Results Are In on SEM: Synergy Sells
Given that we provide integrated online marketing services at our firm, my team and I find ourselves persuading natural optimization clients to run paid search campaigns. And just as passionately we encourage paid search clients to optimize their Web sites. There’s only one reason we spend so much effort convincing clients to balance natural and paid search marketing campaigns—it works. Three critical factors are at the root of this principle:
1) the physical properties of a search page;
2) the nature of how natural search and paid search work together; and
3) the human reactions to both types of search results.
Simply put, having both natural (or free results) and pay-per-click advertising (or sponsored links) on a search engine results page gives companies more visibility, a greater share of the page’s real estate. Consider that the more often consumers see your print ads, the more likely they are to read the message, be influenced and act on it. The same is true of search engine results pages. But on a search engine, companies can’t buy a full-page ad to overshadow competitors. Search engines only sell one ad per company, offering higher positions for higher bids.
Several industry studies have tracked eye movement across a Web page, proving that the first natural results are the first place people look. And the first paid results are the second place. Our own focus group studies at Oneupweb generally support that research and also show that different target audiences have different habits in reviewing search pages. For example, one particular target audience didn’t make a distinction between the natural and paid results, not realizing that one set of search results was advertising. For this group, a business listed in both sets of results had twice the chance of capturing their attention.
For those audiences that do distinguish between natural index results and paid search advertising, the natural results carry more credibility. The search marketing industry basic rule is that people choose natural results 70 percent of the time, largely because of that credibility. Earning that position, however, takes work and time. In addition to the time and effort it takes to develop relevant content and valuable links pointing to that content, it may take three months for your content to appear in search engine indexes and several subsequent months to rise to a reputable position on the first results page. In that interim, paid search campaigns can act as stand-ins. While pay-per-click (PPC) ads aren’t as credible, they have the benefit of speed. Within a few hours of being submitted to the engines, PPC ads are at work on the results page.