Many people think search engine optimization (SEO) is the key to attracting customers to your website. The goal of SEO is to convince the search engines—the algorithms that index all websites—that your webpage is the most relevant one for a given searched keyword. However, search engine marketing (SEM)—placing ads that appear above search results—is more accountable because sites like Google offer in-depth data about the performance of your ads.

If SEM isn’t already in your menu of marketing tactics, you should consider making it a part of future campaigns. Here’s why:


The Unpredictability of SEO

I don’t recommend search engine optimization for lead generation because its primary function is to increase your site’s ranking in “natural search” results. This means it is very unreliable because the placement of your website is largely out of your control. You can work on SEO for months, and your site may still not get the “natural search” traffic that you want. Search engines like Google constantly change their algorithms so that search results can’t be fixed or manipulated by savvy marketers. This makes SEO a cat-and-mouse game that you can never be sure of winning. Search engine marketing, on the other hand, is more within your control because you’re choosing the keywords and paying for the ads.

The Question of Attribution

It’s very hard to quantify search engine optimization as a lead-generation tool because you can’t be sure how many leads actually came from your SEO efforts. Suppose someone visits your website and signs up as a lead. How do you tell whether that person found you on a search engine or visited your site after hearing about your company from a friend? Perhaps a combination of these factors led the person to visit your site. On the other hand, measuring the number of leads you get from SEM is more straightforward.

A Second-Place Winner

Search engine marketing is one of the few areas where finishing second place or even third place can be just as beneficial as finishing first. Say you have an ad on Google. After a week, your ad is consistently showing up in search results in second or third position when using the keywords you’ve chosen. If so, you may be compelled to spend extra money just to gain that top spot. The fact is, search engine users will often consider clicking on the second- or third-position ads just as seriously as they would consider the first-position ads. Why?

May the Best Ad Win

Often, an SEM ad works on the basis of how well it is written or how good the offer or call-to-action is to the potential customer. If you have a good ad or a great offer, you can often save money and still get a great result.

Search engine marketing is one of the most flexible, scalable and cost-effective lead generation tactics. Although search engine optimization can be used for lead generation, you will get quicker results and generate more reliable leads using search marketing ads.