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SEO or Adwords. Which is Best?

Jun 14, 2008
Many people when they first start out to promote their website realise that Google is the search engine they need to concentrate on because it has the largest market share of traffic overall. However they are then faced with the choice. Do they use SEO as their route to web traffic or Google Adwords.

In an ideal world where time and money are limitless then doing both would be the obvious choice. However in the real world choices need to be made so which one is best?

In my opinion I think it depends on your current needs and circumstances. Generally if you are looking to generate traffic quickly and can afford an advertising budget then my preference would be to concentrate on Google Adwords. Certainly if your website is brand new then SEO is probably not the route for you as it can take some months before Google will take new sites seriously enough to rank them for their organic searches.

However if you have a longer term goal (or no money!) and you can live without much Google traffic for a few months then SEO could be just the ticket because once the traffic starts to roll in it will be free traffic and that is always good for your return on investment figures.

However let's add a little more detail on the choice. I've listed a few of the key comparison items below that I hope will help you decide on the right approach for your current needs.

Price: SEO is technically free if you do it yourself. I say "technically" because it will still require a lot of your time and as the saying goes, Time is Money! Also, you will probably want to pay for a subscription to some of the better directories for your chosen business. Certainly you will want to consider the Yahoo directory which is a few hundred dollars last time I looked.

Adwords obviously isn't free although you can set daily budgets. Unfortunately it's very easy to spend money with Adwords and for the undisciplined it's very easy to spend too much money!

Speed: Adwords wins hands down here. An Ad from Adwords can be created and will start sending you traffic in minutes. SEO on the other hand can take weeks or even months to start to send you anything approaching decent traffic.

Competition: Which of the two options has the most people competing for your keywords? In my view Adwords is less competitive than SEO. It's usually far easier to get your keywords to the top position in Adwords than it is using SEO techniques. Like all things there are going to be exceptions but personally I can get my keywords ranking in the top spots far quicker with Adwords than I can with SEO. Some will argue that you just buy yourself to the top of the Adwords lists with expensive clicks but I don't agree. I can get to the top with some sensible bid prices and good Adwords management.

Ongoing Maintenance: Again, this is my personal opinion but I think Adwords requires more ongoing continued effort to maintain the top spot for your keywords than SEO does. I imagine quite a few SEO experts might argue with this but I have some top performing SEO pages that I rarely touch and they still dominate for their keywords. In fact I know people who have top performing pages who are scared to touch them in case they move down the rankings. That said, I'll admit that SEO requires significantly more work initially to get those top spots.

In terms of Adwords, to keep your campaigns performing well you should be checking them often. For me this means every day so that's why I say that I feel it requires more continued effort. Then again, there is always new links to acquire with SEO but generally once you have a top position links tend to find you.

In conclusion, I'd suggest going to Adwords if you are in a hurry and have a budget. If you have more time initially to get your traffic then SEO would seem to be your choice. That said, even if you choose Adwords as your preferred route, I would still get some basic on page SEO knowledge because this will help greatly when you write your landing pages for Adwords. By on page SEO, I basically mean how to write your pages so that they are optimised for your chosen keywords.
About the Author
Vernon Riley is a founder of KKSmarts. Their site contains many free guides covering all aspects of Website Promotion including free SEO Training.
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