It is the goal of all good marketers to help businesses get found online. The majority of our clientele are people who own their own business, work extremely long hours, and don't have much patience for the nuances of the internet beyond social media and information gathering.
However, digital marketing can be precarious. Most digital marketing products are not tangible, or even products at all. In reality, marketing is closer to a utility company. Digital marketing is primarily a service based industry. I think that this misunderstanding of the industry causes people to be confused about what exactly they're buying with a marketing agency.
So, here I am to try and clear up one of largest misconceptions.
Myth: Websites, ads, and Google listings are all the same thing.
I cannot tell you how many times I hear people use these words interchangeably. It's not just industry jargon; these items are all very different in look, ranking, and cost. Plus, they can (and should) all be used in unison for the greater advantage.
Lets dive in.
Your website is essentially an online office for your business. It's located at a certain address (URL) and customers visit in order to gather more information about your business and the services that you offer.
All businesses should have a website. These days, people often choose businesses based off websites and the information they give; without one, you'll get passed over.
Look: Websites are fully customize-able, unlike ads and listings. Websites also house more content about your business than other avenues. Your website is the area of the web that you have control over, and you should be utilizing it to it's full potential.
Ranking: Websites get indexed once they go live on Google. However, it usually takes a few months before ranking placement begins to shift. Getting a website to rank on the first page of Google takes SEO maintenance, time, and money. By looking at this screenshot, you can also see that the majority of websites appearing above our website are citations. So not only do websites have to compete with each other, but they also have to compete with citations for ranking placement.
Cost: The cost of a website varies. Yes, there are free, self-building, websites... however specific coding and maintenance is missing from these; which usually results in under performance. Most websites will cost you $500 to a couple thousand, depending on your needs.
If digital marketing was a treasure hunt; Google would be the map, your GMB listing would be the trail, and your website would be the X that marks the spot. Paid ads are a buddy with a pick-up truck and shovel that drives you to the X.
Look: Paid ads show up on the top of the Google search engine and direct your clients to your website. You can choose who your target audience demographics and choose what keywords and phrases your ad appears for. There are also different add-ons such as click to call functions, rates, etc.
Ranking: Unlike every other SEO platform, with paid ads there is no wait for ranking placement. You are able to instantly be on the very top of the Google search. However, paid ads work on a bidding structure and are more expensive, and non-sustainable.
Cost: This is where it gets tricky. Paid ads work on pay-per-click (PPC). First, you have to bid on your position. The cost differs between target keywords, city/state, etc. Bidding range can be anywhere from 50 cents to $10, depending on how coveted that keyword is and how much competition you have. Once you outbid your competitor, you pay for each click you receive, regardless if it results in a sale. You set up a monthly budget, and the money comes out based on your maximum bids and number of clicks received. Once you hit your budget, your ad no longer shows.
So, while PPC is great, because you can instantly be on the front of Google, it is costly. We recommend AdWords to businesses looking for a quick jump to the top with a minimum monthly budget of $400 to see the best results.
In a previous blog post I wrote an in-depth explanation of what a GMB listing is; so I'll be brief.
A Google My Business listing is a listing that appears solely on Google. The listing is found by a searcher when looking for you directly, or services that you offer. It shows your business name, location, hours, and reviews; it also gives customers the option to click to call you, visit your website, or get GPS directions to your location. Basically, it's a hub for all of your contact information, and it's very important.
Look: There is minimal ability to customize your GMB listing. When you create a GMB listing, it also creates a Google+ page. That page allows you to add photos, a header photo, and a description of your business, and that's about it.
Ranking: Once you make a GMB listing, it has to be verified before it will show up online. In order to verify your listing, Google will send out a postcard to your physical location with a verification code. Once you enter that code, your listing goes live on Google within 24-48 hours (excluding any unforeseen circumstances). Even though your listing is live on Google, that doesn't mean it will be seen. Ranking a GMB listing works similarly to website SEO. Google needs to trust your business before they'll show it to searchers. Ranking a GMB listing takes patience, however, once you begin to see results, it is much more sustainable than PPC ads. Plus, studies show that people are more likely to click on organic results than paid ads. So, in the long run, ranking a GMB listing is a better investment.
Cost: A GMB listing is free. However, ranking one is not. If you want your GMB listing to be seen by potential customers, you'll need to have an SEO professional working on it. The cost of SEO services vary from company to company. And often times different companies offer different levels of service.
Websites, ads, and listings are not interchangeable words. They all offer different benefits at different cost. Even though these marketing avenues differ, they all work together to create a healthy online presence that drives sales. It is important that, as a business owner, you understand the difference between these marketing mediums; that way you know exactly what it is that you should be expecting from your marketing company. I hope that I was able to clear up some confusion and help you make smarter choices for your company.