Main advantages of SEO.
Research shows that some researchers never click on the sponsored listings and others don’t realize that these links are paid for. Approximately 80% of clicks are on natural listings and 20% on paid listings.
A principal benefit of SEO is its cost-effectiveness as there is no payment to the search engine for being placed within it. This is very important for the ‘search head’, high volume low intent searches which are expensive in paid search.
The cost of SEO is relatively fixed, independent of click volume. After initial optimization costs, the cost per click reduces whilst paid search is essentially a variable cost.
Thus there are no media costs although resources are necessary for analysis of key phrases and to complete optimization on the website pages.
Together with paid-search it offers a very targeted audience, visitors referred by SEO will only visit your site if they are seeking specific information on your products or related content.
Disadvantages of SEO.
The major challenge of SEO is that there are billions of pages in the search engine indexes and your position in the SERPS is dependent on a constantly changing algorithm which is not published. Therefore, making your pages visible can require specialist knowledge, constant monitoring and the the ability to respond.
Consequently, the biggest disadvantage of SEO is lack of control. You are at the mercy of the algorithm.
There are other possible issues. Sometimes competitors or affiliates may use less ethical black hat techniques, thereby putting you at a big disadvantage.
Also, in very competitive sectors, it can be hard to get listed in the top few results for competitive phrases and this is when expensive pay-per-click may have to be used.
Because of this lack of visibility it can be hard to make a sound business case for SEO, although it is strikingly obvious of the benefits to most companies of the number one position on Google.
It is quite impossible to predict positions and click volumes from SEO, because future changes to the algorithm are unknown. Likewise you cannot monitor or predict competitor activity.
So, for a given investment it is impossible to predict the level of return for your dollar, pound or euro or to estimate the likely return compared to paid-search or other, more traditional methods of advertising, where more accurate estimates are possible.
This is not to say that estimates of long-term returns from SEO cannot be made. Always bear in mind that SEO is a long-term strategy and that a long-term cost/benefit analysis is needed.