The short black/white answer: Yes.
The more nuanced answer: Not really.
Prior to Panda and Penguin updates to Google’s search algorithm over the last year or so, you may have been paying for SEO services. And those services may have skyrocketed you to the top of the search rankings. After Panda and Penguin, however, some of those same SEO tactics may be having the opposite effect.
Meanwhile, Google has made no bones about marketing AdWords to small businesses, prompting speculation that promoting AdWords is really what Panda and Penguin were all about. I, however, am inclined to think otherwise. (Well, I suppose it could be true; I’m no Google insider and have never once been invited to a strategy meeting, despite my promise to bring donuts.) Yes, of course, Google would like you to pay for AdWords, but I don’t think that is the core intent behind Panguan (panda + penguin = panguan).
See, here’s the thing. You always pay to rank. Whether through paid search campaigns like AdWords, or through organic search. You always pay to rank.
For organic search ranking, you pay for:
- SEO or, as things continue to evolve in the post-Panguan world,
- Content Development. It really doesn’t matter if the content is produced in-house or contracted out, you’re paying for it.
I believe that Google’s core intent with Panguan was to clean up organic search results, to deliver a better search experience. Search, even organic, remains their primary product. But search ranking is increasingly about high quality, relevant and authoritative content (which you still pay for). In marketing AdWords at small businesses, I think Google is simply recognizing how hard it can be for a small business to succeed in the arena of content marketing.
Internet marketing for a small business, including content marketing, boils down to a realistic appraisal of business goals and available resources:
- Paid search?
- A blog?
- “Evergreen” content on the website?
- Social media? If so, which platforms?
- A mix of all the above?
- What realistically can be done in-house?
- What should be contracted out?
- What will be the metrics?
- What wil be the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?
These are not easy decisions, and need to be made on an individualized basis for every small business.
But back to the AdWords “conspiracy”. It could be that paying for AdWords is what makes sense for your business in the post-Panguan word. Or it may be that paying for some combination of SEO, social media and content is what makes the most sense. Either way, you’re paying to rank.
What do you think about online marketing in the post-Panguan world? Leave a comment!
Note: So far as I’m aware, “panda + penguin = panguan” is my own formulation and neologism. However, please feel free to use it at parties, as it will make you sound hip and in-the-know. 😉