Lots of people would like to get their Web site to the top of Google's free listings. But that's precisely the problem: You're competing with lots of people. It's certainly possible to get to the top - after all, somebody has to be there! - but it takes a lot of time and effort. Alternatively, you could pay a search engine marketing company to do this for you.
But by far the better way to get to the top of Google is to pay for it. Google's "AdWords" program allows even a small business to buy advertising for selected key words and phrases. You might be surprised at how little you have to pay.
--- Here's how it works ... ---
Google (at www.google.com) has two types of listings: Free and paid. Google makes its money from the paid listings.
Google AdWords is the name of Google's paid advertising system. It is a pay-per-click advertising system, which means that you only pay when someone clicks on your advertisement.
AdWords is an auction-based system. You offer to pay a certain price for each click, and you compete with other bidders for higher placement.
You choose which words or phrases you would like to use for your ad. When somebody searches Google using those search terms, your ad will appear. If they then click on your ad, it takes them to a specific page on your Web site.
--- The biggest advantage is that it gives you CONTROL. ---
Another problem with trying to get into the free listings at Google is that you don't have much control over how your page will appear. You're not sure exactly which search phrases will display it; you're not sure what Google will say about it; and you're not sure which pages of your site will match Google's criteria for each search phrase.
With AdWords, all those problems disappear. You can control the exact wording of your ads, the exact page they link to, the exact search phrases they match, and exactly when they appear.
For example, when I went overseas for a month last year, I turned off all my Google advertising while I was away. (That was in the days before I had fine-tuned my advertising campaigns. Nowadays, I would just leave the ads running, knowing that they would make me money in my absence :-))
You can control where the ads appear in the world. For example, at the time of the Australian election last October, one of my clients had an election-related Web site, so we ran some Google ads - but only for Australian Internet users.
You can get even more specific with geography. For example, I can run ads for events that I'm conducting in Sydney, and only show those ads to people in and around Sydney.
You can run two ads side by side and find out which is more responsive. Then you delete the weaker ad and replace it with a third ad that you pit against the stronger ad. Keep doing this until you find the ad that gets the best results.
Google tells you exactly which words and phrases people used when searching. For example, when we did the advertising for the election campaign, we found that "Australian election" had 50% more searches than "federal election"; and "liberal party" had three times as many searches as "labor party"!
--- With all these benefits, why would you ever go for free listings? ---
I hope I've convinced you by now that Google AdWords is the best way to get traffic from search engines.
But what about the free listings?
Actually, I'm NOT suggesting that you give up the idea of getting a free listing in Google. There are definitely advantages to these listings.
What I am saying is that you should go for the paid listings first - to test your market, refine your ad copy and improve your marketing. Then put your efforts into the free listings if you choose.
About The Author
Gihan Perera is a co-author of "Get Traffic Fast", a fast-track program to get started with Google advertising, avoiding the common traps and pitfalls.
Sign up to his free mini-course "Google Kick Start" here: