From stratup MicroISV perspective, the way I look at the possibilities for advertising, it's much better, as a long-term strategy, to invest and work on the best SEO possible for your web site rather than invest/burn :) money in AdWords/AdCentre schemes. With good SEO strategy you will always be on page one, without paying for AdWords. What is your opinion/advice for small MicroISV with 20$ utility product?
SEO is just one form of marketing. Saying you will only maket your software in one way will limit your sales. Imagine a grocery store that says it will only sell items to people who drive up to the store in SUVs. Does that make any sense? Will that grocery store make less money than a similar store that sells to everyone?
If you study how people use search engines to purchase things you will see that people fall into one of three groups. When using say Google to search for an item to buy people will do one of the following things:
It's pretty easy to see that your strategy completely skips item 2, AND people who follow item 3 will be less likely to click on your link (they have other choices).
Exactly how well paid clicks will work depends on your product, your ads, and your keywords. It's impossible to tell without trying.
SEO is rarely a replacement other forms of marketing. It is a complement. Remember there is a significant cost to an SEO marketing strategy as it requires consistent efforts over long periods of time. We have to work very hard on multiple fronts to remain competitive in our advertising.
Given that basic SEO is all about making your web site easy to use, e.g.
I think basic SEO must be a part of all web site design, without it AdWords etc will not give a very good return on investment.
It is difficult to give you specific advice without knowing more about your product and your competition. Is it uniquely named? Do people search for the terms surrounding the functionality of your product? Are they searching for answers to specific questions that your software addresses? etc
As Keith says, SEO is compliment to other forms of marketing. There are a lot of various factors for ranking so there's no guarantee that your site will be #1 on everyone's computer for the particular keywords you are targeting. There are also different intents to searches, where are they in their decision cycle? Where in the decision cycle do you want to capture them?
A simple test for you would be to do searches for all the ways you think people would look for your product. Which of those search engine results pages have Ads on them and which of them don't? The ones that don't are probably not "money searches". Look at your website analytics and compare to see where there may be opportunities.
What you may want to consider is SEO to capture branded traffic, informational traffic and investigational traffic and using PPC for transactional traffic.
SEO is important because when properly done it tends to have some of the highest conversion rates when compared to other forms of marketing you will try.
The reason for that is if the person's search intent matches what you offer, its a good match. Same with AdWords.
You should also not forget to leverage any part of social aspect that your business has.
For any website that deals in e-commerce or any sells anything online; the foremost consideration should be to make your website SEO friendly at first and then other paid advertising channels and services like AdWords should be conceived. Even AdWords suggests you to get your landing pages ready before the visitors reaching your website.
A paid Ad using AdWords will help you to get the users landed on the given page of your website but just getting the traffic landed is not enough and it solely does not make sure to increase CR (Conversion Rate). The reason being is; CR depends upon many factors;
So in short, AdWords can generate better ROI if your own website and landing pages are ready for SEO first. Else, CTR (Click Through Rate) and Bounce Rate will shoot but CR will suffer.
Use Adwords as a driver for your SEO: start with limited Adwords campaigns to see which keywords drive the most traffic, then adapt your SEO strategy accordingly.
You win twice:
So: whatever small amounts you want to invest in Adwords, it'll certainly pay off one way or the other.