When users conduct Google searches, two kinds of results appear on the SERP (search engine results page): the “organic” search results (also known as “natural” results) and the paid or sponsored results. Generally, the paid results, or Sponsored Links appear on the right side of the SERP, and sometimes at the top.
These Sponsored Links are essentially advertising which is why the Sponsored Links are often referred to as “pay per clicks ads.” Organizations can bid for placement in Google search results by purchasing Google AdWords, a pay per click (FPC) advertising program. Here’s how it works: You offer to pay Google a certain cost per click (Cpe) anytime your ad is shown to searchers based on what keyword they searched on.
You pay for how often people click on your ad and visit your website-not how often your ad is shown (impressions). For example, say you were a tax attorney in Boston and wanted to reach Google users that searched on the term “Boston Tax Attorney.”You could buy that Google AdWord and offer $2.50 per click. This means that if your ad is shown to users, you pay Google $2.50 every someone clicks on your ad. The price that you offer (or bid) determines whether your ad will be shown, where it will be shown, and how many times. The price that you need to pay depends on how many other people are also interested in that same keyword. Google AdWords is an auction that’s held in real-time. Those companies willing to pay more are more likely to get their ad shown in the limited amount of real estate Google has available for these paid AdWords ads. It’s important to note that Google also uses the quality of an ad, in addition to the bid price, to determine ad placement. High quality ads that meet the needs of searchers can pay less on a per-click basis.
That’s how paid search works. You pay Google to send visitors to your website, and how much you pay is based on how many other people are competing for those same searchers.
On the other hand, the organic or natural search results are not based on payment, but on the quality of the content and what Google believes would be the most valuable pages for their users. When your Web page shows up in the organic results, and users click on your link and visit your web page, these clicks are essentially free (you don’t pay anything to Google for them). Clearly, all things being equal, you’d rather your business get visitors from Google for free, wouldn’t you? It actually gets even better than that. Not only is placement in the organic results free, but visitors click on these results much more often than they do the paid results. Research from MarketingSherpa and Enquiro show that 75 percent of searchers click the organic listings while 25 percent click on the paid result. This means you’ll likely get much more traffic if you can rank for certain keywords organically than if you were to try to buy your way into the paid results for those same words.
Clearly, you’d prefer to get free traffic instead of paying for it. That’s what search engine optimization (SEO) is all about. You want to increase the chances your Web pages will show up as high as possible in the Google results when a user searches for a keyword related to your business.
By default, when users type a search term into Google, 10 results or listings are shown per page. This means the first page of results shows the top 10 results, the second page shows the next 10 results, and so on. It’s important to note that getting on the first page of Google is very important, because the first page gets a lion’s share of the traffic for that keyword. A recent study shows that Google’s first page captures over 89 percent of the traffic, and most users will not look beyond the first page. Even within the first page, the traffic is not spread evenly-the top-ranked result (number one on the first page) captures about 42 percent of the traffic. The higher you rank for a given term, the more visitors to your website, and the difference between the number of visitors does not occur in small increments- it’s significant. So, you want to do your best to rank as high as possible for the keyword that you care about.
The practice of understanding how search engines work, and striving to get a website to rank well for keywords, is known as search engine optimization (SEO).
This article is an excerpt from the book “Inbound Marketing” by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.