SEO vs. PPC: Choosing a Strategy that Fits Your Marketing Goals

Last week we discussed what SEO and PPC were, and a bit about their differences. Even if you understand the basics, it may be hard to determine which is right for your marketing needs. So how do you pick between the two, or must you even choose? AJ Kumar, in an Entrepreuner article, suggests to consider these three questions when deciding whether SEO or PPC are right for your business:

  1. How large is your website advertising budget?
  2. How high are the CPCs in your industry?
  3. How competitive are the SERPs in your niche?

Let’s break these three questions down and explain why they matter.

1. How large is your website advertising budget?

As we discussed last week, SEO is your “free” option when it comes to generating traffic, whereas PPC is the “paid” option. So in choosing between SEO and PPC, you first need to decide what size advertising budget your business can support. With PPC campaigns, we suggest at minimum a $5.00 per day budget.

If you have a very minimal budget to commit to advertising, you’ll need to stick with free SEO methods. But if you have even a little capital to invest in PPC advertising, consider giving it a try because it offers a number of benefits, as AJ Kumar explains, including:

  • “Faster testing. Websites should focus on achieving conversion, whether it’s selling products, signing up email newsletter subscribers or some other action. That means actively testing website variables to improve conversion rates. These tests, however, require traffic to generate data, so you might want to purchase traffic through PPC advertising to get faster results.”
  • “Protection from SEO algorithm updates. One major weakness of SEO is that algorithms change from time to time. When that happens, sites that have been optimized in one way can lose rankings — and profits — practically overnight. But when you pay for traffic, you’re assured a steady stream of visitors, no matter what changes Google and the other search engines make.”

2. How high are the average CPCs in your industry?

While setting your budget, also take a look at what others in your industry are spending on CPC, if possible.

PPC platforms typically allow users to bid what they’re willing to pay for a single keyword click — a fee that’s referred to as “cost-per-click” (CPC). In Google Adwords, for example, broader keywords and keyword phrases, such as “hearing aids,” require a much higher bid than more narrow-focused keywords or keyword phrases, such as “audiologist Bala Cynwyd PA”

If you wish to run PPC campaigns for very broad keywords and phrases you will need a higher budget to have a successful campaign.

3. How competitive are the SERPs in your niche?

Your strategy will also depend on how competitive your search engine results pages (SERPs) are in your industry. For example, if you would like to rank #1 for “hearing aids” you’d be competing with Starkey, Mayo Clinic, NIDCD, and ASHA. But the more specific the niche (specialties and areas) the less competition for top SERP rankings.

In the most competitive industries, you may find that results pages for your target keywords are dominated by authority websites. They can be nearly impossible to displace without a significant investment of time and money. In such cases, it may ultimately make more sense to pay for traffic via PPC promotions.

But it’s almost never necessary to make an “either-or” choice between SEO and PPC. When combined, PPC and SEO are powerful tools. By asking yourself these three questions above, you can begin to determine the optimal mix of PPC and SEO for your website.

Are ALL of Your Employees Selling?

For reasons that appear to be rooted in our sub-conscious, the phrase “to sell” or “selling” evokes a negative emotion. In an attempt to make it more palatable professionals refer to the process as “a consultation”, “an evaluation” or any number of other equally and occasionally interesting terms.

If your objective is charity work, then give your service or product away for free. However if you aren’t independently wealthy you typically have to sell something to make money. You can have the best marketing program on the planet, but if 8 out of 10 people who come through your door leave with out buying anything, you won’t be in business very long.

What is Selling?

To sell, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, means to persuade another to recognize the worth or desirability of something. Too often the belief is that the product, whatever the product is and the attributes of the product should be all it takes to buy the product.

Wrong, customers buy with their emotions long before the rational part of their brain kicks in. While that’s easy to understand when it comes to some products (clothing, cars, weight loss programs and creams that remove wrinkles), it’s true of everything that you buy.

The sales process for any product can be very complicated. Many factors are involved. But more often than not it’s because everyone from the person who answers the phone to the person who checks you out understands that they are selling the customer. They are persuading the customer to choose your company for what they need or want to buy.

  • Yes it was a great idea to call us.
  • Yes, we’re so happy you came in today.
  • Yes, I am here to help you and if I can’t help you I promise to find someone who can help you.
  • Yes I really am thanking you for coming in today! I recognize that without you I don’t have a job.

See our tips of effectively selling in last week’s blog post, here.

Your Employees and Selling

Every so often really listen to and watch how your staff interacts with your customers. Do they grasp that the customer is important and that the customer is the reason they have a job? Or do they act annoyed because the customer interrupted whatever task they were in the middle of? Everything your employees do, even if they are not in an explicit “sales” role, should be persuading the customer to choose your company’s product or service.

It may sound corny, but from a customer’s perspective this is going to go one of two ways. I’m sold or I walk. It makes more sense to make sure that every step along the way gives the customer one more reason to say yes instead of one more reason to say no.

Can You Prepare Your Business for the Future?

Death and taxes….the only certainties in life. Why anyone thinks its going to be any different when you decide to open a small business is not clear to me.

John Boitnott wrote a great article that was published recently in Inc. magazine, and it’s worth sharing.

There’s just no way to completely prepare for the future of your business. All you can do is stay up to date on current trends, forge quality relationships and above all, never assume.

If you’ve been in business for decades, you understand that circumstances change and unforeseeable events occur. While you can’t read the future, you can make smart choices to prepare well for it. Not only will this provide you peace of mind, but you’re more likely to respond quickly and effectively when trouble strikes.

What Causes Uncertainty?

As much as we desire control and predictability, uncertainty is a permanent fixture in business. While conditions may seem unfair at times, it’s important to remember that most people are exposed to the same effects. A brief look at various facets of business shows that at least three uncontrollable factors can have a profound effect on your operations:

Economic conditions

If the recent recession taught us anything, it’s that small mistakes compounded over time and across the nation can have drastic consequences. When an entire nation’s economy hits a rough patch, this may require companies to cut back on resources, hiring, and expenditures. Have a plan in place.

Illness

Whether it’s a flu bug traveling through the office or a more serious global issue like the Ebola outbreak, illness is something you can’t plan for but it can lead to serious consequences.

Shifts in consumer behavior

One reason many businesses eventually have to close up shop is that consumers demand change. A product that satisfies a need or addresses a pain point in the present may not do the same in six months, a year, or five years.

Preparing for Uncertainty: Practical Tips

By nature, not all future events can be fully prepared for, but you can equip your company with the tools necessary to fend off potential threats by developing specific plans for certain situations. Here are some practical tips designed to help your company prepare for the unknown:

Stay in the know.

It’s easy to get caught up in your own little world or bubble, but that’s an important trap to avoid. One of the best ways to combat financial uncertainty is to stay abreast of economic indicators. By educating yourself on the general state of the economy, what decisions are being made at the national level, and how economic forecasts might affect your industry, you can put yourself a step ahead of others.

Prepare for multiple outcomes.

It’s wise to stop assuming the most likely outcome will turn up at the conclusion of every situation. A successful company prepares for multiple outcomes regardless of what’s expected. Foresight enables you to respond effectively in all circumstances. The best way to prepare is to include all departments and employees in the planning process. You’ll get fresh, unique perspectives that are more likely to result in critical and innovative thinking.

Consistently review.

A forward-thinking company understands the value of analysis. Are you consistently reviewing your business plan to ensure it is current? This is a particularly helpful way to combat changes in consumer demands. If your business plan is still addressing the needs of customers as they were five years ago, the odds are it’s out of date and in danger of extinction.

Build relationships.

In times of real trouble, is a computer going to help you regain solid footing? It’s possible, but unlikely. What you really need is support from peers and partners. The best investment you can make for future stability is relationship building. Whether it’s tough times in a struggling economy, a lack of resources, or changes in demand, healthy business relationships can help you weather the rough patches.

You’ve heard it said many times: the only certainty in life is change. This is particularly true in business, where unpredictably has been at an all-time high in the past decade. Are you properly prepared for the uncertainty into which your company is surely headed?

Establishing an Advertising Budget

The advertising process starts with the same steps each time.

  • What is my advertising budget?
  • Where do I advertise?
  • What is the message?
  • What is the call to action?

Sometimes the process is carefully planned and based on historical data that has been meticulously accumulated over years. Most of the time the process seems to be less structured and based more on the following.

  • Ugh, I should probably run an ad.
  • “Hi, this is John from the paper, do you want to run an ad?”
  • There are no appointments next week, no sales; no customers quick run an ad.

You get the idea.

Advertising/Marketing should be an ongoing process. Something should always be running. This article will focus on step on “establishing an advertising budget”.

Establishing an Advertising Budget

You don’t have an unlimited advertising budget (even Coca Cola has a limit on their ad budget). You know how many sales/customers you need every month to generate the revenue you need every month. Hopefully you’ve been tracking some of data coming into your office well enough o know the following two pieces of information:

  • Your Cost Per Lead (CPL) per medium/venue
  • Your Return on Investment (ROI) of each marketing piece you’ve done.

If you don’t know your CPL and the ROI spend the next month getting some idea of what that is before you set a marketing budget. If know the CPL and ROI which venues have the best CPL and/or ROI in your market?

Cost Per Lead (CPL)

This is the amount of money it takes to bring one customer through your doors. You can have one across the board CPL or ideally you should be aware of the CPL by venue (ex. newspaper, social media advertising, direct mail).

Return on Investment (ROI)

The ROI is how much profit you’ve made from your ads compared to how much you’ve spent on those ads. ROI measures the ratio of your profits to your advertising costs. Return minus cost divided by the cost.

For example, your total sales for an ad was $10,000, and the ad cost you $2,000. Your ROI is ($10,000 – $2,000/ $2,000, or 400%. Still confused? Click here for a handy online ROI calculator.

Putting it All Together

You’ve determined that you need to generate $50,000 every month. In your business this equates to needing 15 customers each month. Your cost per lead is $350. Your advertising budget will need to be $5,250 to draw 15 customers to your office each month.

Why Assess ROI?

Assessing the ROI will allow you to better plan next month’s budget. The goal is to utilize marketing that has the highest ROI which in turn should reduce the CPL ultimately reducing the money you have to spend on advertising each month to get those 15 leads, money that flows directly to your bottom line.

Marketing is part art, part science. The one thing it should never be is an afterthought.

Thank You From the Jersey Shore

Rather than dispense information, we’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you.

We live at the Jersey Shore.  The images presented by the media pale in comparison to the reality of what many here have experienced.  Our emergency shelters are overflowing and more are requiring assistance every hour.  Many have lost everything they have. Entire communities have been decimated.

We know that many of our clients have been impacted and are reaching out for assistance.  If you live close to an area impacted by the storm and can provide business assistance to someone else, please let us know. We’ll provide a connection between those who need help and those who want to help whenever possible.

The image above is my kids from one of the last days of the summer at our favorite beach, Seaside Park, NJ.  Disasters impact everyone, some more directly than others.  We appreciate the kind gestures made by many of our clients and vendor partners over the past week  Your generosity and kindness during a very difficult time will not be forgotten.