Paid Listings. These are listing positions that are purchased as advertisements. These paid listings are called Pay Per Click or PPC listings. In the PPC strategy, advertising positions are purchased on the search engines for each keyword of focus. Each time a consumer clicks on one of these advertisements, there is a cost, thus the name “Pay Per Click.” The listing positions of the advertisements depend on the cost each advertiser is willing to pay. The higher the cost per click, the higher the advertisement appears on the page. Some keyword PPC costs are quite high; for example, the cost to be the top advertising position for the key search term “new york lasik” has been as high as $20 per click. Yahoo! has a PPC division (formerly known as Overture) that supplies advertisements on Yahoo! and MSN. The Yahoo! advertisements appear on Yahoo! and MSN at the top of the search page and then along the right side of the page. To purchase advertisements on Google, Google’s Adwords program must be used. The Google advertisements appear at the top of the page in the blue “Sponsored Links” and then along the right side of the page.
Free or Organic Listings. Organic listings are those websites selected by the search engine to appear in response to a key word search. These listings are not based on a payment by an advertiser. These listings are typically listed down the middle of the search page. Yahoo!, MSN and Google use different methods to choose which websites should be listed in prominent positions. This is why the websites listed on the first page are different on each search engine for the same search term. All three engines use a complex and unique algorithm to rank each website and then place each website in a database. Once a search term is typed into the search box, the search engine pulls the websites from the database depending on the ranking developed by the algorithm. The process to optimize a website so that it is ranked highly by the search engine algorithms is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.