You type your company's name into Google's search engine. Sure enough, there you are, close or near to the top on page one of the organic search results. The money you spent on a search engine optimization consultant, adding text and keywords to your site, has paid off. So should you now spend more money on paid or sponsored search, that is, on a pay-per-click campaign that places your link in the color bar on the top of the page or in the highlighted column to the far right?

A number of studies show that consumers trust organic search results more and tend to click there before going to sponsored links at the top or right of the page. Then there's the matter of redundancy. John Stevens, of Peterson Stevens, an Atlanta marketing company specializing in home improvement and a REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR contributor, doesn't think a sponsored link is a great idea if you're already on page one of organic search. "If you have a sponsored listing just above an organic listing, you're leaking cash," Stevens says. He also points out that repeat visitors to your site coming through Google may develop the habit of clicking on the sponsored listing, "costing you $2 every time they do."

The Case for PPC

Many companies, having optimized their websites, are reluctant to spend additional money - estimated by one expert at $2,000 per product category per month - on sponsored listings.

But those who know both Internet marketing and the home improvement industry point to strong, solid reasons for making that investment. First off, your company appeared in the organic search results because you typed in your company's name. But, says Todd Bairstow, of Keyword Advisors, a Massachusetts Internet marketing company that works with many home improvement firms, why assume homeowners know who you are? Without a substantial ongoing branding campaign, chances are good that they won't.

Instead, those shopping for windows or siding will enter generic keywords - such as "window replacement" or "siding contractor" - into the search engine. What will likely happen, depending on the local market, is that the organic listings will be dominated by "purchased lead" companies, that is, those that generate leads and then sell them to home improvement contractors. Companies such as CalFinder or ServiceMagic.

The point is, if your website is optimized and consumers are looking specifically for your company online, chances are good that they will find you. But if they're searching using more generic terms, such as "window replacement contractor," you may drop to the back of the pack, i.e., to the second, third, or fourth page of listings. And instead of seeing your company's name at the top of the search results, the consumer will likely see a company that sells leads or they will see your competition.

The local contractor "can't do the same job as the guy with 11 search engine experts can do," Bairstow says. One way to try, he suggests, is by using as many local keywords as possible on your website. Still, there's no guarantee.