I am often asked by clients if Search Engine Optimization is better for advertising their businesses than pay per click, and the answer depends entirely upon what your business goals are. Are your products or services new and exclusive within the marketplace? Is specialized knowledge required to use the product or service? Does your business have a good reputation? These and other questions must be answered before it can be reliably determined whether Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click is best for your business.
So, let us begin by considering the differences between Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click.
Search Engine Optimization isn’t just the process of implementing Google, Bing, and Yahoo best practices to ensure that it ranks high within the organic search results for particular keywords and keyword phrases. It is also necessary to be recognized by the top 3 search engines as being an authority on the subject matter encompassed by your website and the pages therein. The big 3 are also concerned about how visitors interact with your website. Which includes important details like how long they stay on your website, whether they return to your website, and more than 200 other variables for each search engine algorithm.
Conversely, Pay Per Click advertising is comprised entirely of paid ad space that exists quite obviously outside of the organic listings presented on Search Results Pages. However, Pay Per Click advertising requires, even more, keyword research than SEO. Primarily because clients are paying for and expecting clicks that don’t just bring visitors but that create conversions. So the keywords and keyword phrases targeted by the Pay Per Click campaign absolutely must be highly targeted to people that are actively searching for a product or service with an immediate purchase in mind.
Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click, THAT is the question…
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization are two completely different creatures used for two completely different end games. Search Engine Optimization is for the long term. It is all about helping the search engines to present your listing only when it is the very best result to be shown for a given search by a particular searcher within a particular search area. SEO is also meant to promote you, your business and your website to the various search engines as the very best authority on the subject of whatever products or services you provide.
Pay Per Click on the other hand is best used to create momentum for a new brand, a new product, a new service. To get your links and your message immediately out in front of those most likely to be looking to buy your product or service right now. This builds your brand BEFORE you have a reputation and before you have standing with the search engines as an authority on the products or services you offer. Pay Per Click is for the business that has no market share but needs to grab it quickly or face the very real possibility of going out of business quickly.
The challenge of Pay Per Click is significant. Many search engine users don’t even look at the paid ad spaces. They ignore them as if they weren’t even there. This means that if you are going to use Pay Per Click advertising, then you need to be able to grab the searcher’s attention within about a 10-millisecond timeframe while their eyes are scanning over the paid ad space on their way to the organic listing that they are really interested in. It means that your PPC ad absolutely MUST be at the top or it might as well not be there.
This is accomplished in a number of ways. But it requires a coordinated SEO between the landing page for the ad and the wording of the ad itself and even the images used. All of this is this is being considered when the search engine’s algorithms are deciding where to place your ads in the ad space the same way they determine the organic listings. Relevance.
The long-term strategy is the best, least expensive, most reliable means of getting high-quality traffic to your website. Traffic that already has enough trust in you and your products or services to have clicked on you first and all of that means Search Engine Optimization.
While Search Engine Optimization isn’t free, it doesn’t require the additional cost of a monthly advertising budget. It is a long-term process though and as such it requires a dedicated budget for at least 12 months of managed Search Engine Optimization and monitoring of the all pages within the website and all links, posts, and images within each page.
Search Engine Optimization Mythology
As mentioned above, Pay Per Click has its place in the process of marketing new products and services. As it does in building brand awareness for startup businesses. The ROI on Pay Per Click campaigns can be quite impressive. Particularly when you put the emphasis on researching your keywords and keyword phrases. And carefully crafting your landing pages to reflect that research rather than throwing the most money at the search engines. Because the search engines are qualifying the relevance of the advertisers just as much as the organic listings. The top spot isn’t guaranteed to the highest paying advertiser. It is just as likely to go to the lowest paying advertiser if that advertiser’s keyword research and landing page relevance to the search terms in question is a better fit than the highest paying advertiser for the same keywords.
The Bottom Line… What does it all mean, REALLY?
As to whether Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click is better, well, it depends…
The bottom line is that regardless of how long you have been in business or how small your budget is. You can compete directly with the big corporations and their deep pockets. Just find the right business to manage either your SEO or your PPC, or both. The right business is the one with the skill and determination to achieve the research that provides results. Results provide the competitive edge you need to take market share from businesses with budgets intended to keep it.
Pay Per Click is the quick fix for traffic and conversions. Search Engine Optimization is the long-term solution to consistent traffic and sales. As is often the case, both will be necessary. SEO for your continued growth of traffic and conversions. Pay Per Click to promote awareness of new product lines, services offerings, and locations.
Ultimately, good SEO improves the effectiveness of good Pay Per Click. Both can get you to the top of the first search results page. But they differ in the money and time required to achieve the top spot and keep it. Choose your SEO and PPC consultant with great care and consideration. It is a decision that will have a profound effect on your future successes or the lack thereof.