Any website cannot exist without traffic. It is the lifeblood of any attempt to get exposure and traction in the online space. We could go as far as to say that it will determine the success of an online business. It cannot be ignored and this is an indubitable fact of business.
There are many different opinions on this topic but the debate carries on around SEO vs. PPC, two of the most powerful traffic-generating approaches.
Is there a right or wrong answer? Could it be both? Before you decide, you have to understand what SEO and PPC are and the pros and cons of both marketing channels.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. SEO is assisting a website to be more attractive to search engines for a term that gets typed into a search engine like Google.
SEO optimises the organic results or unpaid results on search engines. While Google may change its algorithms from time to time which could change your rankings, SEO always comes down to providing the user with the most information online for a search and the best user experience they can find. Although there are over 200 factors that search engines look at, information and experience are some of the most important factors when ranking organically.
Search engines are there to give you the best result that they can. This is why you come back to the same search engine (if you find the right sites)…this is their product. In order to do this the best they have is to compare websites and SEO is all about checking these comparison boxes and making sure that the search engines will want to display your site as a result. It’s not easy, but that’s what SEO marketing is all about. The vast majority of a search online begins with a search engine like google. In fact, 75 – 80 percent of these take place on Google.
What are the pros of good SEO?
- Organic SEO is very cost-effective. When done correctly, SEO can be far more cost-effective than any paid media campaign (including PPC)
- >Organic SEO is forever. A properly optimised site can keep its rankings for a very long time until it starts to drop off. PPC rankings end the moment that you stop putting money in.
- Search engine positioning is relatively stable whereas PPC ad positions will change according to your targeting, budget and bidding strategies. A well-optimised site (good link authority and great content) can hold its position even if you need to step away.
- Organic SEO builds credibility and trust. Ads can be skipped and many users are very much aware that paid ads and results exist. By increasing your authority and rankings naturally, you can be seen as more credible by online users.
- Organic SEO results will often have much higher click-through rates and better engagement rates too.
What are the cons to SEO?
- SEO is a slow and steady strategy and takes much longer to bear results when compared to PPC. It can potentially take months after starting SEO to start seeing results, whereas PPC will start getting you leads as you press play on the campaign.
- SEO is never finished. Your site will never be 100% “optimised,” it will only get more and more optimised as you put more work into it. The more work you do, the better the return on investment as it’s a compounding effect.
- SEO is very time-consuming, especially if you choose to do it yourself. SEO is more of an art than a science and it can take many years to learn how to do this properly.
What is PPC?
PPC (pay-per-click) marketing is a type of online marketing that allows websites to get clicks to their site in exchange for payment. These ads appear above the organic results on search engines and you pay every time a user clicks on your ad. Advertisers bid on the perceived value of a click in relation to the keywords, competitors, and audience type from which it originates.
Popular PPC advertising platforms include Google Ads (AdWords), Bing Ads, and Facebook’s advertising platform.
What are the pros of good PPC?
- PPC is essentially instant advertising. The only delay would be how quickly you can set up and launch the account. SEO can potentially take months before you start to see your site moving up the organic rankings.
- PPC is almost entirely in your control. You set your budget and have a decent idea of how many leads you are getting in return. You can pause ads or change them on the fly and the only thing that you can’t control is how much your competitors are bidding on your keywords.
- PPC means that you divert the search engine’s algorithm impacting your position. You’re bidding on the biggest volume keywords, so your organic rank isn’t going to matter. With SEO, you have to ensure that you’re optimising your site to Google’s standards of best practice at all times, these change over time and have to be monitored closely.
- You can strictly target potential customers using PPC. You can target ads using search keywords, geography, and different times of the day and week. With organic traffic, you can only stipulate which users you don’t want on your website.
- PPC can be very visual. Many people prefer a visual ad to a text ad and this could increase clicks to your website. SEO can improve the results visually by using special elements that get pulled to the result but they are not as visually appealing as PPC ads can be.
What are the cons to PPC?
The more you pay, the better the results, but this could mean that you have to compete against large competitor budgets and the competition has never been greater. Here are some other drawbacks to running PPC;
- Researching and choosing the most effective keywords to bid on can be very time-consuming. Managing keywords, measuring returns, adjusting your spend, and intelligently playing in the PPC space is a full-time job.
- PPC is similar to a tap, once you turn it off, it stops sending you leads. Let’s say that you have to suddenly remove your PPC budget due to unforeseen circumstances, can you survive with the leads that you are currently getting without the PPC? SEO is long-lasting and while it’s never truly done, it’s always on.
- “Click Fraud” is when companies use manual clicks or damaging software that simulates human clicks from different IP addresses around the world. Google can detect some of this fraud but there are ways to evade this detection, but you need to know what you are doing to get the correct leads.
Search Engine Optimisation or Pay Per Click?
As with many things in life, the answer to this question is highly contextual.
A local business might benefit more from running PPC if they have few competitors bidding on keywords. A local business that does have a lot of competition online will benefit more from SEO.
A new e-commerce store that is competing against the likes of Amazon, eBay and other major department stores and online retailers is likely going to struggle in organic search (in the short term, at least).
Do you need leads now? Are you looking at the long game? Is your website authoritative, does it have great content?
A clear digital marketing strategy and clear short- and long-term goals are essential in making a decision between SEO or PPC.
SEO and PPC (ideal)
In an ideal world, we would look at both Search Engine Optimisation and Pay Per Click. They both have pros and cons and work best when supporting each other synergistically. Where you can get SEO and PPC working together, you will often be able to drive results that are greater than their component parts.
The benefits of running SEO and PPC together include:
- PPC will bring in the results while your site ranks poorly and then you can wean off the PPC (never stop) and turn the tap on the SEO more as your site begins to rank better.
- Keyword and conversion data from PPC can be fed into organic search (SEO) and used to optimise click-through rates.
- You can decide which keywords to target organically and which to target via PPC. This would give you the best opportunity to bring users to the site.
- A/B testing of PPC ad copy and landing pages can be fed into your organic listing and landing pages and used to further enhance organic rankings.
- Remarketing allows you to stay in front of visitors after an initial site visit and you can customise the messaging.
- Target users at all stages of the customer journey from research to intent to purchase with commercial keywords.
- Increase confidence and awareness by having both strong organic and paid visibility. If you come up for both then you appear twice on the 1st page which can theoretically increase user confidence.
We’re continuously working towards offering the best services for our clients, including evolving and adapting to industry changes, new technologies, features and channels. If you’d like to discuss our SEO or PPC services (or both) in more detail or would like more information about Google Partner agencies, please give us a call.