Search Engine Optimization vs Pay-Per-Click – the difference between two old friends

The search engine marketing world is a battlefield that is highly contested between SEO or search engine optimization and PPC or pay-per-click advertising.

It was expected that search spending would rise 27 percent in 2012 to more than $19.5 billion dollars. In addition, it was predicted that spending will increase by at least an added $10 billion by 2016. This is an indication that online advertising expenditures will continue its growth trend, in spite of the slower pace projected in the years that will lead up to 2016.

So, what impact does that have on SEO?

An online marketing survey was conducted by e-commerce solutions provider, Fortune 3, from July 2011 to January 2012 and the respondents were online marketing retailers. The following is a result of that survey; the questions have been paraphrased:

Where did you see your best return on investment (ROI) in online marketing in 2011?

30 percent of the respondents had the best results with SEO.
19 percent of businesses had their biggest ROI with Google Adwords PPC marketing, which is also known as Search Engine Marketing.

In 2012, where will you place your main focus as it relates to online marketing?

56 percent of respondents stated that their focus would be placed on SEO, as a means of driving more customers to their websites.
15 percent of respondents indicated that their online marketing focus would be placed on Google Adwords, citing PPC as a quick method of getting instant traffic.

In 2012, where will you allocate the majority of your budget?

26 percent of respondents indicated that they would spend the majority of their budget on SEO.
19 percent of respondents indicated that they would spend the majority of their budget on Google Adwords PPC .

The results of the survey reveal that retailers in e-commerce will continue to concentrate their efforts on SEO, given that this is where the majority of respondents got their best results. However, the question remains, « which strategy for online marketing is better? »

It is finally time to determine which of these two kinds of search engine marketing tools is number one. We will begin by highlighting the pros and cons of each tool:



Quick Startup
In the event that you would like to rank quickly, then PPC is the way to go. Setting up a PPC campaign by way of advertising services offered by providers such as Microsoft (Adcenter) and Google (Adwords)takes only a few hours. This setup can also be accomplished in 3 relatively uncomplicated steps: campaign creation, ad creation and bidding on the search terms.

Improved Ad Positioning
The advertisements can be more prominently displayed on the right side at the top and/or down below on the organic search results in the SERPs, which is the Search Engine Results Pages. Organic results will be pushed further down the SERPs. In spite of the claims of a number of individuals that sponsored links, in comparison to organic links are not so trustworthy, there are typically higher rate of conversion coming from PPC when compared to SEO. The premise is that individuals have a tendency to find what they are searching for via the paid results more so than from the organic results.

Easing the Process of Data Tracking and Settings Editing
Data tracking is seamless with information that is highly measurable and quantifiable. In addition, the campaign configuration can be customized quite easily to your specifications. Things such as keywords, ads, budget and bids can be all edited in a matter of minutes and with simply a few clicks. This is extremely useful in the event that you would like to rank for and target new keywords.

Geographic Targeting
You can focus your campaigns on targeting only specific regions. This allows you to show you campaign in designated locations; for example, your campaign can be targeted at a particular state, rather than the entire country.

PPC Cons

When all is said and done, it is all about the money. Essentially, you get whatever it is that you pay for. As it relates to PPC, you get « clicks. » It is all good when the ROI is fast and high; however, what happens if it is not? Over time, the costs are simply going to pile up. Additionally, the competitive nature of keywords can become a lot more difficult over time and that means more money has to be shelled out.

The quick ranking of your website is the essence of PPC. However, that does not guarantee success. Attention-grabbing ads and correct keyword targeting will draw in clicks whereas landing pages that are well-optimized will have greater chances of getting conversions but unfortunately, this does not always come about overnight. Numerous, continuous testing is required for this to happen and will generate high costs over time.

Sole Dependency
Solely depending on the PPC campaigns to market your website is not a good idea because you will be in huge trouble if it fails to stop displaying your ads at any point. The most common reason that this could happen is budget limitations. When the ads completely stop or slow down, the traffic percentage that was generated from the PPC campaigns will vanish.

SEO - search engine optimization

SEO Pros

Basically « free »
In contrast to PPC, you do not pay out money for each click on your website. Organic search results ranking is due to doing best practices and no direct form of payment is required.

Long-Term ROI
Links are important to organic search results ranking. Backlinks of high quality will greatly boost your website if the link is live, its effect remains.

Studies indicate that an average click ratio of about 70:30 in organic search results’ favor. In the long run, there will be more possible conversions with SEO than with PPC.

SEO Cons

Slow Startup
SEO initiatives might not have any immediate effect. For example, in case your website is on the fourth SERPs page, it is farfetched that you will reach on the first page in only a few days. Six months would be the safest bet.

Clearly, each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Therefore, how do you determine which one to concentrate your efforts on? Are you actually limited to only one of them?

It may be a good idea to think about applying the best of what SEO and PPC have to offer. Can you have a integrated effort between the two? Let us explore the possibilities.

1. Increased Visibility
If you should ask marketing specialists out there the reason why they do the things they do, they would tell you that they do them to establish increased visibility for the brands that they are promoting. It is the most basic of the basics. The more exposure that you get, the higher will the chances be of individuals taking notice of you. In the event that you are able to dominate the PPC and SEO sections in SERPs, there is no doubt there will be an increase in traffic. Having a firm foothold in the market will add credibility to the image of your brand.

2. More Data Is Always A Plus
Simultaneously using PPC and SEO campaigns provides you with more data to work with. In case you are considering which keywords to target for the organic campaigns, trying them out first with the PPC campaigns would be a very good idea. Once the best converted keywords have been determined, then your SEO can be integrated with them. Similarly, if some of the keywords are too hard to rank for SEO use, then you can simply choose PPC initiatives for them.

The content of your page, meta descriptions, title tags and other on-page factors all matter for both PPC and SEO. It becomes too time-consuming to rely solely on SEO to get your testing done. In addition to the keywords, PPC ads could be used for the purposes of testing as well. Using the description lines and headline to test your meta descriptions and title tags respectively is a great strategy to use.

Having a high quality score is vital as a means of decreasing CPC or cost-per-click and increasing the position of your ads in the SERPs. The key is making your landing pages and ads very relevant to each other. Being aware of the best SEO practices, such as page layout and content writing can help you to structure and design the most effective landing pages for the ads.

3. Utilize Campaigns That Require Immediate Results
It is time for PPC to take over when SEO no longer has the capacity to fulfill the requirements of your business; for example, when you are running a marketing campaign that is time-sensitive. Typically, these are the seasonal campaigns as in the case of when you are running a website for clothing and you would like to promote the spring collection, by the time the SEO initiatives begin to kick in, it could be summer before its effectiveness is seen.

Another example would be to counter destructive public relations. In the event that you run a website for fast food and an article is circulating that is rapidly disseminating bad rumors about the business, damage control will need to be initiated as soon as possible. Counteract the bad publicity by targeting the same keywords.

4. Balance Your Costs
As is widely known, PPC is an acronym for paid per click. Imagine paying about $6 for each click for a keyword that is business-related. If that is multiplied by 50, you will be paying approximately $300 for only that keyword alone. Getting approximately 50 clicks a day would be quite easy. To cut costs, you should think about gradually transitioning to SEO once the keywords that convert best have been established.

This shows that PPC and SEO strategies are not contradicting of each other; they are actually quite complementary. What is lacking in one, is made up for in the other and vice-versa. Ultimately, both strategies have the single aim of providing the best results to users for the purpose of getting the most possible number of conversions. Therefore, integrating the two strategies is the most effective approach.

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