For the past decade, there’s been an ongoing debate over the power of search engine optimization (SEO) versus pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Does a brand’s website adhere to Google’s rules of engagement and gain high rankings in the SERPs (search engine results pages) organically, or is it smarter to pay for clicks to gain advantage?
When social media gets added to the mix, companies have a third option to market their presence on the Internet, and additional cause for concern as to how allocate their advertising dollars more effectively.
With Google reinventing itself once again with its re-engineered algorithm called Hummingbird, a lot of the old SEO best practices no longer hold the weight they once did. Gone is the focus on keywords, as the new algo calls for an emphasis on semantic technology, or what some are terming “intuitive search.”
While this isn’t a full about-face, marketers are leery and taking a keener look at how effective pure organic search will be in the future.
SEO guru Danny Sullivan compares this latest round of transitions to a car built in the 1950s. “When Google switched to Hummingbird, it’s as if it dropped the old engine out of the car and put in a new one. . . (and) it also did this so quickly that no one really noticed the switch.”
As businesses plan their 2014 marketing budgets, many are wondering if Google’s algo transition is the “death knell” for SEO. In the 2013 State of Paid Search report, 72 percent of businesses surveyed reported they plan to spend more on PPC in 2014, up from 70 percent in 2013.
Also with Google’s recent decision to limit analytics, they’re masking keyword referral data and lowering the effectiveness of “old school” SEO. Paid search customers, on the other hand, are not affected by this change because Google’s Adwords helps paying customers learn if their keywords are still working and how effective their paid marketing campaigns are.
Earned social marketing
With each passing year, more and more brands are embracing social media marketing. According to a survey by Vizu, a Nielsen company, almost two-thirds of advertisers increased their paid social media budgets in 2013.
Michael Idinopulos concludes in his post for CMS Wire that with this shift in marketing dollars, brands that favored social media marketing actually have “pumped up the market caps of Facebook (up $44 billion in 2013) and LinkedIn (up $14 billion) and Twitter ($21 billion).”
Internet marketing assistance
While neither SEO, PPC, nor social media marketing are the “silver bullet” as stand-alones, decisions about how to get the most out of your advertising dollars remain. Some brands are sizable enough to maintain a full in-house marketing staff.
But for those that can’t afford that level of executive expertise, it may be wise to hire an outside Internet marketing agency to carve out a strategic plan and then be evaluated by its results. A dedicated firm like Virtual Results has a long track record of successfully handling all facets of Internet marketing, from SEO, PPC, Google analytic analysis, social media marketing, and advertising campaigns.
Their insightful blog postings are also a valuable resource, particularly for smaller firms and young start-ups, because they highlight successful campaigns and case studies that achieve concrete results.
Every business needs an effective Internet marketing strategy. While the debate will continue as to whether SEO, PPC, or Social Media Marketing is the best tactic for various firms, for those that are testing the waters, it may be wise to divide the pie equally.
Then a firm can conduct trial-and-error analyses to determine what works best and what level of conversion is obtained. It’s incumbent on a brand to determine where and when you can obtain the greatest ROI (return on investment) when deploying your valuable resources, time, and money on any of these marketing initiatives.