How does a website get to the first page of a Google search? Why is that such an important goal? These are intriguing questions for a company that places a premium on driving potential customers to their site. According to a 2014 study, once a customer is on a company’s site, there is about a 2% chance on average that they will do business with that company. That may not seem like a high conversion rate, but think about the fact that there are roughly 2.94 billion total worldwide internet users. That is an incredible number when you consider that in 2000 there were about 361 million internet users. People that use web searches know what they want, they just do not know where to go to get it, and they are looking for the best fit for their needs. Being on the first page of Google, or other search engines, means that potential customers will see that company sooner. Getting on the first page of a search engine is hard and it is also a constant battle. The two main ways to get there is to pay a search engine company directly or craft your sites content specifically to get you on the first page organically.
Paying a search engine company directly ensures that a company’s site is not only on the first page of the search results, but also in a premium location. This is also known as PPC or pay-per-click. Search engines have spent a lot of their resources trying to define exactly what it is a person wants when they use their search engine. It is in their best interest to serve what you are looking for quickly and concisely so people come back the next time they want to search for something on the internet. Search engine companies work hard to develop their algorithm and keep them behind closed doors, so companies and developers can’t use them to their advantage. That is what makes paying a search engine company to advertise a company so effective, that company is in effect skipping to the front of the line as the search engine company’s VIP. On the high end, the very high end, a company that pays for advertising on a search engine can achieve conversion rates of up to 11.5%. Grab a calculator and find out what 11.5% of 2.94 billion is and you can see the allure of paying for advertising on a search engine. Keep in mind these benchmarks are goals that a company should be strategizing and striving for, and even if they are not attained, other companies are trying very hard to get there. Playing catch up with competing companies is always disadvantageous.
Paying for advertising is not the only option though. Organic search optimization is also a viable strategy, even if the results are harder to quantify. With paid advertising a company will see immediate and direct results over the lifetime of the paid advertising campaign. Using organic search optimization is more of a battle of attrition, so to speak. The key to optimizing a company’s website for getting onto a search engine’s first page is to curate the content of the site constantly and do so in step with the perceived best practices of the search engine companies. Title tags, H1s, page content, meta description, image file name, alt tags, and linking websites are all factors in the algorithms that search engines use to determine the best match for a query in their engine. A company’s site should be optimized with these factors in mind and work constantly to make sure they are targeting relevant keywords and delivering quality content to the people who land on their page via search engines. The results of an organic search approach are harder to quantify in the short term, so it is crucial to keep that in mind. There will be some swings that are misses, but the nature of this approach is that it is for the long term and there should be analysis from month to month and year to year.
Paid versus organic. Two different approaches to arriving at the same end result. This post has only shed a ray of light on the opening questions, but hopefully it lends some insight into the process of deciding which one works for certain sites, and which one doesn’t necessarily work for other. The next question should be, “which approach works for my company? Paid or organic?”