During the Refresh Richmond meeting last night, there was a presentation and discussion regarding search engine optimization. The presenter mentioned that it takes new sites roughly 8 months - one year to appear in Google's search results. I've found this to be true lately. So what if your web site is brand new and you still want to attract web traffic?

Enter paid search engine marketing. The presenter did not recommend paid search results since it could be costly. I respectfully disagree with the presenter, and I want to make a case for paid search marketing. What follows are four reasons to pay for search engine marketing.

Search engine optimization takes time, while pay-per-click search engine marketing generates instant results. It takes time for site changes to affect your search engine ranking. Sometimes it takes days for established sites while it can take months for new sites. Do you want to go months with little site traffic? Pay a dime per click for search engine advertising and you can get qualified visitors instantly.

You can quantify success with paid search engine marketing. When you pay an SEO company hundreds of dollars per month, how do you directly attribute your traffic increase to SEO efforts? You can make an educated guess if you have a good web analytics package in place. With paid search marketing, you know exactly how many visitors came to your site, you know how much you paid for it, and with conversion tracking, you can calculate the return on investment. Try asking your SEO company to calculate an ROI and you'll get a blank look or they'll reply with how they've doubled or tripled your traffic.

Paid search engine marketing lets you specify the message you want to convey. Unlike pure natural search results that pull text from your web site and display it how the search engine wants to display it, you can write your own paid search engine advertisement any way you wish. If I'm running a one-day or one-week sale or promotion, SEO is virtually useless as it takes search engines days or weeks to spider your content. With paid search engine advertising, you can put up an ad about your sale or promotion and direct the ad to the right page to convert visitors. You can also perform copy tests on paid search engine ads to see what headline and body copy generates the most interest.

Unlike search engine optimization, paid search marketing doesn't require changes to your site. Many SEO companies will require that you change server settings, re-code your pages or site templates, and more. Some companies don't have the resources to do this, so a paid search advertising approach is best.

Don't get me wrong, optimizing your site for search engines is critical to your company's success online. SEO takes time, money and lots of effort though. I find that the right solution for my clients is to build a site that is search engine friendly and supplement this with paid search engine advertising.

With a good web analytics plan in place, you can measure natural search traffic versus paid search traffic and adjust the online marketing mix accordingly.