A business’s top priority is driving customers to its brand and then getting that customer to buy. The question, though, is the best way to do that, especially for companies with limited resources for marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) are two ways of getting your business to the finish line and then making a sale. But which is better, SEO vs PPC?
They are both useful tools that can raise the visibility of your product or service, with the goal of both to increase business. But there are negative aspects to both and it’s important to know what those are before you invest a lot of money and time. First, let’s take a look at exactly what SEO and PPC are.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization refers to how best to direct potential customers to a specific website, using search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These listings are often referred to as organic, natural, or free listings.
An SEO specialist works hard to ensure that your business appears on a search engine’s first page of results (top 10 listings) when a customer does a search looking for what you sell. The strategies that the SEO expert uses to bring your website to the top of the list are designed to make the best use of search terms chosen by the customer. You want potential customers to then go to your website and say, “This is just what I was looking for!”
Of course, this takes research and study to determine what those top search keywords and phrases are both currently and then over time. And the stronger the branding for your product or service the more likely those searching the internet are to encounter your website. You want to be known as THE authority so searchers engage with your site (instead of your competitors) and then want to buy from you or do work with your business.
There is no additional cost associated with SEO, other than what is paid to the digital marketing company or SEO specialist you are using. Organic searches cost nothing.
What Is PPC?
Pay-Per-Click is a form of marketing in which the advertiser/business pays for ads placed above the search engine results shown to a potential client. However, the cost for the ad isn’t assessed and charged until potential customers click on the ad to see more. The cost also depends on several factors, including search volume, competition, etc. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have forms of PPC.
For example, Google’s program, called AdWords, logged in two million searches per day in 2000. More recently, the program handled over three billion per day. The potential to increase business is huge, as you can see, but it comes with a price tag for each click.
So, the question again is which marketing tactic, SEO vs PPC, is better for your business? Let’s look at some pros and cons of each to determine if there is a definitive answer to the question.
Pros and Cons of SEO
Here are several of the most important advantages and disadvantages of using SEO as a marketing tool:
- When your business pops up on the first page of search results, you are building credibility. You must be good if you’re that high in the results, right? Add in many positive reviews on your site and that perception continues to rise.
- As mentioned earlier, organic search traffic is free. This means, too, that your return on investment for new business is higher through the use of SEO over PPC.
- Results from organic searches take time, but are better over the long haul, which has a positive effect in that brand loyalty is being built. The groundwork first needs to be laid, trust must be built with the search engines, and then once established, your competitors will be left behind.
- An SEO strategy can create many secondary benefits for your website including: an improved site structure, your website being faster and mobile-friendly, an increased ability to convert paid traffic campaigns, and an improved experience for site visitors.
- On the flip side of one of the Pros listed above: SEO takes time to work. It depends on how saturated the market is and how competitive it is, but it usually takes 60-90 days before you start to see significant results.
- Most people outside of the digital marketing industry have no knowledge or understanding of the algorithms used by search engines to determine ranking. SEO experts, like us here at My KPI, do have a handle on these formulas and can also interpret updates as they are released. But these experts come at a price.
- Using SEO as a marketing tactic requires monitoring continually. The search engine algorithms change frequently, the market changes, competitors come and go, and all of this demands attention to keep up.
Pros and Cons of PPC
How does PPC compare to SEO in strengths and weaknesses? Let’s take a look:
- It’s possible to be up and running very quickly, with viable leads generated quickly.
- PPC ads appear above the organic search results. Potential customers see those first as they scan the page.
- A PPC budget is clear-cut and easy to control. You know what each click costs and you can increase or decrease your budget quickly. If you hit a financial pothole in your business, you can pause your PPC campaign instantly.
- This type of marketing can be expensive. By the time a business owner calculates how many clicks it took to land a new customer, the cost may be prohibitive.
- It is reported that 70-80% of people now ignore paid ads (PPC) on the search results page.
- There is a steep learning curve to PPC campaigns if you are trying to do it on your own. Your competitors may have been using PPC for a long time and know how to get the best ROI, whereas you might just be starting out. Every misstep costs you both time and money.
So, Which Is It: SEO or PPC?
As you have probably guessed by now the answer is to try to find an integrated approach that works with your business’ digital marketing strategy. Every business has unique needs that must be met with few errors along the way. Are leads needed immediately to generate essential profit? Whose ads do you see at the top of a search for the products or services you sell? Is your company’s branding strong or are you lost in the weeds of your competitors?
A small, local niche business that needs a few leads a week can probably get enough traction from a good SEO strategy and maybe even a few paid clicks. A new business that only sells online might be competing with the giants, like Amazon and major retailers with a trusted presence in your area. Solid leads will be needed quickly so the business may struggle using only organic searches generated from SEO efforts.
In a perfect world, a holistic approach using both SEO and PPC may make the most sense. This requires a clear plan, with both short and long-term goals articulated. A business can optimize both paid and organic search strategies and then adjust periodically based on results. It’s the best of both worlds.
In the real world, however, most businesses with a small budget must make a choice. Scroll back to an important statistic provided earlier: 70-80% of those initiating an internet search ignore the paid ads and go to the organic listings.
Proficient, experienced SEO experts know how to get you there, allowing you to be more easily found in the organic results by the people who are already searching for what you do or offer.
If you are ready to increase your business’ online presence and increase your return on investment, contact us here at My KPI Marketing. We can help!