Organic Search vs. Paid Placement

John Stuart
Webmasters, take heed: If you're not on the cutting edge of marketing through search engines online, you're not in the game.

So say the experts in this vital field of play.

"Nothing in the search engines can be done as a part-time job," said Johnny V., web traffic consultant for Wildline Corp., the largest search-engine-marketing company in the adult-entertainment space. "You can't have someone who's looking over the design of your websites take care of your search-engine marketing on the side. It just won't work that way. There are too many moving parts. It's too detailed, and the competition is too intense not to focus exclusively on search-engine marketing. There are agencies that focus on the adult-entertainment space for those people who don't want to do it themselves because they understand that it's a full-time gig."

There are several ways to market adult websites through search engines. One is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It's simply an attempt to get a link to your site that will come up on top in the organic results on engines like Yahoo and Google. The other principal method is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is buying paid ads in the engines. Wildline specializes in SEM.

"The advantage of SEM is simply that you can be No. 1 if you so desire," Johnny V said. "You can just pay for it. In Yahoo, you can get a No. 1 position in organic results if you pay enough money. In Google, there is a quality score that's determined by both time and money, but you can come up No. 1 if you bid high enough. What's tricky there is that there's a maximizing and minimizing principal on the amount of money you want to bid per click. Obviously, the trick in the adult-entertainment space is to get the lowest click count you can, because normally there are so many clicks that happen on a regular basis. If you bid too high on one of these clicks, you're going to destroy your return-on-investment. Low-cost clicks are the way to run a successful campaign in the adult space. It involves the engines recognizing your ads and the keywords that you've placed in those ads."

Of course, the SEM gambit can become expensive, much more so than SEO. That's one of the main advantages to the latter method, expertly practiced by Kevin Godbee, CEO of Web 3.0 Internet Consulting, which specializes in do-it-yourself organic search marketing.

"The advantages of practicing SEO are primarily threefold," he said. "First, the natural rankings are clicked 80 to 90 percent of the time over the paid placements. Second, it is the most highly qualified traffic you can get. Surfers already are interested in what they're looking for, after all. And third, organic rankings can maintain their positions for a long time.

"Organic rankings keep sending traffic, whereas traffic from paid placements runs out when the money runs out. Even if you have a big budget, and your paid placements convert to the point of becoming self-sustaining, you still have to keep paying.

"Good natural rankings are the gift that keeps on giving, and most of the SEO work that we do for clients pays for itself within three to four months, and then continues to deliver free sales for months and even years to come without any further investment."

The strategies involved in the SEO and SEM methods are just as divergent. Webmasters need to be aware of this before they choose.

"Strategies are developed and changed on an ongoing basis," Johnny V said. "We have access to a ton of data that we've used to develop successful campaigns for our clients, especially Google. We've found that sometimes, limiting spending and streamlining the campaign has been a very effective way to keep an appropriate return-on-investment. Companies will have a cost-per-acquisition number that they need to hit. They'll determine that it costs them, for example, $30 in advertising for every join, and we've found that making campaigns more efficient — like turning off URLs that aren't working, and bidding less on specific keywords — is vital.

"One of the particular things we did was to look at Yahoo as an entire page and not as individual products, even though Yahoo is divided into paid inclusion, sponsored search and search-submit-pro. We've found that we can place someone into paid inclusion and have a much less expensive click, while still coming up very high on the results page."

Godbee has another set of strategies for SEO users.

"The days of ‘black hat' SEO techniques are over," he said. "You can't fool Google anymore, and even if you do, the success will be temporary, and the punishment will last much longer. Shortcuts don't work. Produce and publish good-quality, unique and exclusive content, and optimize it well for search engines, as well as for live people.

"Also, use blogs in your efforts. Blogs can get you amazing results in rankings and traffic when you set them up and manage them properly. Use pretty URLs, install the all-in-one SEO pack and blog regularly on relevant topics to your audience and prospective customers. Don't be afraid to trade links, either. It's old school, but it still works."

Godbee also has some practical tips for webmasters that can save them a lot of money and prevent a lot of headaches.

"Don't believe all the hype from so-called SEO experts," he said. "There still are a lot of scammers and spammers out there offering bogus SEO services. If you're going to hire someone to help you with your SEO, ask them for examples of rankings they have achieved and for client references you can check regarding those results. If they talk about meta tags and recurring monthly services, this is a warning sign that you're either talking to a sales rep who knows nothing or a scam service.

"If you want to do some basic SEO yourself, make sure you have unique title tags and unique description tags on each page. Also, have machine-readable text on your page, rather than graphic text. Be sure to use pretty URLs with keywords in them. And finally, put tags on all the pictures and title tags on all the links, and name all your files with keywords. Be sure to use clean code and get links, because none of these suggestions will work without inbound links to the pages."

Johnny V. adds a different set of webmaster tips for paid placement.

"Webmasters need to keep exact figures and data on what does and does not work for them in the engines," he said. "They need to cull out what doesn't work. Also, it's very important to continue advertising. Even though the economy is down, you don't want to stop advertising. You want to be very clear about what you're searching, and you want to make sure you have stats on that all the time.

"Webmasters need to note what keywords, what titles and what descriptions of their sites are working in the engines to bring them sales. It's also important to put forth a coherent message and to explore every opportunity in every engine, using every one of the products they offer. If you find something that works, accentuate it; if you find something that doesn't work, cut it.

"It's also important for webmasters to have realistic expectations for their cost-per-acquisition or their return-on-investment, because at this stage more people are shopping online than buying. The adult sale is harder to get than it used to be."