How Google Works

Click to Listen
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Why Strategy, Not Money Rules SEO & PPC

One of the most common complaints I hear from businesses big and small is this: “I can’t afford to get ranked highly on Google.” SEO? Pay-per-click? Which part do they mean? Once the person finishes venting, I try to drill down specifics a little more. Usually, by the end of the discussion, I’ve managed to talk the person off the ledge so they understand that they have some measure of control over both sets of Google results (left and right columns) — and while money can certainly be a factor in there, it doesn’t have to be the only factor (large quantities, at least).

I’ll spare you from that conversation and get down to the nitty gritty: what those Google columns are for and how you can rank highly on them.

Google’s Left Column

Despite its many ventures, Google’s bread and butter is still its search engine, and that’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is still important for businesses of any size. The left column displays organic search engine results — no money is thrown around here, at least to Google, though businesses will often employ companies to help them develop a strategy for higher ranking. People type in their search query and Google decides through elaborate and constantly evolving algorithms what is the most appropriate result, then displays them in descending order. Google’s sole purpose with this is to find the most accurate and helpful info out there, and their search programmers are constantly trying to refine this.

How To Rank Highly For SEO

How To Rank Highly For SEOThat doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to influence how you rank. SEO has been around as long as search engines, and though it’s evolved past many early methods, there’s still a strategy involved. Google wants quality content, but its algorithm still needs signposts to identify that. So, what search engine marketers like myself do is help great clients like you 1) craft quality content 2) make sure it fulfills those signpost requirements, and 3) address further ways to help Google see it. As I mentioned, Google’s algorithm is evolving, and lately it’s been putting greater emphasis on social media links to content; who knows where it goes from here? (I have some idea, but that’s because it’s my job.) There’s a little more nuance to it, but that could take some incredibly boring hours of your time, so let’s just stick with the general gist for now.

Google’s Right Column

The right column (and sometimes items up top) features pay-per-click results. In other words, advertisers have bid on placement based on keywords, and the results are displayed in descending order. Advertisers don’t pay Google until the user actually clicks on the ad; hence the term pay-per-click.

How To Rank Highly For PPC

google-right-hand-column-ppcIn this case, paying Google will get you the highest ranking. And though you can set budget limits, getting that high rank can pile up costs really quick if it’s a competitive (re: expensive) keyword. Think of PPC costs as a bell curve of cost versus impressions. The most advisable strategy — unless you have an unlimited budget — is to spend less per click and avoid the peak of the curve. Instead, making more sensibly budgeted bids on the outliers will bring you the same amount of impressions and clicks but in a much more controlled way. It just takes effort to research and build a strategy.

Which Google Column Is Right For You?

Ranking high on either of Google’s columns requires an investment. There’s no magic bullet here, it’s either time or money or sometimes a little bit of both. Organic SEO is a smarter long-term strategy built around effective content while PPC delivers instant results but at a cost. Keep in mind that your target audience may prefer one column over the other, so dig into that demographic research before you get started. As always, if you want some professional advice and strategy (SEO or otherwise) on catching Google’s attention, send me a tweet. Click to tweet now.


By Marc Apple

Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.


7 Steps to Having a Digital Marketing Plan Workbook

Get actionable tips for how to build your digital marketing strategy so you can grow your brand and your revenue.