“Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are critically important to online businesses. You can spend every penny you have on a website, but it will all be for nothing if nobody knows your site is there.”
– Marc Ostrofsky, New York Times bestselling author of Get Rich Click and Word of Mouse
Every business owner on the Web is trying to claw their way to the top of the SERPs in hopes of striking gold in terms of traffic, leads and sales. While everyone has the same goal, each uses their own set of methods and tactics.
Two of the most popular routes for attaining higher rankings are SEO and PPC advertising.
These two disciplines largely serve the same functions; drive visitors to your website in hopes of gaining a new customer and increasing search engine rankings.
Most small business owners, however, are not sure where to invest their limited funds to receive the most meaningful results.
In all honesty, that answer depends on your company’s goals.
To help you establish which modality will be more beneficial for you, we are going to compare the two strategies so as to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
SEO vs. PPC
Before we dive in to the details, let’s take a moment to define each of these practices.
Search engine optimization is the process of using keywords and other applicable components to increase a website’s relevancy in the search engine results pages (SERPs) as a way to drive traffic to webpages that address the user’s query. People who visit these pages from search engines are referred to as “organic traffic.”
SEO, however, is not just about optimizing your website and content to rank for specific keywords; it is about becoming an authority within a niche and turning your website into a trusted resource for users to gain information and useful products and services.
Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) is the process of creating adverts to be served to users based on the keywords the ad creator has bid on; these phrases are used to target relevant traffic. Dependent on the money you are free to bid, advertisers can acquire the very top spot on search pages.
Each time a user clicks on one of your adverts, you will be charged the bid amount whether the user converts or not. These individuals are referred to as “paid traffic.”
Despite PPC existing as its own discipline with its own set of best practices, there is still a sizable amount of SEO tenants that apply to creating an optimized ad campaign.
The Benefits of SEO
SEO is one of the single most powerful marketing strategies available to business owners. In fact, 66 percent of marketers claim that improving their search rankings is their top inbound marketing priority.
This is quite understandable when you consider that 60 percent of all organic traffic is claimed by the top three search results.
The biggest advantage that SEO gives to businesses is that it drives tons of high-quality traffic. Part of the reason for that is visitors who click on your site organically are far more inclined to trust your business and its offerings. Any business that ranks high in the SERPs is clearly a credible source in Google’s eyes, and, therefore, can be trusted by the consumer.
Make no mistakes, however; SEO is a long-term strategy that does not deliver immediate results. This practice takes a heaping dose of time and commitment; and any SEO results likely won’t come for months. This shouldn’t discourage you, of course, but realistic expectations are important.
PPC’s Place in the Ecosystem
While SEO clearly is a dominant force in the marketing landscape, PPC campaigns should not be discounted; this modality does tout some advantages over SEO’s slow development cycle.
When optimized correctly, PPC campaigns can deliver businesses with an immediate influx of paid traffic, downloads, sales, or whatever other goal you are seeking to achieve. This statement is supported by the fact that more than 64 percent of consumers looking to buy an item end up clicking on Google ads.
PPC ads can also be placed on websites outside of search engines that boast a significant amount of traffic that fits with your buyer personas. This means that you potentially have a second chance to recapture individuals who didn’t click on your search engine advert.
The key to excelling with PPC advertisements is relevance to user queries. Since search engines are constantly aiming to produce the best results for users, you need to do a fair bit of keyword research to understand the phrases consumers are using to find products and services similar to yours.
The Bottom Line
Whether you opt to leverage SEO or PPC depends on your company’s goals and how long you have to achieve them.
A premier SEO strategy can deliver long-term results as far as traffic and sales are concerned. But in order to receive these perks, SEO requires constant attention and effort. Google is always changing its algorithms and competitors are likewise seeking to top any site above their own. This means that you will be fighting a never ending battle; albeit, one that has massive benefits for the top contenders.
If you have the time to explore different keyword results, monitor website traffic, A/B test various site components, create optimized content and continually refine your blueprint, SEO is definitely the way to go.
A well-organized PPC campaign is capable of providing you with an instantaneous boost in visibility, traffic and, potentially, sales. And keep in mind, the more competitive your bids are, the more likely you will attain higher levels of visibility.
The problem here, however, is that you will pay for the clicks you generate even if you don’t gain a lead or sale. But if you simply don’t have the time or know-how to craft a powerful SEO strategy, then PPC campaigns can provide you with a quick bump in traffic. Just do be aware that as soon as your campaign ends, you are likely to see this dip back down because it is not a viable long-term option.
The most effective thing you can do is combine these two modalities to create a synergistic relationship to drive traffic from multiple avenues. Combine these practices into a single, cohesive unit and you are far more likely to achieve more meaningful results than merely using one or the other.
Do you think SEO or PPC is better for your business in the immediate future? Do you have plans to launch an SEM campaign leveraging both practices?