PPC vs. SEO
To PPC or to SEO: That is the Question
Hamlet’s anguish pales beside the angst some feel when trying to decide between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC). Kidding aside, the question is serious: with limited online marketing budgets, which is a better use of funds? Hindering decisions: each approach has partisans who swear the other is a total waste of money. Actually, as we see it, the question is more nuanced. Each presents advantages and disadvantages that need to be assessed based on the specific circumstances of your particular business model. Understanding when and how to use Pay Per Click versus Search Engine Optimization will help you go a long way toward fully leveraging your website as a profit center.
(By the way, if definitions would be helpful to you, see our online marketing glossary.)
Have You Done Your Homework?
Success at either approach demands experience, expertise, and a carefully planned approach.
- For SEO you need to understand the nuanced online behavior of your target audience – not just where they go online, but why they are there and what they are seeking. Then craft content that both appeals to your audiences’ wants as well as reflects the benefits and features you deliver.
- It is really easy to mess up a PPC campaign (that is, pay a lot for low results) if it is not managed by someone with skill and experience. One can quickly and easily get lost in a churning sea of words and terms. And it takes skill to help reduce clicks by people who are only information-gathers, so you do pay for fewer clicks that will not lead to business. Even verb tense or noun case can make a difference to a campaign’s ROI.
How Quickly Do You Need Results?
- SEO takes time. In general, think a year or so before you start seeing meaningful results. Of course, “in general” covers a lot of ground – your specific circumstances may allow you to see results faster, and for less. The upside: SEO efforts have a longer tail, so you will continue to see results for quite some time.
- PPC is relatively faster to start, and gives you the boon of nearly instant feedback. The counterpoint: There’s no residual benefit after you end the active campaign.
What’s Your Budget?
- SEO is not cheap. For example, two major occupations in SEO campaigns are 1) creating lots of content for your site and 2) having popular third party sites link to yours. As you can imagine, both endeavors are labor intensive and, therefore, can be expensive. Think in terms of annual costs reaching up into the five figures, perhaps higher. But once SEO has been established, it usually generates results at lower ongoing costs than PPC. SEO also has more ultimate potential than PPC: paid ads are unlikely ever to equal the volume of visits that a truly great search-engine placement can produce.
- PPC tends to involve lower overall costs, but you run a risk of paying twice if a user reaches your site through your sponsored ad a second time. And your ongoing costs are unlikely to decrease over time – though as expertise is gained, your ROI will rise.
What’s the Credibility Factor?
Many people prefer to click on what they perceive as organic results, those produced by SEO efforts.
Where Do You Go from Here?
Either SEO or PPC usually make sense for most organizations. Frequently, companies succeed best with a careful blend of both approaches: PPC to start to generate immediate results and to test and refine messages, while methodically building a longer term SEO play. And some companies need neither. To learn more … and for practical steps on how to assess your own Search Engine Marketing needs, give WebINTENSIVE a call.