Question: What is the difference between SEO and PPC?
Answer: In short, SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a method used to increase your ranking in search engines without paying the search engines. PPC, on the other hand, is pay-per-click advertising, where you’re literally paying a search engine for clicks resulting from the placement of your website in the “Ads” section in search results.
Digital marketing strategies can be confusing, especially for newcomers. With so many choices out there, how do you know which methods will work best for your business? Will your company get a better ROI (return on investment) from social media marketing or pay-per-click advertising via Google Ads (previously Google AdWords)?
We often hear the question, “Which is better: SEO or PPC?” The answer to that question really depends on the client’s product, budget, and goals.
I’m going to help by illuminating some of the main differences between these SEM strategies. Even if you’re working with an SEO agency to develop a custom campaign, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each approach.
A Brief Introduction to SEO
If you’ve read any of our other posts, you may already have a good idea of what SEO entails. Search engine optimization involves the implementation of strategies (like keyword research, website optimization, content development, link building, and more) that are meant to improve your organic traffic and search rankings. Typically, the best SEO campaigns are built around a content marketing strategy. If you can provide helpful content and a great user experience, you’ll be rewarded with more traffic, better rankings, and increased sales. Ultimately, a successful SEO campaign will result in a reliable inbound lead flow.
A Brief Introduction to PPC
“PPC” stands for Pay-Per-Click advertising. You’ll see these ads regularly when you conduct a search query in Google — even if you weren’t completely aware of their presence. These paid search ads show up above and below organic search results. They’re displayed above the local map pack in local searches, which means that Google gives them priority. That makes sense, as they’re Google’s primary revenue source. They’re called pay-per-click ads because the advertiser is charged each time a user clicks an ad. With PPC, you’re hoping to generate traffic to your website through paid listings that boost your visibility. PPC ads are the only way to guarantee a spot on Page One of Google searches. If you know what you’re doing, or if your digital marketing firm does, you can fine-tune your PPC ads until you achieve a positive ROI.
Examining the Pros and Cons of SEO
Because search engine optimization is a complex process, it also takes longer to execute a successful SEO campaign. That can be a drawback for companies that need to get off the ground quickly or that want an immediate boost in traffic. While SEO can generate lasting, long-term traffic, some people grow impatient when they don’t see the results they’re after right away. It takes time to build organic traffic through SEO — for highly competitive keywords, it may take three to six months to get onto page one. In addition, Google’s algorithm and search guidelines are constantly changing, which means you’re at the mercy of the latest Google update.
So if SEO is a time-consuming process with no guarantees, why are SEO services so popular? Because if you want to generate organic online traffic, then SEO services are essential to long-term success. Today, most consumers use Google to find new businesses. Without page one visibility, you’ll lose out on a lucrative lead source. Google is the modern day phone book, and if you want new customers to find you in the digital age, you need an SEO strategy.
Examining the Pros and Cons of PPC
When you improve your SEO, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be featured on page one of the search results — even if you do everything right. With PPC, you know for certain that you’ll be highlighted prominently on page one of key search results. That means you can start generating leads immediately. However, like we’ve mentioned, this can be costly. And if you don’t improve your web design and user experience, those clicks might not actually convert to leads or sales! On top of that, 70% to 80% of internet users totally ignore paid advertisements. While the PPC ads you see in Google search results aren’t nearly as obvious as banner or sidebar ads on websites, there’s still a good chance that educated web users simply won’t click on your ad unless they feel it’s extremely relevant.
That said, it can be an easier way for small firms or startups to get noticed, particularly if they’ve had trouble jumpstarting their SEO efforts. It’s also a bit more scaleable than SEO; you can spend as much or as little as you want on ads without affecting user experience. But, of course, if you decide to discontinue this marketing effort, your leads will drop off suddenly. With SEO, your site remains optimized (though best practices do evolve).
How to Choose Between SEO and PPC
Both SEO and PPC are search engine marketing tactics that are meant to bring traffic to your website. But if this is all brand new territory to you, you might be confused about which will yield better results for your business. If you can answer the following questions, the answer may be much clearer.
- How big is your budget?
The amount you’re able to spend on marketing will play a big role in determining which tactic you want to use. If you can afford to spend a certain amount daily on advertising, PPC could be a great option. That might also apply if you’re able to experiment with a larger budget for a short amount of time. But if you can spend only a small amount per month on marketing, SEO might be a more cost-effective option. That’s especially true if you run a law firm, technology company, or insurance firm. These industries are notoriously expensive for pay-per-click ads. Unless you have a sizeable budget (think $5,000 per month and up), SEO may be your best bet.
- Can you wait to see results?
There’s no doubt that PPC produces immediate results while SEO takes more time. When you opt for SEO, you may not feel like you’re seeing results right away. That’s the way it’s supposed to work with an organic strategy, so don’t panic or accuse your SEO agency of falling asleep on the job. Have faith in their abilities (provided they’re a well-regarded firm) and have patience. On the other hand, if you want or need immediate, guaranteed clicks, and can afford to pay for them, PPC can be a good way to go.
- What’s your average revenue per customer?
Here’s one major advantage of PPC advertising: you can precisely calculate ROI. Google Ads will tell you exactly how much you spent acquiring your leads, which makes it easy to calculate cost-per-acquisition. However, not all products and services are ideal for PPC ads. Let’s say you sell an inexpensive product like an umbrella. Your average sale is only $20, but each time someone clicks on your ad, Google charges you $2. Even if you close one out of every 10 leads, you’ll probably still lose money from your advertising campaign. However, if you sell expensive electronics and generate $2,000 per sale, you can achieve a very high ROI with those same $2 clicks.
- Do you want targeted or time-sensitive leads?
One interesting difference between SEO and PPC is that PPC ads allow you to target specific demographics. You can choose an age range, a location, a gender, level of education, or even an income bracket to ensure your ads are being seen by the right people. With PPC, you can also focus on more time-sensitive information like limited time offers or more seasonal promotions. Because SEO is such a long-term strategy, it’s not ideal for those uses. SEO also doesn’t discriminate; while local SEO is a fantastic way to appeal to web users in your area, you aren’t really able to narrow it down further by demographic. If you want to have mass appeal to people in your area and aren’t as concerned with time-sensitive promotions, you’ll likely want to improve your SEO instead of relying on expensive PPC ads. But when you want to really target customers of specific ages or backgrounds or you want to drive traffic in time for a particular offer, SEO may be better.
- Would you rather increase your site’s value or dominate a keyword?
When you improve your SEO, it’s entirely possible to generate a lot of traffic for one or two organic keywords. But it’s definitely not as easy to see marked results on those keywords right away, particularly if there are a lot of other businesses that currently rank on those competitive keywords. With PPC, your results for a given keyword will be displayed above all organic rankings for that keyword. Despite the fact that your result will be designated as an ad, many users will actually look to you first. If you aren’t utilizing PPC ads for those keywords, you might be giving up a lot of traffic to businesses that are using them. When you see no movement on a really important keyword through SEO efforts, you may want to consider PPC. On the flip side, PPC will do nothing to improve your site’s overall value or authority. Instead of spending all your money on marketing your web property and gathering traffic, you can spend time fixing up your site so that you can actually convert leads into customers.
One Last Note on SEO Vs. PPC…
Many businesses don’t actually choose between these two options. Instead, they will use both methods together to make their digital marketing strategy even stronger. That’s often the best way to go, as a diversified strategy will usually yield better results. That way, you won’t be putting all your digital eggs in one basket. If you improve your SEO and spend a bit of money on Google Ads, you’ll have more control over the results of your campaign. A combined approach is often the best of both worlds. Your PPC ads can instantly generate leads while you wait for your SEO campaign to bear fruit.
Of course, most businesses simply aren’t equipped to execute such a complex strategy on their own. That’s where your Dallas SEO agency comes in. To find out more about how we can help you craft a search engine marketing strategy that addresses all of your needs, please get in touch with us today. When you can’t decide between SEO and PPC, let our team of experts craft a custom digital marketing plan that works for your budget.