Sprinkle Some Commercial Gold Dust in 2009

Thursday, 08 January 2009

Achieving page one rankings in Google is like commercial gold dust. Strong organic positions can strengthen your brand, increase sales and keep customers coming back. It’s the most cost-effective form of marketing to give your business long-term stability in stormy times ahead.

Businesses that have already laid organic foundations will reap the rewards in 2009. Even if budgets get cut, this year provides a rare opportunity to grab market share without breaking the bank. And if you haven’t already set the groundwork, now’s the time to invest. The longer you leave it, the further ahead your competitors will be, and the further you’ll be from page one.

Organic over paid search

Around 80% of clicks are on organic listings. Why spend your entire budget on pay-per-click (PPC) when only 20% of people click on paid ads? Although PPC has its benefits (you appear in search engines immediately, and it’s great for short-term promotions like new products and special offers), it doesn’t give your business long-term stability.

Take these two examples. Company A has spent its entire budget on a PPC campaign for the past 18 months. Company B has invested 30% of its spend on PPC and 70% on organic over the past 18 months. Which company will be better off in 2009?

With a mixture of PPC and organic, company B will see long-term benefits in 2009 because the organic foundations that have been laid will really start to pay off. Company B was right in thinking PPC would provide short-term exposure (after all, they’re a new company and nobody has heard of them), and organic would give long-term stability.

After six months their PPC spend was reduced because the organic strategy was really starting to gain momentum. And after 12 months, the focus really shifted away from PPC. Even if company B cuts its budget in 2009, the business would still be better off because the foundations have been put in place. As soon as company A cuts its budget, it can kiss goodbye to page one rankings because no long-term investment has been made.

The changing face of organic

Since the launch of Google’s Universal Search in May 2007, targeting across all media types has really moved into the spotlight. Web pages, videos, images, news and blogs now appear in one place. This means businesses need to have a finger in every pie to increase sales and enquiries in 2009.

To compete successfully in the universal future, companies must create, distribute and promote tiptop content across news and industry-relevant sites, blogs, forums and social networks. In layman’s terms you need to show customers (and Google) that your brand is worth buying into.

This includes creating a branded blog, distributing optimised press releases worldwide, optimising videos and podcasts, and engaging in social networks to generate a buzz about your company. Organic provides endless ways for businesses to reach their customers in 2009. And one of the most important factors is content.

Content is king

Top-notch content gives a business wider exposure at a reduced cost.  For example, company B uses its blog to communicate to peers and customers. But not a simple “blogger blog”, a branded blog that fits into the design of their website.

As a result, their brand has been strengthened, and because they post once a week, their customers know that they’re up-to-date with the latest products, events and news in their industry.  It also tells Google their site is worth visiting time and time again, which improves their organic rankings each month. It’s first-class content along with promotion through social networks and online press releases that help to retain loyal customers.

Lower annual spend

Many businesses and top bods are sceptical about organic because it takes time, but it’s the most cost-effective form of advertising in the long run. When you compare the annual spend of organic to PPC, or even traditional types of media like newspaper advertising, organic costs a fraction compared to other forms of marketing. And with tough times ahead, a strong organic campaign really is the ticket. Once you’ve got initial rankings, your business will get long-term visibility at a low annual cost.

  • tobto.org

    yes, Tessa! That’s true. Paid = 20% clicks. PPC looks like ‘anonymous’ and in reality organic generated links will always be the top tool to be mentioned by SEOs.

    Very nice article!

  • Zofia Grabowska

    Tessa has written a very well balanced and thoughtful piece. Wise Guy isn’t so wise or perhaps I’m too thick to know what he is driving at.

    Of course the processes and time required to achieve organic rankings are considerable and challenging and will need a high level of expertise. A campaign to achieve good rankings will have a cost to get there and to sustain it in the longer term. The point is that whatever that cost may be it will be a lot cheaper than maintaining an AdWords campaign ongoing, and be hugely cheaper and more effective than the newsprint options.

    Zofia Grabowska

  • http://www.zeta.net/ Tessa

    Yes you definitely need a well-structured strategy if you want to achieve natural rankings. And it certainly requires patience, which is why I stress that it’s a long-term strategy rather than a short-term fix.

    But my point is that achieving strong foundations is one of the most important steps in an organic campaign. Once you have these in place, you will still need to work hard to retain high rankings, but the annual cost is lower in the long term compared to traditional types of media.

    Running an advert in the Telegraph each week is ridiculously expensive, and for what? An unaccountable, unmeasurable form of advertising that achieves nothing when it’s lining the rubbish bin the next day.

  • WiseGuy2009

    “Once you’ve got initial rankings, your business will get long-term visibility at a low annual cost.” – NOT TRUE.

    Natural ranking on major search engines is a long and tiresome process which requires a thought out strategy and MOST of all patience. Organic search is a real puzzle, which needs to be pieced together over months of hard work. Unfortunately just gaining an initial position will not lead to long-term visibility – anyone who believes that, probably also thinks that social networking is a form of speed dating!