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.

What are Google AdWords?

To better understand what Google AdWords are, you first need to understand pay per click.  Pay per click advertising appears at the top and right side of a search engine results page (SERP). Search engine marketing services work by associating your ad with a keyword or phrase related to your product or service. Any time that keyword is used in a search, your PPC advertisement will be shown on the search results page.

You only pay for PPC advertising when a customer actually clicks the link to visit your website. The cost charged for each click depends on popularity of the keyword, the search engine’s assessment of how descriptive the PPC ad and keyword are to your website, and how frequently your ad is clicked vs. your competitors’ ads. While PPC advertising shows up most often in search engine results, pay per click results may also appear on different advertising networks and various websites across the Internet.

Google AdWords

AdWords are specifically a Google service in which advertisers can bid on keywords to have their text or image ads appear on Google’s search network (search engine results pages) when someone searches for those keywords or on Google’s content network when the page being viewed is relevant to those keywords.  Bing and Yahoo have their version of AdWords, but the results are less than spectacular.

The difference between AdWords and other companies offering pay per click services is Google’s complicated and proprietary system.  The system is designed to assign a “quality score” to the landing pages to which ads direct viewers. If a landing page does not meet Google’s quality standards, the advertiser faces a choice: bid an unusually high amount to have the ad shown or improve the quality score of the landing page.

Google AdWords is Google’s main advertising product and main source of revenue. Google’s total advertising revenues were $42.5 billion in 2012. Their AdWords program includes local, national, and international distribution.

Working with Google AdWords is both a science and an art.