Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Which Came First, The Organic Chicken or the Pay Per Cluck?

Some clients are under the misconception that their first effort to rise in the SE results should be to start submitting to search engines before anything else. Sometimes they demand to show up first under a wide range of keywords that they type into a Meta tag. This misconception comes from the mega-load of armchair web designers, inexperienced (or unscrupulous) SEO consultants or the next door neighbor's kid who runs a skateboarding site for his friends (Hey, nothing wrong with that. And I bet there's a bunch of amazingly talented pros doing it right now) and can now place first for "naked skateboarding on red boards in Hicksville Long Island on Tuesdays." Some of these people take a client's hard earned money and make promises based on black hat techniques, 2003 tactics and plain lies.

Ok, so what about paying a little to get listed? Surely you can get the top spot that way. Well, the short answer is yes. But keep in mind it still takes time, money and patience to run a PPC campaign. You still need to know what you're doing or you'll go broke, get tossed from the search engine or worse. Also, paid search doesn’t build “trust.”

So what do I do first? Good question. Thanks for asking!

Before I answer, as I’ve said in past articles - LISTEN TO THE CLIENT. They may have a totally different idea about what they want from their search efforts. Maybe it's just so they and their friends can share information on naked skateboarding. They don't need PPC promotion - or maybe they do if they want to earn affiliate money selling red skateboards! It's a niche site and can excel in organic search. Just listen and they will tell you.

Here’s a simple SEM strategy. Please keep in mind that not all SEO people work the same and that I will probably get a letter or two saying "That's not how you do it Ron Smith, you LOSER!"

All search engine placement efforts start the same way - keywords. You probably all knew that. There are, however, big differences in the way you approach these two strategies. PPC campaigns are generally run and experimented with using many, sometimes hundreds or thousands, of related keywords. This research is absolutely essential to narrowing down your target audience - you know, the ones who actually buy your product or service. So, pay per click is generally my starting point.

Now - after you've narrowed the giant list of keywords through your all-important CTR research, you can go back and rehash your web content to focus on these words. Pick a few keywords per page and then try and scatter them throughout your "relevant and actually informative" content. I'll hit that in a later article.

Now submit and wait. Viola! Organic Chicken! Uh, traffic.

OK, that's a bit naive and simple. There’s a lot more to organic results than waiting. Things like external, relevant links, data tracking and constant changes in your design approach are generally needed - especially for a new site. Look at it this way - the best and biggest are constantly revamping and upgrading to stay where they are after many years. You need to do the same.

So, my conclusion? It depends, but it's usually better to "cluck" first.

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