Marketers are often asked where a budget should be spent: SEO or pay-per-click ads.
While the question may be a simple one, the answer is not. There are many factors at play:
- Your niche or industry
- Your objective
- Your goals
- Your budget
- Your current status
SEO vs. PPC isn’t a new debate! People have been arguing about where marketing dollars should go for years.
So, how do you decide whether you should use your budget to develop an organic SEO strategy or on PPC ads? Which should you prioritize?
Not the concise answer you were hoping for, right? Sorry, but it’s the truth. To choose between the two, you need to understand how they work, how they drive growth, and the pros and cons of both.
In this article, we will look into both avenues so that you can make an informed decision that is right for your business.
Growth Strategy: SEO
When someone does a Google search, the listings that come up after the paid ads are called “blue links.” These organic listings are why people develop an SEO strategy.
Showing up on the first of the search engine results page or SERP is the ultimate goal.
To land on that coveted first page, you have to understand how to optimize your site. Search engines need to understand your content, recognize it as an authority, and index it.
It takes a well-versed marketing team to understand the 200+ factors that Google uses in its algorithm to see success. To create a strategy that wins, you need to consider various factors like technical and on-page SEO as well as link building, content marketing, and UX.
Ranking is not an easy task because of the complexity of SEO and the fact that Google’s algorithm is continually revised. Getting your site to rank well requires a careful balance of a variety of elements.
Remember, how high in the rankings and how often you appear is merit-based. Search engines will show the results they consider to be the best fit for their users.
SEO is all about giving the greatest possible result for a search query on the web, and those who can do so can get a lot of visitors.
What are the key benefits of SEO? What should you be aware of when deciding where to spend your marketing budget?
- Cost-Effective: Organic SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve your site’s visibility. It can put you in front of your target customers or clients when they’re looking for businesses like yours.
- No Click Fees: Organic clicks are entirely free. Of course, time and resources are required, but there are no ‘click’ fees, as there are with a PPC campaign. You’ll get free traffic if you do SEO correctly.
- Long-Term Results: You can expect to see long-term results from an SEO plan once you’ve attained excellent rankings. Your business is visible to potential customers at all times, whereas PPC advertising is sometimes turned off when the budget runs out or when you specify less cost-effective times of the day.
- Stability: More stability is usually associated with organic SEO. If you optimize your site correctly, your rankings should remain reasonably stable. The position of your PPC ad can change dramatically based on your competitor’s bidding strategy.
- More Conversions: When it comes to advertising, you’ll be more likely to spend your money on middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel keywords in order to acquire as many conversions as possible. At least, for businesses with limited marketing costs, this is frequently the case. You don’t have to pay for every click when it comes to SEO because you can generate content that targets each stage of the funnel.
- Fewer Cost Fluctuations: In most circumstances, SEO is a more cost-effective channel in the long run than PPC because the expenses of employing an agency or hiring a team are often similar, even if traffic and conversions increase. With PPC, you pay for each click.
- More Clicks: According to a 2019 analysis by SparkToro, Google’s organic results get more than 10x the number of clicks as paid results. The research means you may gain more traffic to your website without having to worry about ad spend.
However, with benefits come cons, and here are some of the reasons why SEO isn’t always the best plan for every company:
- Slow Start: SEO takes time, especially if you’re starting a new company or website. In fact, getting your site to rank on the front page for competitive keywords can take months. But with high bids, you’ll notice results as soon as your ad campaigns go live with PPC.
- Requires Investment: In a competitive market, you must invest in SEO to achieve SEO success. Given that a great organic approach entails technical SEO, content production, link building, data analysis, and more, you’ll want to enlist the help of a team of skilled marketers. Developing an in-house team or employing a professional agency could need significant investment.
- Long-Term Commitment: SEO is a continuous process that necessitates a commitment. There may be some modifications and enhancements that need to be made, and you must accept the fact that your site will never be completely “optimized.” There’s constantly work to be done, from new content production to link building to regular technical SEO audits.
- Stressful: SEO takes time and can be stressful, especially since Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times per year. To compete, you’ll need to stay up to date on any algorithm changes. Some tools can assist you in keeping track of changes.
- No Guarantees: Even with a robust approach, there are no assurances that you will ever outrank your opponents. However, if a strategy works, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. It’s an imperfect science that necessitates patience and endurance.
Growth Strategy: PPC
PPC refers to paid search engine advertising, which is commonly done through Google Ads or Bing Ads.
Search advertisements —the text ads at the top of the SERPs — and shopping ads — the product ads above or beside the main results — are just two examples of possible ad formats. Other PPC options include things like YouTube advertisements, display ads, and Gmail ads which all come in a variety of formats.
PPC advertisements require you to pay every time someone clicks on your ad. Firms frequently pay hundreds or thousands per day to drive traffic to their websites.
What is it about PCC that makes it such a powerful marketing tool?
- Immediate Results: PPC allows you to see results almost immediately. You’ll notice traffic, clicks, and conversions very quickly after your PPC campaign goes live. Meanwhile, achieving these benefits through SEO can take months.
- Appear On Top: You’ve definitely noticed where PPC ads appear on search engine results pages: right at the top. This implies that PPC advertising is the first thing a searcher sees on both mobile and desktop searches, far ahead of any organic results. PPC puts you at the top — places that are impossible to achieve with SEO alone.
- Include Contact Info: PPC also allows you to improve your company’s search engine visibility by including things like phone numbers, callouts, and enhanced site links. You have additional options to draw the attention of a searcher to your ad.
- Smaller Team: In comparison to SEO, operating and administering a PPC campaign normally only requires an experienced paid search specialist and sometimes a copywriter to develop compelling ads and landing pages, which necessitates a smaller team of professionals.
- Target Customers: You may target your customers with search advertisements, retail ads, video ads, Gmail ads, and more while you’re running ads. You can reach your target audience with the correct advertising formats and urge them to buy from you or inquire. Take, for example, shopping commercials. Google has started to roll out (again) free listings, although these only appear on the shopping tab and not in the SERPs as paid ads. Organic listings, on the other hand, don’t offer the same range of possibilities for reaching your target audience.
- Easy to Modify: Running a PPC campaign provides you with a plethora of information about the keywords and ads that your customers click on before making a purchase, as well as those that don’t. This means you can make quick modifications to your campaign to improve its efficiency and return on investment.
- A/B Testing: With Google Ads, running split tests and A/B tests is simple and quick, allowing you to take an ‘always be testing’ approach to campaign management and create continuous improvements and higher returns.
- Laser-Focus: You can offer adverts to your individual clients using a laser-targeted strategy. You may build a PPC campaign to reach only the people you know are more likely to buy, whether you want to target searchers based on their location, time of day, the device they use, or other characteristics.
- Organic Rankings Don’t Matter: You don’t have to keep up with Google’s algorithm modifications as closely with PPC. Because you’re fighting for the top slot, your organic rankings aren’t as important.
Just like with SEO, PPC has its own set of cons.
- No Free Clicks: PPC advertising, unlike SEO, does not provide free visitors. You must pay for every click from an ad that leads to your website. While certain businesses have modest click prices, others might cost as much as $10 per click.
- Larger Investment: To achieve results from PPC ads, you must invest money. The more you spend, the better the outcome in terms of clicks and conversions will be. You should keep an eye on your conversion rate since if your traffic isn’t converting, you’re squandering clicks and money.
- Costs Fluctuate: Click prices may continue to grow as more competitors begin to advertise. To drive a conversion, you may need to pay more money over time.
- Larger Upfront Spend: Unlike SEO, where you won’t have to spend to launch a campaign or plan, you’ll require a more considerable upfront expenditure because you’ll be paying for clicks.
- Short-Lived Traffic: When you turn off adverts, your traffic comes to a halt. If you have to turn off your PPC efforts, consider whether your site will be able to survive without the leads. It’s possible to grow too reliant on PPC to make your website successful.
Which is Right For You?
Okay. We’ve looked at the pros and cons, dove into the basics of each approach. It’s time for the big questions: which is best for your company? SEO or PPC?
The truth is that it all depends. However, there is a hybrid option here as well; you can combine the two.
Keeping that pros and cons list in mind, let’s look at a few strategies.
Investing in a Single Channel
If you’ve opted to invest in only one channel, you’ll need to consider your company’s unique circumstances, as well as the cost and investment versus the speed with which you’ll see results.
Here are some common cases that may work best with a single-channel approach:
- Choose PPC if you need to get results immediately at any cost.
- Consider SEO if you’re already driving sales from other sources and want to increase your long-term profits.
- Choose PPC if you are testing a new product or service. You may set a preset budget and switch ads off if needed, making it easier to swiftly drive visitors to your site.
- Consider SEO to focus on a great content strategy if you want to accelerate your brand’s awareness with top-of-the-funnel traffic.