July 8th, 2016 // Roger Parent
Your website traffic could use a boost. Now you’re at that digital marketing crossroads. Do you go the pay-per-click route or rely on some search engine optimization to bring in more visitors? Which clicks do you pick? The ones you pay for or the ones that require the manual labor? The obvious answer is both - the very existence of website pages and unique content is already a start to SEO. Even building pages for PPC is actually helpful for SEO - however, what we're debating here is if we only have enough time to TRULY invest in one or the other (i.e. - pay an agency to do).
Before you decide which side is more valuable for your business, make sure you clearly understand the difference between the two.
Pay Per Click (PPC) gets your nickels and dimes involved up front. Through a PPC program, like Google AdWords, you create ads targeting certain search terms. You only pay, though, when someone actually clicks on your ad. We could target “PPC Management” and have one of our ads show in the second ad position on Google. Then we’d pay when people click on our ad, hence the extremely straightforward pay-per-click name. If they don’t click on us, the only thing we miss out on is a possible lead. There’s much more that goes into it all, but your get the gist.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your site to rank higher on search engines naturally. A huge concoction of keywords, original content, enhanced meta tags, backlinks, and more go into getting you a prime position in natural search results. When someone types in a keyword like “PPC Management” we want to be as high as possible on those first pages on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Because really, who goes past page 1 anyway?
If you pay for PPC, then SEO is free and clearly a better pick! Not really. A huge bonus to being SEO-focused is how DIRECTLY affordable it is in comparison to PPC, but that doesn’t mean it’s free. For one, you’re paying for a ton of time and hard work for your SEO strategies to bring about some results. Your cost here is labor - a whole lot of manual labor. Who's writing those unique articles? Who's reaching out to company after company trying to get backlinks? Who's going through the code on your website to ensure best technical SEO practices? As any business owner knows, labor is expensive.
However, think of things from the searcher’s point of view. Would you trust the natural listings over the ones that say “Ad” next to them? Most people do. Organic results are much more likely to get clicked because they are more trustworthy. Regardless of how much someone knows about SEO, we all trust Google. The organic results show what Google deems most relevant to your query, while the paid advertising spots could lead you to an iffy business that has the deep pockets necessary to secure a top ad position. Focusing on SEO and getting those top rankings naturally will create instant trust between your business and new visitors. The part that sucks is how long it can take to get to those coveted positions on the page.
From the business side, focusing on improving your organic ranking can bring in better leads and traffic. Do you think people feel bad when they click on your ad and then immediately leave because it wasn’t what they wanted? No, they don’t even think about it or realize that their innocent click just cost you $10 to $20. That’s not even mentioning the spammy clicks you could be receiving that run your budget dry. This is less likely to affect you when people are clicking through to your website from an organic listing.
When you take the PPC route, you’re paying to play. The advantage to this is that you don’t have to wait months to see some results. They can happen right away. Instant gratification is great, right?
Running PPC campaigns has the potential to get your business in front of your audience immediately, for multiple search terms. The downside is how much you could be paying in order to do that. If you’re in a highly competitive industry, prepare to spend some money. You could be spending big bucks for each click you get, so you better be confident that those clicks will pay for themselves with genuine leads.
Setting up and managing PPC campaigns also eats up a ton of your time. While some business owners tend to set up and run the campaigns, you’ll only truly see the benefits if you constantly manage the account and know what you're doing. It’s a good idea to make the move to hire a PPC professional to handle this - we've seen numerous businesses waste thousands due to their lack of knowledge. That way your money isn’t wasted because of lack of time or you not knowing AdWords inside and out. PPC is definitely the more expensive option, no doubt about it, but you at least have control over whether that payment comes in the form of money wasted on an ignored campaign, or an investment to better your business.
They both have their strengths and weaknesses. SEO is the less "directly" expensive option with better long-term benefits and value…but only if you’re willing to put in the work and be patient. On the other hand, PPC could lead to some instant traffic and sales, but is only beneficial if it’s being done correctly so you aren’t ignorantly pouring money into campaigns.
Focusing on both PPC and SEO is a course of action everyone should take because they’re both important - in fact, almost everything you do to your website has an effect on SEO anyway. It’s a matter of how much you focus on one versus the other. Like most things, this varies by your situation.
Did you just launch a business? It’s going to take you quite awhile to get some SEO traction. In this case, running some PPC campaigns can get your brand out there in front of your audience right away. It’s also a great option to promote special offers, limited time sales, etc. This way you aren’t relying solely on PPC to bring in traffic. You can focus on SEO, and use PPC wisely to highlight certain moments where it’s appropriate to invest some money in advertising space.
Let us take a look at your website, and we’ll let you know which direction is right for your business.
Roger Parent is the Owner and Founder of Digital Position. He's been a developer, designer, and online marketer for almost 10 years spanning a variety of markets. He's also a very "passionate" (overly competitive) volleyball player.