The SEO vs PPC debate has been going on for years. Which is better: simply buying your way to the top of the search engines through a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign or cultivating your organic (or natural) search engine marketing strategy through search engine optimization (SEO)?
Deciding where your digital marketing dollars should go is difficult for many business owners and often leaves people wondering which is the better strategy.
Is there a right or wrong answer? Could it be both? In order to make this decision, you have to understand the pros and the cons of both SEO and PPC.
SEO / Search Engine Optimization
SEO is often referred to as “organic” or “natural” lead generation. Generally speaking, SEO consists of optimizing your web pages to enhance their position in search engine results. Organic SEO consists of making sure the search engine spiders can understand what is on your web pages and so that, ideally, they’ll rank your site higher than your competitors.
The definition of SEO is can change due to industry trends and changes to Google’s algorithm. Even with changes, SEO comes down to providing a website that properly explains what the business does and provides helpful content to both human visitors and Google search crawlers.
This can involve making sure the website is in good shape by utilizing clean codes and search engine friendly content that appeals to human readers, as well as spiders. Cultivating inbound links from other sites can dictate your “link authority” and improve your ranking. Blogging, social media marketing, and online videos are three more effective ways to acquire quality links.
Advantages of Organic SEO:
- Organic SEO is very cost effective. The labor costs of setting up and managing a PPC campaign are usually the same or even more than the labor costs of SEO. The difference is that there continuous click charges with PPC campaigns.
- Organic SEO is long lasting — a properly optimized site can keep a high position in the search results long after a PPC campaign has been turned off.
- Search engine positioning is relatively stable whereas PPC ad positions continuously change according to your competitors’ bidding tactics. A well-optimized site with good link authority and excellent content can hold its search engine position even if you need to step away from it for a month.
Drawbacks to SEO:
- SEO is very slow compared to PPC. It can take months after you optimize your site to start seeing results, whereas PPC will start getting you leads immediately.
- SEO is an ongoing process. Your site will never be 100% “optimized,” it will only get more and more optimized as you put more work into it. The good news is that in the future your rankings will be better and you will hopefully be reaping the rewards of having invested in SEO.
- SEO is time-consuming, especially if you choose to do it yourself. You have the option to purchase SEO tools or to hire someone to do SEO for you, but that will end up costing real money, not your own time.
PPC / Pay-Per-Click Advertising
When you buy visitors or “clicks” from Google or other search engines it is called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC allows you to quickly leverage search engine traffic by paying or bidding for keywords related to what you are selling or a service you’re providing.
Advantages of PPC:
- No waiting: once your PPC campaign starts, you’ll immediately start to see more traffic, clicks, and conversions. SEO can take months before you start to see your site moving up the search engine results.
- PPC is scalable and controllable – you set your budget and have a decent idea of how many leads are you getting in return. This helps you estimate an accurate budget for your digital marketing. SEO is not so cut and dry, and it can take longer or require more money if the industry or location you want to rank for is very competitive.
- Using PPC means you don’t have to worry about a search engine’s algorithm impacting your position. You’re bidding on the top spots so your organic rank isn’t going to matter. With SEO, you have to ensure that you’re optimizing your site to Google’s standards of best practice or you could lose rank or be penalized for black hat tactics.
Drawbacks of PPC:
- You have to pay to get good results and, ideally, the more you pay, the better the results. The competition for keywords has never been greater. This may mean you’ll have to pay more later for the same results you’ve been getting.
- Researching and selecting effective keywords to bid on is very time-consuming. Managing what you’re spending on keywords, measuring returns, adjusting how much you spend, and intelligently playing the PPC game is basically a full-time job. Either you’ll spend time doing it yourself or you’ll have to hire an experienced PPC specialist who can properly run your campaigns for you.
- PPC is like a faucet: once you turn it off, it stops providing you leads. If you suddenly have to divert your PPC budget to something else, can you survive with the leads that you’re getting naturally? SEO is long-lasting and while it’s never truly done, it’s like a rolling snowball: it takes a while to get going and it may slow down at times, but once it gets the momentum up, there’s no stopping it.
- “Click Fraud” is still a problem as some companies use manual clicks or damaging software that simulates human clicks from different IP addresses around the world. Your competitors can rapidly rack up your click charges. Google can detect some of this fraud but there are ways to evade this detection.
Which is Better for My Business: SEO or PPC?
So which is better? Well, it depends on your industry and budget. Ideally, both SEO and a well-structured PPC campaign tend to lead to the best results for a business. You’ll quickly begin seeing more clicks and leads come in to ensure that your business is making money while you wait for your SEO efforts to pay off.
If you have the budget and you need to see an immediate impact. Then engaging in a PPC campaign will show you the fastest results. But it can still take time and trial and error to hone in on ads that convert without overpaying for results.
If you have a longer timeline in mind and don’t need to see immediate results. Then SEO efforts can offer some of the best results and return over time. You won’t be subject to always paying for website traffic and leads or having to come up with new ads to combat Ad blindness.
However a well thought out marketing plan that combines the two efforts. Tends to lead to the best overall outcome.
Contact the SEO and PPC Experts at TheeDigital
Our professionals have the expertise and knowledge to create a plan that maximizes your budget and produces a positive ROI. We concentrate on your marketing, so you can focus on your business.