There is a lot of talk about the advantages and disadvantages of paid search, or pay-per-click versus search engine optimization (SEO) or organic search, sometimes abbreviated as PPC vs SEO.
I am a big advocate of good SEO to increase your website's ranking in organic search. It is an inexpensive and effective way to get your website found and to increase web traffic. That does not mean that there is no place for paid search or that it is not effective. It is very effective. In fact advertisers can achieve a 7:1 ROI on search-based marketing.
But there are some misconceptions or myths about search based marketing such as Google Adwords.
Two Myths about Paid Search
1. Paid ads cannibalize organic results: The main fear is if you are spending a lot of time improving your website's search ranking and someone sees your paid ad on the same search result page as your organic listing, then people will click the paid ad. The result is that you will pay for a click you could have gotten free.
What Google calls the Impact of Organic Rank on Ad Click Incrementality would take a few blogs for me to explain but Practical Ecommerce has a post that does a good of job explaining it. In essence, an incremental click is a click that came from the paid ad that would not have come from the organic listing. There are many things that affect this ratio, see the Infographic below, but the combination of paid search and organic rankings sends new visitors to your site that would not have visited with a good organic ranking alone.
Researchers at Google found that 89% of traffic generated by search ads are not replaced by organic search results when ads are stopped.
2. Searchers Don't Click on Paid Ads: There is a lot of data and opinions about actual click through rates such as the often quoted stat that only 23% of searchers click on paid ads. The problem with statistics about online searches is that everything is so dynamic. Each search result is different and each searcher has a different goal.
David Roth from Yahoo goes into this in more depth in his blog Paid vs. Organic Search: Understanding the Dynamics. Even if the statistic that only 23% click on paid ads is true, with 191.4 million search users then there are almost 44 million searchers who do click on ads. How many clicks do you need?
To be very clear, paid search or pay-per-click advertising is not for everyone and it does not replace good organic ranking. Without good SEO your Google Adword campaign is only effective while you are running it.
But a well-run Adword campaign will get results quickly, it can increase conversions and it will complement a good SEO strategy.