Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Online Paid Ads or SEO?

Okay, so this post is a little bit different from our previous posts since we usually post about our experience with commercial real estate.

But running our commercial real estate company involves running a small business.

And running a small business means we have non-commercial real estate decisions to make on a daily basis.

The question of using online paid ads or SEO is a classic chicken or the egg question that many small businesses face today - you must decide which to use first.

Not all businesses have the time, money and resources to invest in both paid online ads and SEO.  What follows is how we made the decision for our company.

For starters, let’s define exactly what we are talking about.

Paid Online Ads:

Paid online ads encompass everything from the links you see at the top of Google/Bing when performing a search to the sidebar display ads showing you a pair of shoes you viewed a couple days ago on Amazon.


SEO, for non-tech savvy readers, is search engine optimization, i.e., where you appear in Google/Bing searches when someone is looking for your product or service.

The argument for paid online ads vs. SEO is as follows:

  • If we pay for online ads, we do not need to worry about optimizing our website.  We can pay for people to go straight to our website.
  • If we pay for SEO, (or spend the time to find out how to do it ourselves) the clicks to our website will come in for free. (the best clicks!)  If our website is at the top of Google and Bing for our keywords, we will save on future online ad costs.

So, which route did our company take? (Spoiler: SEO)

The story below tells the story of why our company felt like SEO was the best choice.  In hindsight, we feel that we made the correct decision.

A few years ago, our company website was very poorly designed.  Thus, our website did not perform well.

Our Google Analytics looked horrific.

We were excited when a user even found our site and 99% of the time, it was direct traffic from someone we told to visit our website (or spam).

Our pictures were dated.

Our content was poorly written.

Our design looked boxy and dated.

In a nutshell, the user experience was just bad.  You know a bad website when you visit one, and our website was certainly a bad website.

Around this same time, our company was looking to beef up our marketing.  Inbound calls were slowing, and we wanted to explore other marketing avenues.

For years, the sole advertising we used was an ad in the local newspaper, a paid listing in the Yellow Pages and signs outside our complex.

As you can imagine, we were getting no calls from either the newspaper ad or the Yellow Pages ad.  The last year that we ran a newspaper ad in the classified section, out of all of our inbound calls for office space or warehouse space, only one call came from the newspaper ad.  One!  And that ad was not cheap!

And no, that one caller did not convert.  So you can imagine what the cost of conversion was from the newspaper ads. (Hint: HIGH!)

So, our company was looking for a new way to market to prospective tenants.

At the time, we felt like everything was moving to online search so we narrowed down the list to either SEO or Google ads.

Enter our dilemma – paid online ads or SEO?

Before we jumped into either paid online ads or SEO, we researched each.

We originally thought SEO was some highly technical process that only experts could perform.  (Don’t get us wrong – SEO can get extremely technical but you can find free resources online everywhere to get a good knowledge base).

However, as we learned more and more about SEO, the answer to a better performing website was a better user experience.  You see, if you optimize your website, you are really just creating a better user experience.  Google and Bing recognize a good user experience and reward you with higher search rankings as a result.

So, once we made the decision to go the SEO route, we necessarily had to redesign the website.

We needed more pictures, better text, resources to help the reader, etc.

So, over the course of several weeks, we took pictures of our office spaces and warehouse spaces.  We researched good SEO practices.  We learned about things like title tags, meta descriptions and keyword density.

At last, our website was redesigned and live.

Within a few weeks, we were receiving daily traffic.  The days of non-existent clicks were gone.

Had we gone the paid online ads route, users who came to our website would have never converted because of the poor user experience.  Using best practices for SEO ensured that however a user arrived at our site, whether from paid search or not, that user would understand exactly what we offered with better text and pictures.

So if you are trying to decide if you should use paid ads or optimize your website, we think the answer is clear: Go with SEO first.

You can always use paid ads in the future.  And if you decide to use paid ads, you can be sure that the user will have a great experience and have a better chance of converting into a customer.

Please feel free to leave comments.  We promise to read them all.  You can also email us with any questions/comments at leasing@seawaybusinesspark.com.  As a reminder, we provide office space for rent and warehouse space for rent in Gulfport, Mississippi.  For more information, visit our website at www.seawaybusinesspark.com or call us at (228) 575-7731.