Pay-per-click and SEO are both effective methods for increasing a business’ site traffic. But which is the most effective?
For new sites, or old sites without strong SEO rankings, PPC is a quick way to increase traffic. PPC requires high attention to detail, and in exchange for an immediate result, it costs money upfront. Implementing an SEO strategy also requires a substantial effort, but its results are longer-term.
Both strategies should be implemented to drive engagement, sales, and to improve a site’s search results.
How PPC works
Pay-per-click (PPC), also called search engine marketing (SEM) by marketers, is a form of online advertising where a business pays a search engine or a publisher every time their ad receives a click. Marketers can pay to have a banner ad on a website, or to have their ads shown by search engines.
The most popular form of PPC is search engine marketing (SEM). SEM enables marketers to place bid on a keyword that their target demographic is likely to search. If their bid is high enough, the ad will be shown to searchers. Each time a searcher clicks on a marketer’s ad, they pay the search engine their bid price. In exchange, the marketer sends searchers to their website.
SEM marketers must develop a keyword strategy. Because various-sized companies with different marketing budgets bid on similar keyword phrases, keyword strategies entail identifying phrases that drive the most return on investment. The process of developing an SEM keyword strategy requires attention to detail, constant measurement, and focused ad campaigns.
Successful pay-per-click and SEM campaigns drive immediate results, however they also require an up-front capital investment.
How SEO works
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the marketing practice of making a website easier for a target demographic to find using search engines. Marketers often employ content marketing strategies to make their website visible on the first few pages of a search engine query. According to the Oxford Dictionary, SEO is, “The process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”
SEO has zero up-front cost, but the implementation of a successful SEO strategy takes time and effort, and its results are typically not immediate. Some keywords are highly competitive and are difficult to rank for without an extensive marketing team, or a multiple-year history of optimizing around that phrase.
Although SEO requires continual effort, it has long-term effects. Once a page is indexed, it remains searchable indefinitely.
When is PPC appropriate and when is SEO appropriate?
When to prioritize PPC versus SEO is different for every business, depending on the existing holes in its online presence, the industry, and its marketing budget. Despite the differing needs of businesses, PPC and SEO each offer unique opportunities that are beneficial in specific instances. On a scale of having a small to a large budget, and only a few months, to more than a few months to increase site traffic, here’s how both PPC and SEO can be leveraged efficiently.
- Minimal marketing budget and more than three months to increase site traffic. When a business has ample time, but limited funds to increase its site traffic, SEO offers an opportunity to increase traffic for free. This assumes that employees of the business are capable of writing keyword-targeted articles and implementing an overall SEO strategy.
- Moderate marketing budget but less than three months to increase site traffic. With a moderate marketing budget, but limited time to drive more traffic to its site, a business could prioritize PPC over SEO, but in reality it should employ both. PPC offers a business with minimal time the opportunity to launch a few highly-targeted campaigns. Instead of bidding on competitive keywords, a business with limited advertising funds should focus its campaigns around highly-specified longtail keywords. Meanwhile, they should also begin writing informative articles focused around their target keywords.
- Large marketing budget and more than three months to increase site traffic. With both a large marketing budget and a significant amount of time to increase site traffic, businesses should launch PPC campaigns while beginning to blog several times a week. If the business’ budget is large enough, because PPC requires high attention to detail, they should consider hiring PPC experts such as Zero Down PPC to manage their campaigns.
- Large marketing budget and less than three months to increase site traffic. Businesses with large marketing budgets and a small amount of time to increase their site traffic should focus their efforts on PPC campaigns. Due to the fact that such businesses have minimal time to take advantage of the PPC strategy learning curve, they may also benefit from hiring PPC experts to manage their campaigns.
The benefits of integrating PPC into a marketing plan
Regardless of how much time and money a business has to dedicate to increasing its site traffic or sales, pay per click advertising is an effective marketing tool with multiple strategic benefits.
- Faster testing. Every business website’s ultimate goal should be to drive conversions, or to increase sales opportunities. There are inherently numerous variables relating to a website’s design that impact whether or not a conversion takes place. Some of those variables include calls-to-action, website design and colors, copy, landing pages, as well as numerous other factors. Running a PPC campaign is a reliable and immediate way to drive traffic to a specific part of a website to test it’s effectiveness.
- Algorithm instability-proof. As algorithms change, sometimes web traffic to a site can experience dramatic drops in traffic. Should this happen, PPC is a way to maintain traffic to a site while the SEO strategy catches up to search engine algorithm changes.
- Easily control the budget. Unlike with other forms of advertising, PPC allows a business to control its daily, weekly, or monthly budget by designating how much it can spend.
Balanced marketing efforts
In a perfect world, a businesses would invest in both pay-per-click advertising and SEO strategies. But every business goes through financial shifts and crunches. Businesses looking for immediate results should focus on PPC. Businesses looking to build a long-term following and increase brand awareness should emphasize their SEO efforts. As one strategy succeeds, a business can put effort into balancing its marketing efforts to include both pay-per-click and SEO campaigns.