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.

SEO vs. PPC: What Are They?

You have two options when it comes to boosting traffic to your site: SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”) and PPC (or “Pay per Click”). But what do these actually mean? All jokes aside, you really should know what these acronyms mean for your digital marketing campaigns. Let’s dive into each.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘earned’ results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.”

In plain English, SEO is the “free” or “organic” way to earn traffic to your website. SEO means employing different strategies to affect search engines’ algorithms in order to get a good ranking in their searches. The lower your ranking (ie. being #1 in search results) gets your website more visibility, which in turn means more visitors coming to your site. In order for SEO to work, you need to be in the top results of a search, because, let’s face it, when’s the last time you looked at the 10th result in Google, let alone the second page? In order to be in the top results for searches related to your business or website, your website must be optimized for SEO.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Wikipedia defines PPC (also known as cost per click or CPC) as “an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner or a host of website) when the ad is clicked. It is defined simply as “the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked.”

To break it down, essentially PPC is the “paid” option (notice “PAY” per click) to earn traffic to your website. Ads are set up to be shown on different publishers’ sites and displayed when a relevant keyword is searched or when the page has relevant content to the ad set. These campaigns are what you see as “sponsored ads” on sites like Google or Facebook. You pay each time a visitor clicks the ad to your site. If your ad is never clicked, you are never charged.

There is a big different between these two traffic strategies. Your marketing needs and budget determine which strategy or mix of these strategies is best suited to meet your marketing goals. We will discuss the difference between the two and pros and cons of each in the coming weeks.