As ever, the keys are research and understanding, both of the target audience and the means with which you intend to reach them.