How is Google AdWords Different to SEO?
12th Jun 2014

How is Google AdWords Different to SEO?

Confused about Google AdWords and Search Engine Optimisation? It's clear from speaking to businesses that there's some misunderstanding of both.  Our guide clears up the differences and helps you decide what's best for your business.

To start with, let’s define both.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords is also called Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. They are the paid adverts you see at the very top of search result pages and in the right-hand column.

Highlighted AdWords ads in search results

In very simple terms, this is how advertising with AdWords works:

  1. You create short adverts in a Google AdWords Campaign.
  2. Each ad targets a product or service you offer and links to a relevant page (called a "landing page") on your website.
  3. Money on a parachuteYou select keywords which are relevant to your ads and landing pages. Those keywords trigger your adverts to be shown.
  4. Other advertisers might want their adverts to show for those same keywords, so a bidding system helps Google determine in what position your advert appears. The highest bid does not always guarantee top position! 
  5. Set a maximum amount that you’re prepared to pay each time someone clicks on your advert (a maximum cost per click). You don’t know what your competitors are bidding. The exact amount you pay depends on a number of factors, but will never be more than the maximum bid you have set.
  6. When a potential customer types your keywords (or something similar) into Google, your advert goes into the ad auction.
  7. Google uses a complicated algorithm to decide which, if any of your adverts is shown for that search query, what position your advert will have in search results and how much it costs.
  8. If a user clicks on your advert, you will pay Google for that click. 

In reality, it’s a little more complex, but we can save the finer details for another blog post!

Search Engine Optimisation

Underneath the paid adverts are what we call the “organic” search results. They’re called organic because those websites have earned their place naturally by making their website the best match for a given search query. You can’t pay Google to be at the top of this list.

What organic listings look like in Google's search results

As you can imagine, there might be thousands of websites competing to rank organically on the first page of results for very popular search queries. Google ranks the very best matches at the top. If your website is one of the lucky few to reach that pinnacle, you’re doing pretty well!

But how does that happen?

Hand holding an SEO sphereSearch Engine Optimisation (SEO) is how.

SEO is a long-term strategy involving both on-site and off-site factors to improve your website so it ranks well organically to attract targeted visitors. This article describes SEO in full detail, but in brief, we’re looking at

  • Keyword research
  • Creating and optimising unique, in-depth and useful website content
  • Optimising technical elements on your website
  • Earning good quality links to your site
  • Making your website easy to use so visitors can find the information they’re looking for.

So in a nutshell, you pay for AdWords but SEO is free?

Not so fast!

Yes, AdWords is a paid service – how much you pay Google depends largely on the competitiveness of the keywords you’re bidding on and your budget really.

SEO is free in so far as there’s no charge each time a person clicks on your organic listing from search results, but it does need time and effort, and more than a little knowledge of current SEO practices to get good ranking results. Business owners sometimes have preconceived and outdated ideas about search engine optimisation techniques which may do their website more harm than good.

Can you dedicate time from running your business to learn about SEO and optimise your website? 

All things considered, it’s often worth paying a specialist to manage your organic SEO.  If you can get your site optimised to the point it’s generating as many organic visits as paid, you can dial down your spend on AdWords and save money.

SEO vs AdWords

Boxing gloves - SEO VS AdWords

  • SEO typically takes longer to start showing results because of the work needed to improve your website. There are no guarantees that Google will show your site in organic listings, but when it does, the resulting clicks are free.
  • Nothing's free with Google Adwords, but results are fast and when your ad campaign is properly set up and managed, you’re more-or-less guaranteed to have some visibility in search results.
  • Google AdWords can be switched on and off according to your needs and budget
  • Successful SEO needs ongoing attention and management, whether you’re managing it yourself or paying for a managed service.
  • AdWords permits you to show ads quickly in response to new trends in the marketplace.
  • It takes time to rank well for new keywords using SEO.
  • Google AdWords can become expensive if you’re in a very competitive marketplace, where each paid click eats into your profit margins. It’s even more important to monitor your AdWords ROI if you sell lower value products.
  • If you can play the long game, a successful SEO campaign can be a great investment, giving you effective visibility in search results for a fraction of the cost of AdWords.
  • The options available in Google AdWords can be quite complex. If your campaigns are not set up and managed expertly, you can spend more than you need to for each click.
  • Getting your AdWords campaign optimised for best performance might also require some improvment to your web pages. The time invested in this can be similar to that required for organic SEO...the results of which are free clicks!  

Should I do AdWords or SEO?

To be honest, the best internet marketing strategies use both. AdWords can be particularly useful for new websites before they gain much traction organically, or an older website that's not particularly well optimised for good natural visibility. As time goes on, new websites can tweak their SEO to get better visibility for a wide variety of keywords, but even when your organic SEO is working well, if the ROI on AdWords is good, there's no reason not to keep using it as an extra source of visitors.

What Kontrolit can do to help?

If you simply don’t have time to learn it all and put it into practice, a managed SEO or AdWords service from Kontrolit provides you with a wealth of in-house expertise and a dedicated account manager, leaving you free to work on other business tasks. 

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