Sometimes it helps to go back to the very basics. This is especially true with something as in depth as internet marketing.

The main goal of most SEO work is to get your site to rank as high as possible on a search result page (sometimes referred to as a SERP, or search engine results page). The higher you rank, the more people are going to find your page instead of your competitors. Google has provided us with a few different ways to rise to the top.

Organic Listings

Content creation and link building are both tactics to help you prove your importance to Google and increase your organic results ranking. In this context, the word “organic” refers to the fact that your site went through Google’s algorithm and was assigned its own rank accordingly.

Google is constantly updating its algorithm which makes staying ahead of the game in the SEO world such an exciting task. It also helps to explain why SEO work is more of an ongoing process than it is something you simply do once and get it over with.

On the results page for almost any search you conduct on Google, the organic listings always appear towards the middle of the page (as shown below).

Organic Results on the Google SERP.

You might notice that organic listings aren’t the first things that Google shows you on a SERP. Those few highlighted links at the top? Those are the Paid Results.

Paid Search Ads

Suppose you need to get your site ranking at the top of the SERP but don’t have enough time to dedicate to building a strong backlink portfolio. Is there a way to jump to the top of the page and immediately leapfrog your competition?

Sure there is, for a price. Google reserves the top 3 spots (and all the links along the right side) on its SERP for the highest bidder.

Those are called paid ads. To show up at the top, you have to be willing to pay Google a certain amount for every single person that actually clicks on your ad. This is often called “Pay-Per-Click” advertising or PPC for short.

Check the image below for the location of the paid results.

The paid results on a Google SERP.

Organic vs Paid

So we now have two different ways to get your site showing on Google. You can either build up your links to rank higher in the organic section, or jump to the top with a paid ad. So which one is better?

They both have their advantages. Organic listings take time to develop but that traffic won’t cost you a dime once your’re there. Paid ads on the other hand can have immediate results but you’ll be sending Google some money for every potential customer.

The best strategies often incorporate both. A basic principle of advertising is the more often you see something, the more likely you are to remember it. In other words the more links your business has on the SERP, the more likely consumers are to find you.

If you are thinking about entering the world of SEO, just remember what actually makes up the results page. A basic understanding of how Google puts together its results can go a long way in helping you reach your marketing potential.

Scott Sundblom