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Why Do I Need a Paid Search Ad If I Rank Well Organically?

Paid Search AdsA common misconception small business owners have is that if they rank well organically in the search engine results, they do not need to allocate additional budget to a paid ad strategy. This may seem logical on the surface, but let’s face it, organic traffic is not free—you have to dedicate resources to ensuring that your website content is strong and organized, you have to invest in an effective backlink strategy, you have to do extensive keyword research, and you have to monitor and analyze your results and make continual changes. For many small businesses, this means hiring a firm specializing in search engine optimization (SEO). Not free!

Even if you have a successful organic strategy—and before assuming that SEO is all you need to promote your website—here are five quick questions to ask yourself when assessing the use of paid ads:

  1. What keywords do you have top ranking for?

    When we ask clients this question, they typically respond with their business name. Most businesses with quality websites rank well for their business name, but what about other keywords? Although you may rank #1 for “Joe’s Plumbing,” how do you rank for keywords that would drive new customers to your business who have never heard of you? It’s important that you not only rank well for “Joe’s Plumbing,” but that you also rank for purchase-ready buyer terms such as “plumbing repairs,” “emergency plumber,” and “sink replacement.” Depending on the competitiveness of those terms, it may take months to rank well . . . or you may never achieve adequate ranking. With the right budget and bidding strategy, supplementing your organic strategy with paid ads can produce immediate placement and results.

  2. What would you do with 20% more traffic to your website?

    You may be asking yourself, “Why should I pay for clicks if I am already appearing for free?” A frequent budgetary concern is that paid ads cannibalize organic clicks. Not so! According to Google, websites appearing in both the organic and paid sections of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) achieve 20% more traffic. The goal here is to displace your competitors by taking up as much real estate on the SERP as you can.

  3. Organic and Paid Search

  4. Where do your customers click on the Search Engine Results Page?

    As a well-known adage reminds us, the most important thing in real estate is “location, location, location.” The same holds true for search engines. While most users focus on the left-hand side of the page (80%+ of us), almost 90% never make it to page two of the SERP. If you’re relying on organic ranking but aren’t on page one, you’re missing out on almost all of the traffic! Your paid search ad will allow you to compete for keywords that you rank low for organically.

  5. Do you run seasonal offers or special promotions?

    Let’s say you already rank well for your most desired keywords. How do you fare, though, when you create a new landing page to promote a special offer or seasonal discount or launch a new product line? Depending on your time frame, you will likely not gain organic placement quickly enough to promote your offer—in fact, you may not gain good placement until well after your promotion has ended. In these cases, the fastest way to drive traffic to your promotion is through a paid ad.

  6. Are you happy with the content in your organic results?

    Organic results automatically show content from your website. Chances are, the search engines don’t pull the exact text that you would if you had control. With paid ads, however, you control the content of the ad as well as determine the specific landing page to drive the ad to. Since you write the text, your paid ad allows you to focus on purchase-ready buyers by:

    • Focusing on specific products and services: “July Savings on Water Heaters”
    • Including call-to-action text: “Save 15% Online” or “Call for Free Estimate”
    • Focusing on your geographical client base: “Serving the Tri-State Area”

In sum, an organic strategy is necessary, but paid ads enhance your ability to attract the right customers at the right time. While you’re building your organic rankings, the use of paid ads will supplement your traffic and allow you to attract your target customer. Your organic placement may adjust slowly over time, but your paid ads are instant and completely flexible.

As always, track the results of your paid ads to ensure they are effective, and continue to monitor and optimize them. Once you have achieved strong organic placement for your favored keywords, maintain your paid ads to promote new product lines quickly, advertise seasonal specials efficiently, and gain that extra 20% in traffic.


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    1. I still don’t think that surf ads are useful. I think organic link building is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic.

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    2. Good questions. Some of them are my favorite questions. Very informative.

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    3. Your article might apply to businesses but not bloggers like myself. If you are not selling anything I would say just stay away from paid search adverts.

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    4. Caitlin – Agreed. Unless you have a blog site that you are attempting to monetize and you need to drive traffic to it quickly and have a budget, then you want to avoid paid ads.

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    5. I think organic link building is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic, and the purchase of backlinks is high today.

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    6. Since I have been doing PPC, my new patients have doubled.

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    7. Congratulations, Hugh! It sounds like you are doing a great job managing your campaign.

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    8. PPC may be a viable alternative for you guys, but as an insurance agent, PPC is cost prohibitive. I read an article that says Google gets 23.7% of their advertising revenue from insurance-related terms. The average CPC for insurance words is about $50/each. I checked in my local area and noticed that even local clicks went as high as $30/each. I even got a coupon from Google to try local marketing. They could only guaranty 9-10 clicks per month for $500. Seriously? My only alternative is to run a website with an integrated blog. So, blogging with good onsite and offsite SEO is the only way I can make it as a small guy. Try running a PPC campaign with these prices.

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    9. Hi, David – You’re right, insurance terms can be expensive due to national brands and aggregator quoting engines competing with very large budgets. Chances are, if you do a search for insurance in your area, you will not see many individual agents such as yourself advertising in the sponsored results sections. However, in our experience managing search campaigns on behalf of insurance agents, we have been able to drive adequate traffic at much lower costs than you cite using long-tail terms like “maryland auto insurance” or “compare homeowners insurance rates.” Google’s Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator are great tools to use to find keywords more agreeable to your budget.

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    10. I think there are some good points here from the article and from the comments as well. I think it has to be evaluated on a site by site basis and whether it is economically feasible to do so. Using long tail keywords for localized even for PPC might also drop the cost down and you might get a better quality site visitor as well.

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    11. Thanks Tom. You’re right, long tail terms which can be very specific do tend to have the lowest CPCs and higher conversion rates. They probably won’t drive a great percentage of traffic but do enhance the overall results. Great point!

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    12. I pay a quick visit every day a few sites and blogs to read articles, except
      this webpage provides quality based writing.

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