Rand Fishkin does a good job of painting the picture on this one. Pay per click advertising is a $9.3 billion industry while SEO only garners $1.3 billion of that. But we know that only 20% of searchers will click on the PPC ads and that Google organic SERPs are the leading referrer for most websites. Why then is only 11% of search engine marketing dollars being spent on the search products that provide the most value?
I think there are two reasons:
- No. 1, good SEO takes time. In many cases, if you do everything you should do to optimize a website for maximum exposure it can take 2-5 years before you appear on Page 1 of the results. This largely depends on your industry and the competitive landscape you have to deal with in your business, but for the most part it’s true. Even with a blog, it can take a long time to see consistent page 1 results. (Case and point: Google “Search Engine Optimization” and this journal appears on page 3 despite being blogged to every single day for a year-and-a-half. We’re still climbing.) But most people don’t want it if they can’t have it now and that rules out SEO for many of them.
- The second reason is because, for most people, pay per click advertising is easier to understand. You pay money, you get clicks. Accepting Google’s quality score formula, it’s fairly easy to understand; at least, it’s easier to understand than the algorithms that factor in more than 150 ranking criteria, which appears to be some kind of ancient Chinese secret to most people.
These two barriers must be overcome is organic SEO is to ever catch up to PPC. Even then, I don’t know that it will. That is probably a good thing for those companies that are willing to exercise the patience necessary to drive an organic search engine optimization campaign from start to finish.