The difference between paying to be #1 and being #1

Last week something very strange happened. The team at AS Digital put together a proposal for a potential new client to have AdWords setup (ads in Google search to get website traffic). During the pitch they said,

“I don’t know anyone who clicks on ads inside Google”.


As a digital marketing agency and having a team who spend day and night getting new business for clients, we were completely stunned and caught off guard. What made it worse was that this business’ product was advising others on how to grow their businesses.

In 2015, Google had a total revenue of USD$75 billion, with 77% attributed to its AdWords products. Yes, you heard right,

Google makes USD$52 billion a year from people clicking on ads in Google search!

Going back to quoting the potential new client, we wondered why Google Ads hadn’t worked out for them.

Fortunately, there are two ways to get a targeted set of traffic coming to your website from search engines resulting in new leads and sales.

Here is some more information:

Keyword: a search term/phrase someone types into a search engine

Being #1: Setting up a strategy to rank organically

Ranking organically in a search engine like Google means that they have deemed your website to be something valuable to its users. Their vested interest is to produce results which are relevant to searchers and what they’re looking to see. This means that ranking organically gives you authority and/or high website traffic in proportion to the overall search volume for a particular term.

What is ‘authority’ when it comes to the web? If you’re popular, higher rankings will follow. However, search engines have an algorithm that determines who’s site gets shown where. What influences the ranking significantly is if you are linked on other websites that similarly have some ‘authority’. It’s difficult to define “authority,” because over 40 variables are at play in making ranking decision by search engines.

In more easily understood terms, attention needs to be completely focused on building relevance and value for particular search terms. Which means your websites page content will have the keywords embedded in the headings and paragraphs.

However, you must firstly quantify your search engine performance with SEMrush. It will give you an idea of what keywords you rank for, and what is influencing the search results.


  • People trust organic search links more than they do search ads (however, Google is slowly changing how the ads are displayed to look the same)
  • You are not having to pay for ads to get online traffic

Things to keep in mind

  • Paid ad links show above organic search listings (for competitive search terms the ads show also at the bottom)
  • You may not be ranking yet, and depending on competition it can take a lot of energy with trial and error to rank higher

Paying to be #1: Setting up ads on Google

Running ads in Google search has significant advantages and it’s all centred around speed and what exactly your customer acquisition strategy is. However, first lets talk about Google search ads and how are they charged.

A Google search is an auction where people are running ads to take advantage of volumes of traffic for particular keywords. The advertisers set a maximum bid and Google determines which ads shows first based on cost, but there is a twist: Ads that are high performing have a lower cost, and can appear higher than the ads of people paying more! Performance is defined as the percentage of clicks verses total views.

Back to speed, here are some examples of what is meant:

  • The time from when an ad submitted and shown is as fast as it is approved by Google (sometimes hours, sometimes a day).
  • Ability to test 100s and 1000s of combinations of ads. No one knows everything about their audience and what messages will be more relevant to them. Even professional marketers with background research don’t necessarily get it right on the first go. Through a process of elimination, different titles with different localities and different keywords can be uploaded. i.e. “Best Plumber on the Central Coast”, “Best Plumber in Sydney”, “Fixed price Plumbing in Sydney” and so on.
  • Ability to test many different keywords. In the case of lead generation, the difference between a good and bad keyword are leads that can be easily closed, or ones that end up being a waste of time.

Given the flexibility to test the performance of the two critical variables (titles/messaging and keywords), it’s best to start running Google AdWords campaigns to see what is going to generate valuable business. Further down the track, you can start investing into those messages and keywords by building organic ranking content around them, as discussed before.

In regards to paying to be #1 verses being #1, you should not attach a stigma to either. Both are perfectly legitimate ways to build online traffic to your business and both should be considered as part of your overall digital strategy. Start with Google AdWords to test keywords you want to rank organically for and ask the question – are you going to get the business you want from it?

Get an audit completed by us so that we can build an effective lead generation strategy for your business.