Search Engine Optimisation or Sponsored Advertising?

This article describes how firms can use natural search engine rankings, sponsored advertising or a mixture of the two to yield effective results on the search engines.


No-one can deny that search engines are one of the most important resources to drive traffic to your website. Google now processes more than 150 million searches every day (Google, 2001) and therefore it is essential that your business product or service can be found.

It is surprising that there are still many businesses that do not fully understand and appreciate how important and influential online marketing can be.

There are currently a number of methods that you can use to promote your website on search engines, however the main two that are used are natural rankings (by using search engine optimisation) and sponsored advertising.


A natural ranking is a listing on a search engine that has not been directly paid for. These listings can be seen down the left hand side of your Internet browser. Natural rankings can only be achieved through hard work and meticulous thinking which is known as search engine optimisation and marketing.

The objective of search engine optimisation is to increase your businesses online visibility and traffic by ranking highly in search results for the most appropriate keywords describing the content of your website. If you search on your target keywords, you will see the leading website in the rankings. Your businesses aim should be to better that number one website.

Optimisation of your website is the starting block for achieving the results you are looking for. Once this is achieved it is vital to continue to market and promote your website online to ensure that it is noticed and viewed. When choosing the right search engine optimisation company to optimise and market your website, it is very difficult to justify spending money on an intangible service. The only way to select the right company is to see their previous search engine optimisation results. From the results you can begin to understand and appreciate the online visibility your own company could achieve.

The great thing about natural rankings is the fact that the consumer is searching to find your business rather than your business pushing to find the consumer. Natural rankings can only be achieved over a period of time rather than over night and therefore requires dedication and a high level of understanding within the market. For this reason it can potentially give the consumer a great deal of confidence in what your business has to offer. Ask yourself the question – “When I type in a search phrase, which listing am I likely to click on?” Most if not all of us would automatically click on the top 5 or 10 listings. We would seldom scroll through page 3 and onwards because we would have found what we were looking for within the first few listings.


  • Agreed fixed cost to optimise, market and achieve results
  • Long term listing with natural placement
  • Higher click through ratios due to improved trust
  • Pull demand rather than push demand
  • Improving your brand potential
  • Improved overall cost effectiveness and ROI


  • Higher initial investment
  • Increased time taken to achieve effective results (between 6 and 12 months)
  • No guarantees compared to paid placements
  • Heavy competition for many popular keywords
  • Finding the right search engine optimisation company


Paid placements are listings on search engines that are paid for on a pay per click basis. These listings can be seen predominantly down the right hand side of your Internet browser. Each time someone enters one of your selected keywords or phrases and then clicks through to your website via your paid listing, you have to pay a click fee which is dependent upon the level of competition visible for that specific keyword. You have to bid your highest click fee for each of your chosen keywords and the higher your click fee with respect to others, the higher your advert will be in the sponsored listings section.

Although these figures are not exact, they give you a good indication to the level of competition and costs potentially involved when using paid placements.

With paid placements, there is no requirement for search engine optimisation or marketing and results can be seen instantly. Using paid placements does not require any initial investment and can be designed and controlled precisely to suit individual business needs.

Even though paid placements allow tangible results and will certainly cost less from the start, results are fully dependent on your business’ financial situation. If you have no money, you have no online visibility. Google and other PPC providers have the ability to remove your listing if bills are not paid, therefore leaving your business vulnerable by removing the large online channel that a PPC promotion creates.

Paid placements are much the opposite from natural rankings. Your company is pushing to find business rather than the business wanting to come to you. This can have a negative impact on the success of the overall PPC promotion but due to the pay as you go nature of paid placements, this negative impact certainly does not remove the need to try and test its possibilities.

Many companies can manage a PPC campaign for you. Most will charge either a standard monthly fee or will charge you based on a percentage of your monthly PPC budget. For larger scales campaigns it is always best to find a PPC management company who are certified and have credit facilities with the PPC providers. This will ensure the company understands all the different functionality available when setting up a PPC campaign which will give your business the best advice and recommendations specific to your needs.


  • Quick tangible results
  • No initial required investment
  • Set budget that can be meticulously monitored
  • Reduced risk through pay as you go nature
  • Minimal human resources required to implement
  • Easy to setup with or without a PPC management company


  • Continuous investment required on a monthly basis
  • Overall cost can sky rocket
  • Reduced consumer confidence in sponsored advertising
  • Competitive keywords can be very expensive


After looking at these methods of online promotion, both have pro’s and con’s that will suit some but not all businesses. Selecting the right method for your business will be down to budget, time frames and internal resources available.

In a perfect world, choosing between the two should not necessary. Implementing both methods is the only way to achieve results from all angles. With natural rankings taking in between 4 to 8 months to achieve effective results, paid placements can balance this out until the natural rankings begin to make a difference. As this happens, the PPC budget can be reduced incrementally until eventually it is removed leaving the long term natural listings with a higher percentage of click through ratios to take over.

Online promotion is an extremely powerful tool but only for businesses that are willing to invest their time as well as their money to achieve results. Finding the right SEO Company to either optimise and marketing your website and/or setup a PPC campaign is a decision that will determine the success or failure of your overall campaign. The most effective way to ensure this is through previous portfolio examples and a proof of methodology. These will give you a good level of understanding and confidence in what that company can offer your business and the level of results you will be driving to achieve.