If you want your business to thrive online, then using search engines for advertising and marketing is mandatory for optimal visibility. The real question is how much can you afford to spend? and how cost-effective is the medium for producing traffic and conversion?
Let Search Engines Work For You Not Against You
Looking at the function of search engines, they serve to scout the web and retrieve and index relevant pages for visitors based on related semantic or topical queries (a.k.a keywords). Understanding this, we know that words, (your content) plays a major role in this process and is one of the key metrics that determines where your pages rank as a result.
Focus on producing causes and effects follow naturally
By addressing the root cause (the content) rather than being preoccupied by surface level effects (the rankings), you can groom your pages for success based on the intrinsic topics of your web page content. Relevance is one of the main factors that determines which sites stand out and get promoted to the top 10 positions in search engines. Regardless of the industry, one thing is certain among online industry leaders, great content is the foundation.
Whether you meet the criteria deliberately (as a result of SEO) or accidentally, at the end of the day the results are algorithmic. Instead of dueling with a competitor one keyword at a time which only encompasses short-term positioning, think about optimizing the entire niche as a whole instead. Then by developing a solid content development strategy, you can systematically research potential keywords or traffic patterns and tailor web page content and links to acquire a dominant position of authority for those phrases.
There is something to be said about patience, planning and strategic execution. Instead of taking the dog chasing their tail approach to SEO and acquisition of keywords and losing focus (and market share) chasing a narrow range of phrases. On the contrary, if you scale all of your efforts to accommodate the rites of passage and focus on quality themed topics, it is only a matter of time before search engines cannot help but promote your site in multiple top 10 results due to the relevancy and stature of your pages (like a mini Wiki, if created properly).
When Keywords Stem Your Content Wins
The premise behind one of the most prominent search engine ranking phenomenon is called (keyword stemming). This occurs when semantic relationships between the keywords spill over and instead of ranking for 10 phrases, now you rank for 20, 30, 40 keywords and so on. This is a boon, since increased traffic an visibility are the result. Not to mention this is naturally occurring phenomenon.
This aspect of the search algorithm dictates that once a website (as a correlation of having themed content) manages to make an impact and garner a degree of traffic & links (which can be hastened by a Stumble, a Digg or a link from an authority site, etc.) it essentially can be fast-tracked into authority status and get the rest of the pages in that site on the map (into the search index with recommendations). What used to take years, can be done in a mere fraction of the time (I have seen instances in as short as 3-4 months) and the site in question virtually ranks for keywords that only appear sparsely on the related content (and higher for a range of keywords that appear more frequently).
Traffic is a metric that equals popularity and this when combined with other known factors for elevating site authority in a niche are ultimately what can escalate your pages from not in the top 1000 search results, to the top 20 or top 10 pages respectively for specific exact match phrases as well as their distant long-tail cousins.
If cost is a factor and long-term results are important to your search engine positioning strategy, then note that one of the most effective and ethical ways to rank for a competitive or moderately competitive phrases is to incorporate them into your website infrastructure (in a way that search engines understand) through strong internal links and external links from high places for starters.
Once the elements are in place, you must promote that content (so each page can act as it's own mini-site in essence) and nurture and develop the relationships between those pages into a cohesive knowledge base so that your site is tagged as an authority. For those of you who don't enjoy composing content, there is a solution, hire a copywriter to do it for you, preferably one who is knowledgeable about keyword density, the appropriate use of tags, relative positioning of grouping keywords and overall delivery (since it has to be encouraging for human visitors to promote conversion).
Why Pay Per Click and Put your Eggs in One basket?
Say for example you were involved in an industry and you opted to use the search engine marketing approach and invest a portion of your sales proceeds every month into PPC (pay per click advertising). Once those clicks are reached, they just dip into your account to refresh the funds and as long as you keep paying, they keep sending traffic your way (at a price per click). So essentially your business model is dependent on that marketing method alone for sustenance. This is definitely not in your best interests for diversifying your link portfolio and only increases your dependence and increases your risk in the advent that something undermines that method such as price.
Yet on the other hand, through performing a function as simple as creating a blog, writing a post or series of posts on topics that relate to your industry (which should roll off the tip of your tongue) this provide an anchor point (for your site) so you can build links back to to elevate those articles and posts organically in search engines.
Renting or Owning? You Decide
You can use the analogy of renting vs. owning from the perspective of real estate. Why invest money in PPC solely, when you could be gaining a return on your short term investments in the long run from utilizing organic optimization coupled with content to systematically increase traffic.
The only requirement is patience, quality link development and link building services and promotion if you apply savvy marketing fundamentals known for rousing visitors to act.
Trust is the deciding factor for many to take action (make a phone call, IMS or fill out a contact form), and what better way to gain trust and leads than by housing a formidable range of content that essentially would provide answers to those seeking your expertise in the first place (within your own site).
To say that this is a much stronger selling point than just seeing an advertisement floating around the "hey I am paying for this" sponsored section, it may as well be a press release.
Not to say that using press releases are not part of a larger strategy, but people rarely use a blurb alone to make an informed decision. Once something grabs your attention, the tendency is to dig deeper into the offer by visiting the site, looking at the company profile, other supporting pages, etc. to assure them that they are making an informed decision. This is where your fresh new custom content comes into play.
Which is more Cost-Effective? SEO Copywriting or PPC?
By writing a plethora of topically themed series of articles and posts (then promoting them accordingly, through RSS, social media and building links) you are essentially insuring your future search engine visibility as a result (because search engines love valuable content) in fact they can't get enough of it.
So before you go out and drop a few hundred, a few thousand or a few hundred thousand dollars a year on pay per click (you know who you are), consider a tried and true route for building equity in your brand, one page at a time through investing in quality content which can sell on your behalf as a result of the merit and degree of expertise it shares with all who read it.
Once you realize that you can scale and multiply this effect and put your link building, your public relations, your niche authority position and your promotion on the same page, like a symphony if you will. Then you have just graduated from the logic of PPC dependency to using a formula for developing an authority website which is the forerunner to successful online marketing campaign.
It isn't about how many top 10 rankings you have, but how many hundreds or thousands you can create as a result of your content development strategy and subsequent relationship with search engines who are insatiably hungry for quality coupled with relevant traffic and promotion to seal the deal (which is your endorsement).
Jeffrey L. Smith is an seasoned search engine optimization expert and founder of SEO Design Solutions SEO Company. Jeffrey has been involved in internet marketing since 1995 and brings fresh optimization methods and SEO Services to businesses seeking organic search engine positioning.