Businesses need to work hard to be seen and heard among their competitors – and in digital marketing, competition is especially intense.

Those websites that show up on the first page of your Google search are employing a range of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) tactics to be there, namely Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google AdWords.  The more popular the search term, the harder they have worked to be there.

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO Google Adwords Ranking

SEO is important because it’s critical in driving ‘organic’ traffic and sales to your site (i.e. traffic that comes purely through people discovering your site through search and clicking on your link rather than via an advert).  It does this by improving the chances of your website being ranked in the top ten by Google’s ranking algorithms (which they regularly change, probably as a helpful way of keeping us digital marketing folks all employed).  

When people type a search term into Google, the site searches for the most relevant content it can find and orders the results based on what it thinks you are looking for.  It does this using 200+ ranking factors which relate to:

  • Keyword usage in your content and in your site’s headings and metadata
  • Site structure and speed
  • Amount of time people have spent on your site
  • Number and quality of inbound links

If your site is currently battling to make the front page of search results it will be due to a combination of the above factors. The good news is it can be fixed. The not so great news – it can take a little time for your site to make its way back up the rankings.  When we work on a client’s SEO performance, we use a range of online tools to test your site performance and determine where the biggest problems sit, as well as what keywords you should be focused on.  Some of these are addressed through ‘online’ SEO improvements within the website such as design, layout, titles, and keyword use in metadata and content.  ‘Offline’ SEO activities are also important to building your site’s visibility and focus on building the number of high-quality inbound links. This is usually by getting content published on other websites through directory submissions, article submissions, and posting in forums.  This is the hardest area of SEO because it takes time to create the content, plus much of it relies on building relationships with sites or paying to have your content published through sponsored articles/placements.

With the exception of the paid placements, SEO is a free way to boost your organic traffic. Google features your page high in the rankings because of the quality and relevance of your site’s content relevant to the search terms.

Google AdWords

While your site is busy climbing the rankings through SEO, one way to drastically improve your chances of your site showing up on the front page of Google search results is by advertising through Google AdWords.

Also termed ‘Cost per Click’ (CPC) advertising, this service allows you to pay for your website listing to show up based on parameters you set.  You determine how much you are willing to spend ‘per click’, the keywords you want your site to appear for, and for who based on their location.  It’s important to understand your keywords – how many others are competing on the same terms, search volumes and ad structure – to make sure you are getting the best value from your spend.  

What should I focus on first?

This is not an ‘either-or’ scenario – we always recommend you focus on both. But in small to medium businesses, we know it’s not always possible to do everything at once. Here are a few considerations if you want to decide which to tackle first.

  • SEO is (mostly) free. Good SEO will also boost the performance of your AdWords campaign
  • AdWords are an expense – you can control your spend based on your choices and competition for keywords and times of the day. It can be expensive if you don’t set your campaign up properly.
  • It can take weeks or even months for SEO results to show in the rankings.  The sooner you start, the sooner you can expect improved organic traffic and reduce reliance on AdWords long-term.
  • Running AdWords campaigns means your site instantly shows up on the first page of search results (which should = instant site traffic).
  •  Benefits from improving your SEO last as long as you keep your site updated and relevant.
  • Results only last while you keep paying for your AdWords! But you can turn campaigns on and off to suit your business needs.
  •  SEO works best when you focus on five to ten keywords within your site.
  •  AdWords can target many keywords at a time, and those might include locations and even your competitors’ names (cheeky huh?).
  •  No matter how good your SEO is, your site’s visibility still relies on people searching on Google.
  •  AdWords offers ad placement on other websites (including display ads with your own creative content). People visiting a website that uses Google AdSense (e.g. a news site) may see your ad and be prompted to act.


  • Any business looking to boost organic site traffic and get better long-term value for their website investment.


  • Start-ups or new companies looking for instant traffic.
  • Any business wanting to instantly lift web-based traffic.


If you would like to talk through your site’s current SEO performance and/or AdWords campaigns, drop us an email or give us a call!