I’m sure most SEO’s have already read several articles about how to recover from the Google Panda or Farmer updates, many of which seem to be the same generic “10 SEO Facts” everyone should know moving forward. For those who remain in the dark about the Panda updates, in short, they have been very effective at weeding out sites with crappy content as well as keyword rich domains with crappy content. I’m not going to regurgitate the same information about quality and relevancy mattering more than ever, because it always has mattered. For Google, trust and authority have always been important, only now websites are going to have a much harder time showing up in the organic search results without it.
Google’s most recent update may very well have forced many SEO’s to step up their content quality and re-evaluate their practices, but how has it affected online marketing for new and small businesses with smaller budgets? Larger companies with deep pockets have remained relatively un-phased by the Panda updates. Why? Because they typically have well established authoritative sites that already generate plenty of traffic combined with a robust, well-rounded paid advertising and media placement campaign that also drives plenty of traffic. But for the little guy, well you’ve got to earn your trust and there aren’t any shortcuts anymore.
Achieving online success is exponentially more difficult now, because some of the quick tricks that SEO’s may have been implementing to gain rankings more quickly are no longer working. The things that worked 5 years ago and even 5 months ago simply don’t work the way they used to and they don’t provide the results they used to either. For the past couple years I’ve really felt that whether you were using white or black hat techniques, organic SEO alone was a self defeating endeavor for a start-up business. Organic search results take a lot of time, effort and if you’ve hired a professional, money. Don’t misunderstand my message, organic SEO is still very worthwhile and in the long run can provide very good traffic and effectively reduce your overall advertising budget. The investment it takes to get there, however, is not small.
So, what is my point? My point is that for newer small to mid-sized businesses making a decision to pay for organic SEO or PPC, PPC is going to win. If you have a new business that is relying on organic search tactics alone, you better have deep pockets and time to ride out the investment. It all boils down to time and money. No new online business can establish an authoritative site and consumer trust in their first year online. And no business can afford to wait a year before starting to see a noticeable return on their investment. PPC is not a cheap alternative, but when it comes to bringing clicks and conversions fast, PPC is the clear winner.
I believe the key term that business owners need to focus on now more than ever is “overall marketing budget.” My company used to focus predominantly on organic search. Over the past few years it has become impossible to focus largely on organic search to achieve success for a new business online. Consequently, it’s become increasingly hard to work with smaller businesses for online marketing due to budget restraints. Our business can’t afford to lose time and money building an organic campaign and doing what’s necessary to drive short term traffic and sales with a limited budget. As a start up business you should look at a well-rounded approach to marketing your business that includes email marketing, print media, paid advertising, media placement and PPC. This may be hard to do if you can’t swing a minimum of $1,000 per month.
Successful online marketing is built with content, coverage, repetition, traction and conversions. These are the same things that were important before online marketing became such a factor. That’s how you build a brand. The cold hard facts are that you need to be prepared to commit to a long term plan for success. As a small or new company with a limited budget, your money is going to be best served in paid advertising such as PPC campaigns designed to generate immediate traffic and sales.
Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t thing SEO is dead. It is the nature of web design, development and internet marketing to change and change quickly. Like any business, those who are successful learn to adapt and change with the industry and the times. For a business to attain organic rankings for key terms that will actually provide quality traffic to your site, your site will need to be considered an authoritative site. Google reviewers aren’t the end all and be all, but Google has sent a pretty clear message and sites that didn’t have a strong foundation likely saw a swift drop.
What does it take to be an authoritative site? It all comes back to time and trust. I’m sure plenty of SEO’s will disagree with the following statement, but realistically a newer site is looking at a minimum one year commitment to building back links, reviews, and quality content in order to start reaping the benefits of organic search. I think it’s important for clients to be aware of the time commitment involved in good organic search results. I’ve done it enough times to know that there is no quick or “magic” way to gain good organic results. There are a few critical factors that make focusing on organic SEO alone a losing proposition for new websites, the most critical being tied right down to the age of your domain name.
The future of website marketing might just be pricing the little guy right out of the running for organic search. Hiring a proven professional to achieve good organic positioning is a fairly significant commitment. Ideally, a business would build organically and utilize a paid media placement campaign. With the way search is changing, mostly pertaining to Google, I think what we’ll see is business owners opting for PPC over organic. The logic is sound… if a business has a limited advertising budget then that budget is going to go towards the method that can bring conversions in the short run. Organic won’t die, it may just be reserved for larger companies that can afford it.
Chris London is an owner/art director for a highly rated Web Design Company, and website marketing company. His focus is building a
strong corporate or retail brand awareness for his clients.