Trying to decide between SEO and PPC can be a lot like trying to decide between apples and oranges. Sure, they’re in the same family, but they come with different benefits and perks. SEO (or search engine optimization) revolves around acquiring organic traffic from search engines. PPC (also known as pay-per-click) however, is a form of paid advertising via social media platforms or search engines. So, which is better? Here is some information to help you decide.
How does it work?
Both SEO and PPC are frequently crafted around keywords and key phrases. When your online searches trigger one of these words or phrases, it can trigger your advertisement or organic webpage listing to appear in the results. While the benefits of SEO and PPC are similar, search engine optimization is often geared more towards higher volumes of web traffic, whereas pay-per-click is more likely to convert a site visitor into a buyer.
For example, if you own a dance studio and are trying to promote a certain style of dance, it’s important to deduce whether SEO or PPC would be more effective. A key phrase like “salsa dance lessons” would be great for a PPC ad that promotes a special introductory offer. The more locational phrase “salsa dance lessons near me,” however, might see more benefit from a local SEO campaign. Another consideration would be whether said dance studio wanted to be the most visible in the area (a forte of SEO) or was more interested in promoting a limited run two-for-one class special (easily handled by PPC). Your overall goals will be important in helping you make a decision between the two methods.
The Pros of SEO
SEO is an effort that can be wholly rewarding but requires much more work at the onset. The industry is much more competitive than it was a decade ago. In fact, if there’s a company that isn’t doing some form of optimization for their website, they’re likely to be left in the wake of other, more strategic businesses. To see the greatest successes with search engine optimization, you’ll need to have a high quality website that provides value to visitors, something that requires a lot of time and effort. However, just because it’s a crowded, complex field doesn’t mean that there is no value to be had in the realm of SEO.
If you’re considering using SEO to boost your online efforts, remember a key point: You will get no guarantees. Search engine ranking algorithms change frequently and can easily undo previous efforts. If a company is promising you the number one listing for a search, they’re probably using “blackhat” methods — that is, shady tactics that are frowned upon by search engines. Avoid these agencies because if their methods are tied to your site, if can tank your rankings and harm your reputation.
You also need to consider your targeted keywords when it comes to SEO. Using phrases that are specific enough to pull valuable traffic will provide the best results. For example, “explore Henry County, Georgia” is much more likely to see favorable results than a simple keyword like “Henry County.” If you’re able to develop applicable key phrases for your campaign, SEO may be able to provide you with quality web traffic.
The Upside to PPC
PPC is great for promoting sales, offers, and programs. Depending on the platform you use and the parameters you set, you’re paying for exposure, clicks, and possibly even conversions. This makes the immediate value of PPC readily apparent. As previously mentioned, it isn’t going to provide serious boosts to your visitor count or help spike your web traffic, so you shouldn’t pursue pay-per-click if this is your primary goal.
Here’s an example: an online university trying to promote enrollment in its degree path may have a difficult time succeeding in a competitive SEO market. However, strategic ad bidding for a phrase such as “accredited online degree programs” is likely to see an advertisement served at the top of a results page. A qualified specialist will work alongside you to do keyword research in your desired niche, define your target audience to serve ads by demographic, and find high-volume searches to target for the optimal performance.
If you think digital advertising is the route for you, it’s important to choose a PPC advertising firm based on its pedigree, returns on investment, and its clients’ typical budgets. They should also closely align with your values because they’ll be instrumental to your success. Remember, while the costs of PPC are much higher than those of SEO, the average ad campaign shows a far quicker return on your investment. You need to come prepared to do battle, however, as you’ll be looking to outbid your competitors to secure prime placements.
Are Two Better Than One?
PPC and SEO are commonly packaged together by an agency because they frequently go hand-in-hand and require similar skill sets. Using the two together can be a great tactic for helping to grow your digital presence, but you need to have a more flexible budget, particularly if you’re in a competitive market when it comes to your pay-per-click keywords.
Some companies see better results with one over the other and by employing the two side-by- side, you’ll be able to see where you’re getting the greatest return on your investment. Keep in mind that search engine optimization is all about time, patience, and effort, so it may take a while before you’re able to make the most informed decision about whether or not it’s showing comparable results to pay-per-click.
One of the biggest benefits of leveraging both PPC and SEO at the same time is that you can address different business needs simultaneously. You can grow your audience and raise your traffic levels while also promoting products and advertising sales. You can also effectively make a move to take over all of the top traffic for a particular search term, though this would be a high-level campaign. It’s a great way to dominate the market and won’t be the greatest of surprises for your competitors, which is a great reason to consider it. Either way, applying SEO and PPC together can easily cover all of your primary bases (except for social media) when it comes to successfully operating in the digital sphere.
Solidifying Your Decision
Ultimately, you’ll need to assess your company’s needs to properly determine whether you choose SEO over PPC, or vice versa, or perhaps incorporate some combination of the two for maximum visibility. Considerations will include budget, campaign scope, and targeted keywords. Rushing into a contract headlong before you’ve done your research is inadvisable. While the two tactics can be invaluable in the digital age, it’s important for you to go with an agency that is well-respected in the industry. Ask for work samples, case studies, and whatever other materials you think you’ll need to make an informed decision before committing to a partnership. If you do this, you’ll be ready to take the world of organic search and digital advertising by storm.