By Dr. Schaefer, co-founder of Motiliti, an Austin Facebook Advertising Agency

Prior to the internet, we pretty much called all forms of marketing exposure advertising. However, directories like the yellow pages were actually the first types of “Search marketing.” I remember when my business decided to drop the Yellow Pages in 2004. My yellow page rep warned me of the dire consequences. I, in turn, warned him to get to retirement as quickly as possible cause the yellow pages only had a few years left. Now here we are 14 years later, and you can count the ads in an entire yellow page category on the one hand. Of course, the way this advertising worked was that people came to the YP for information about available options to satisfy their needs, searched by category and hopefully they saw your advertisement in the process. If you wanted more exposure, you just needed to purchase a bigger ad. There were “free” listings, but you stood far less chance of getting a call from one of those. It was pretty simple, and it still is.

With the birth of search engines, this process moved online and low and behold we had the fastest advertising growth in any media history. For the first time in history, you could guarantee that when somebody searched for exact phrases your ad would come up and you could easily out-compete the largest advertisers in the world for as long as your budget could last. This type of advertising can be referred to as “pull” since the consumer is pulling the information to them when they want it. This makes it the most expensive version of all digital advertising because it is catching prospects when they are closest to the purchase end of the funnel. The prospect already has moved through three of the conversion steps (Awareness, Interest, Decision) and now is ready for Action.

Of course, SEO tries to help the business website reach page one of the search engine without paying for keywords. The illusion is that this “organic” traffic is free, but you stand very little chance of reaching page one for valuable keywords without hiring a professional and spending money and resources every month forever to stay there. Don’t get depressed about this, you had to pay the yellow pages every month, and you have to pay the radio station every month for your radio spots. Advertising costs money, but as long as it makes you money, then this is called BUSINESS.

SEO is the big game and the winners who make page one of search get to divide all the spoils while everyone else gets nothing. If you don’t think this is “the big game,” then you have not been paying attention even to your reliance on Google for purchase decisions. A search for “plumbers near me” delivered ten pages of Google search results with local plumber listings. That is 100 plumbers trying to squeeze into 10-page one listings and three visible map listings (the three pack). If the winners get traffic and the losers don’t then, then it’s the biggest game in town.

Knowing that ten plumbers fit on page one and 100 are trying to get there, it is no longer luck of the draw. Google has rules for ranking, and it is a mathematical decision as to who is one page one. People who understand this sell this knowledge to business owners to get them an edge. Next Google likes fresh new content on a website. So, business owners hire companies to write content and post multiple times a week to make their site stand out. How can your little 10-page webpage compete against a 200-page juggernaut of content? Answer… it can’t and it won’t.