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Search marketing: Can organic search ever compete with paid?

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By The Drum Team | Editorial

May 14, 2012 | 5 min read

As part of The Drum’s special report on search marketing, we speak to a number of agencies operating in the space to gain an insight into the key issues surrounding this heady topic.

In a series of features, we’ll be looking at the industry’s responses to the questions we posed, to determine the challenges and trends facing search marketing in 2012. Here, we’re looking at the question of organic vs. paid search, and whether the two can compete.Neil Jackson, head of natural search, I Spy MarketingA very broad question and while there are occasions where organic is the only answer it is dependent on so many factors. I prefer to look at the budget available and what is expected and to build a campaign based on what will deliver the best results for the client.Dan Peden, head of SEO, Epiphany SearchNo. The gap will only widen in my opinion. As user queries become more diverse SEO will become more diluted. A large proportion of the search results Google shows are based largely on the content of the sites, as opposed to their backlink profile. As we've seen with Panda, site owners need to ensure their content is adding value and not just there for search engines - this means site owners are less likely to have content matching a user query and will have to rely on Google's algorithm to associate the content they have with the query a user has typed. Paid search will be able to cover all variations of similar searches thus increasing dependency on paid ads.Bryan Adams, managing director at Ph.CreativeAbsolutely. It will take a lot more effort and resource, but it should be something we all continue to strive for. Good use of social channels and a creative, focused strategy can see high volumes of sustainable traffic delivered to a website quickly and easily in many cases. The blend of search and social has changed the rules forever, which is very good news for those willing to invest in gaining organic traffic.James Lowery, head of SEO, Latitude“Compete” is the wrong term to use. The two channels can and should work together. There are so many learnings that can be shared between the two disciplines that to treat them as silos is a disservice to the client.Kevin Gibbons, director of strategy, SEOptimise In terms of media budget, I think it has to! Organic search has always delivered a higher percentage of clicks than paid search. This used to be in the region of an 80/20 split – we’re now seeing this reduced to around 65/35 – but it still shows that organic search can deliver a greater volume of traffic than paid search. Yet the budgets don’t reflect this. The reason being that PPC advertising is very easy to measure ROI, it gets you results very quickly and if it’s working well it makes sense to scale-up your spend. In comparison, SEO is always going to be a more long-term strategy; it’s more difficult to measure ROI and it’s less likely to deliver great results in the short term. The problem has always been when looking at this from the perspective of the decision-making CMO. Which option do they go for? a) The one that delivers them great ROI short-term and helps hit their bonus target, or b) the choice that may deliver much better long-term results at a more sustainable cost, but doesn’t hit short-term targets and may risk their job? However, I do think things are changing. Paid search is as competitive as ever and the value in SEO and long-term success is now realised much more widely. The key to me is that the question shouldn’t be “which one do I spend on?”, but instead, “where am I getting the best return?” If they both work, do both. I recently delivered a presentation on this which goes into more detail, but the key is to measure both and make decisions in a consistent way – as opposed to just judging one against the other.Tina Judic, managing director, FoundIf you look at the two channels in isolation then it depends on what goals or metrics organic and paid results are effectively ‘competing’ on. It’s not about where either channel is competing, and more about the growing importance of understanding how each channel can complement the other.To download a copy of the full report, click below.Balancing image via Shutterstock
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Found.

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