Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay per click (PPC) campaigns are two of the main ways of attracting leads to your website, but which should you be focusing on? And can a blend of the two exist?
Although SEO and PPC are both digital marketing techniques, they battle each other for attention and some people don’t realise the differences. This post provides some of the major benefits and drawbacks to each discipline, to help marketers make informed decisions on their campaigns.
SEO – The benefits
Flexibility – SEO allows a business to be creative around their campaigns and ideas to drive traffic towards a site. New ideas can be trialled and interesting copy can be written for the site and through article marketing and blogging. This often gives the business some great readable content for their users. Try Traffic Player for WordPress for even more content ideas.
Holistic approach – SEO offers a holistic approach to a business, starting with the website as the source. Sometimes people are so focused on spending big money to attract traffic to their site, that they don’t realise the website is poor and does not offer a good user experience. SEO helps develop a website from scratch, and concentrates on the content being high quality and interesting.
Technical perfection – A website is often the beacon of light for a business that heavily relies on their online trading. SEO encourages the site to be built as best as it can be, with fantastic load times and strong site architecture. This can reduce bounce rates and encourage users to stay on-site longer to possibly convert or meet a goal.
Affordability – SEO is fairly affordable, and when link building; good content often finds a home itself. Although some tools are paid for, the majority of SEO work is low in cost and does not hit the profit margin on a conversion as hard as a PPC lead.
Planning ahead – With the exception of major algorithm changes, SEO is a fairly long term approach, and benefits of your work can be seen for months, or sometimes years to come. This means SEO can attract slow and steady business without the risk of budget changes and soaring costs per click.
SEO – The drawbacks
Ethics – Ethical SEO is becoming harder and harder, with more companies pushing their products and services to page 1, that shouldn’t really be there. It means some of the really relevant companies who don’t link build as hard, are left in the dust of more aggressive competitors.
Black hat techniques – Although Google are cracking down on it, a lot of SEO work is black hat and under the radar. The ways in which SEO obtain their links and conduct their business is become increasingly shady, and there is not always the accountability.
The wrath of Google – A major algorithm change, or a bad link or two can cause a site to plummet out of the rankings. This puts a high level of risk on some SEO activities, meaning that some SEOs can play a dirty game to knock out competitors or ‘spam’ up ex-clients. Getting burned can often take months to repair the damage.
PPC – The benefits
Accountability – PPC is very controlled and measured, and all aspects of the journey to sale can be accounted for and reported. This means you can attribute business directly to the PPC campaign and see what key words they have searched for to come into the site. This creates accountable campaigns can demonstrate their own success, unlike a lot of other services.
Ease – It is pretty ease to get started on a PPC campaign with little experience. You can do some simple keyword research, set a budget and let it go. SEO sometimes involves complicated processes and a mix of different techniques working together to obtain results.
Relevance – By setting the key words you want to target, and creating the copy for your ads and time and place of displaying, you are able to get highly relevant traffic to your site. It is not always the number of visitors you get, but more the number who are likely to purchase or complete a goal. PPC campaigns are able to get people on the website who are highly interested in your product or service based on their seach terms.
Targeting hard terms – Some terms are hard to optimise for because they are so competitive. PPC means you can compete with the big players who are ranking highly, even if you don’t. Some words are so hard to rank for, that it might make sense to target these with a PPC campaign.
PPC – The drawbacks
Price – PPC campaigns are often very expensive and each click can sometimes cost a small fortune if they key term is competitive. The price means you are often paying big money for a lead, and even if they don’t convert, you’ve had to pay for their visit. PPC campaigns are not always very sustainable and the high costs can lead to business profit margins being driven down.
Longevity – PPC campaigns are only running whilst you are paying for them, and as soon as you stop, so do the adverts. This can lead to a huge drop in traffic on your site. An SEO campaign will show the effects a long time after the link building has stopped.
Risks – Upping your budget to increase sales can often be a risk. The costs of PPC campaigns are so high that doubling a budget can sometimes be a risky move to a small business who rely on the campaigns so heavily. PPC campaigns are fairly one dimensional, and relying completely on this method is a risk.
Sending traffic to a bad site – If your site is unoptimised or has bugs, you can sometimes be sending traffic to a website that is not conversion optimised. This means your PPC budget is being wasted and a lot of users will bounce. The user experience may be poor and the copy might be horrible to read. A well optimised site should have had these problems addressed.
The answer is to do everything better than your competitors. Can you get more links, of higher quality, and have better content on your website? If you can optimise better then you will see the results on the SERPs. If you are competing for some highly competitive search terms, then a PPC campaign can work well here. At the end of the day it is totally subjective, but a blend of the two can help a website cover all areas by targeting power pages and deeper ones, over a variety of terms. You shouldn’t become heavily reliant on any one technique, because doing both helps your contingency plan if something goes wrong. After all, the digital landscape is always changing.
Steve is an SEO Engineer focusing on ethical SEO for Internet Marketing Strategy success.