I just got an email from a local business owner in the construction industry.
“AT&T is trying to sell me some online listing that they say will get me ranked. The guy says that the sponsored links they will have for me will help get me listed organically. Does that seem right to you? They are trying to charge $270.00 a month to do this with a 1 year contract.”
Here’s how I answered him (edited a bit for context.)
NO NO NO don’t do it!
It IS true that Google will find your site faster if you’re paying them to notice it by buying Sponsored Ads (PPC or Pay-Per-Click ads.) So your site might get indexed in the organic results faster, but you won’t rank higher.
Think about it. Google is a for-profit business. Why would Google rank you higher for free when they can make you pay for it?
So if you’re accurately quoting AT&T I think they’re misleading you.
It IS true that having a listing on multiple places of Google’s first page will get you more clicks. A study released by AdGooroo in 2008 found that a prominent paid ad on the same search results page makes your #1 natural ranking receive 20% more clicks.
HOWEVER… PPC ads, alone, are not as effective.
First, people know they’re ads and they don’t trust ads.
According to research reported in “The Art of SEO” from O’Reilly Books, only 50% of visitors even VIEW the first pay per click position, while 100% of searchers view the first three natural search positions.
As far as people actually seeing the listing, the #1 Sponsored Link gets as many people noticing it as the #7 site in the natural search results. So if you can get your site ranking above #7 in the organic results, it’s already outperforming the #1 Sponsored Link.
Second, when you stop paying, the ad goes away and so does your site traffic. It’s like paying rent when you can own. $270/month for a year is $3240… and this business owner will HAVE to keep paying that, year after year… in order to keep the high Sponsored Link ranking.
I’ve done a great deal of research on SEO for local businesses, and I took a look at his site. For that amount of money – I can get his website to the top of Google in 3 to 6 months, a much longer lasting solution. And that’s pretty typical.
I’m not saying that Sponsored Links (PPC ads such as Google Adwords) are never a good idea. For immediate visibility, they can’t be beat. It can be smart to run PPC ads until your site does rank organically.
I’m just saying to beware of ANYONE who contacts you and tells you they can put you on the first page of Google – there’s often a catch.