I’ve explained the difference between “organic” or “natural” search engine listings vs. the Google Pay-Per-Click ads many times over the years and with this new media to speak to you I wanted to post about it because there are still a lot of people who don’t understand.

1.  What is “organic” or “natural” listings and where are they?
These listings are the non-biased search engine results on any particular search engine, which means they won’t accept any amount of money to influence the rankings of any individual website.  Chances are when you perform a search you’ll get thousands of the free listings that have been found by search engine spiders and then ranked by relevancy according to the search engine’s methodology.  Each search engine algorithm uses a variety of factors that influence your websites organic search position including:  website structure, page content, link popularity, traffic and how often the content is updated.  In the image below, I’ve highlighted in red the “organic” (free) listings:

2.  What is Sponsored Listings and where are they?
The sponsored listings are located at the top and right side of the search results page on Google.com.  The most popular type is a keyword-based Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaign and anyone can set-up a campaign.  With a keyword-based campaign you, the advertiser, bids on search terms (keywords) consisting of words or phrases.  Typically the highest bidder for each keyword will be listed at the top, however in recent years the quality and relevance of the landing page has been added to the algorithm to determine placement.  Your Cost-Per-Click (CPC) will vary depending on the search engine and the level of competition for a particular keyword or phrase.  The PPC advertising model is open to abuse through click fraud, which is when a person, automated script, or computer program imitates a legitimate user clicking on an ad for the purpose of generating a charge without having actual interest in the company or product.  Google and other search enignes have implemented automated systems to guard against abusive clicks by competitors or corrupt web developers.  In the image below, I’ve highlighted in blue the Sponsored Listings area:

It’s very important to make sure your website is optimized for the maximum “organic” search results possible.  Savvy searchers who do understand the difference between the paid and natural results are more likely to hold a higher regard for the natural listings.  When you’re flipping through a magazine, you’re probably going to have a more positive attitude about a company if you read an article about them than you would from a paid advertisement.

If you are a smaller company there are several advantages you have over the bigger companies that focus on the PPC campaigns.

  • Smaller companies can change their marketing stategies much quicker, this includes their website content and optimization, which affects their organic search engine listings, whereas larger companies can take months and sometimes years to make a decision.
  • Smaller companies are more likely to outsource specialized services, such as website optimization, to somone with proven experience.  Larger companies have more internal resources and will most likely dump this on their IT person, who typically has too much to do already.  These highly technical people often make mistakes that at best don’t get results and at worst put websites at risk of penalization.
  • Smaller companies have less technical hurdles, this includes databases that are not indexable by the search engines, a website built entirely in Flash and/or other technologies that are virtually invisible to search engines.

Some of the most glaring search engine mistakes are consistently made by household name companies, which leaves their smaller competitors the opportunity to take full advantage.

If you have any questions, email me – I’d be more than happy to help.

Cindy Spencer 🙂

NEXT BLOG:  What are the Pro’s and Con’s of linking to the manufacturer’s websites?

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