SEO: The Search Road Less Taken

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Direct marketers have flocked to search engine marketing in the past few years. Studies show that most search engine traffic comes from the natural search listings and that these listings convert at a higher rate than paid listings. So why is it that many marketers rely most heavily on pay-per-click search advertising for their traffic and don't budget for search engine optimization?

Here are some of the common concerns about SEO and ways to overcome them.

Comfort level. Many top marketers are not experienced with site optimization. It's hard to manage what you don't know. Bring an expert on staff or contract with an SEO firm that has a track record you can trust.

Time: It does take more time to research, build and measure an SEO campaign. Unlike PPC where you can quantify conversion results right from the start, search optimization takes months to show its stuff.

However, the benefits from SEO continue long past the initial efforts. And with PPC bid costs rising, investing time in building a no-cost-per-click program through SEO makes more sense than ever.

Budget. With PPC, you can quickly show that spending $1 makes $3 to $5 or more. Marketers have no problem finding budgets for those kinds of numbers. With SEO, the value of the expenditure is a harder sell, because the campaign can take six to 12 months to begin to show optimum results. However, once a site is optimized, it continues to draw search traffic day after day, month after month, without paying for clicks. With PPC, the traffic stops the instant you stop paying.

Complexity and ownership. Each SEO project is different, depending on the brand, target audiences, content management system, shopping cart and many more variables. Even ownership of the SEO function is unclear in some organizations, and this can lead to time-consuming bottlenecks. Because it's not a clear-cut media buy and it requires some support by the Web team, SEO can be volleyballed back and forth between marketing and IT.

However, while these reasons may prompt you to begin your search engine marketing experience in PPC, don't let them keep you from getting all you can out of your Web site. It is the marketers who overcome their SEO concerns before their competitors do who will win big in 2006 and beyond.

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