Pay per Click (PPC) advertising is a paid online advertising model, such as Google Adwords. Pay per Click results typically appear as “sponsored links” above or beside the normal (aka Organic) Search Engine results.

Organic search engine results are the natural, unpaid search engine results that are determined by the Search Engine. These are generally varied and contain a lengthier (though not always clear) description of the web page they are presenting.

While both Organic and PPC results are displayed on the same page, there are numerous differences between them:

Pay Per Click results can start showing up immediately as compared to organic search results which may take several weeks to appear. With PPC you are paying for your ads to be displayed when certain key phrases or keywords are entered in a search.

With Organic results you do not necessarily have to do anything to acquire an Organic Search Engine position.  Providing your site is submitted to the Search Engine or alternatively your site has other sites linked to it, the Search Engines will crawl your website, “index” your pages and rank them based on how their “algorithms” assess the relevance of your pages content to the key words or phrases being searched. However, to achieve higher results in particular “key phrase” searches, many businesses are Search Engine Optimizing their websites.

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Advantages and Disadvantages:

Organic Search Engine Optimization

Organic search engine rankings, even when paying a professional to SEO your pages, are more cost effective compared to a PPC campaign. According to a study conducted in 2012: 70% of the time search engine visitors click on organic search engine rankings while 30% click on the PPC results.

With organic SEO, there is no guarantee of a specific result. You are competing for position in the search engines and regardless how well each page is optimized there are other influences on how pages are ranked which may be beyond your control (things such as how many important sites link to yours and how much traffic your site gets also influence organic search results). If you are guaranteed highly specific results (i.e. “We’ll get you the top spot on Google”) by an Internet Marketing company, be wary.

Also the constantly changing search engine algorithms means the process needs to be reassessed periodically as you may have a great ranking one month but drop down a bit the next.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

The major advantages of a PPC campaign are that you can get immediate results and greater control of your listings (your budget is the only limit!). Bidding on Google AdWords and Yahoo Overture starts from $0.10 per click which implies a very cost effective method of acquiring customers.  The hidden drawback here however is that for competitive keywords and phrases the bidding can quickly soar to a very unattractive $15 per click!  Achieving top positions for competitive keywords can quickly blow your budget.

The optimal scenario for any website owner is to achieve top Organic Search Engine rankings for all the keywords and phrases that are important to your business – this would deliver a steady stream of qualified traffic to your website every hour and cost you nothing.  However, getting that position for anything other than niche markets and to maintain the position will require special services to optimize your website such as Search Engine Optimization. As a long-term strategy this is the way to go.

For those website owners who compete for highly competitive key phrases the top position in the Organic results is only achievable for one web site and PPC advertising is a powerful tool to reach the same audience.  PPC also allows you to run advertising campaigns in the short term (such as a sale) that would be pointless to optimize for organically.