SEO vs. PPC – If you have to pick just one.

June 29, 2011

SEO vs. PPC

In most cases, businesses should focus on both SEO and PPC. There are a number of benefits from engaging in both methods of search engine marketing at the same time. First and foremost, combining these strategies gives you the opportunity to have double exposure on the first page for any given search phrase. You could have a spot in the PPC ad space as well as a spot in the organic search results. However, if you must make a choice between SEO vs. PPC, this guide was created for you.

SEO vs. PPC, if you have to pick just one.

When SEO makes more sense:

  • If you have at least 3 months to obtain your desired results. It could take longer than 3 months and there are never any guarantees. But if you can’t stomach waiting at least 3 months to see some improvement, look elsewhere. It often takes over a week just for the search engines to cache a title tag change. Let alone vastly improve your ranking.
  • PPC can get real expensive and it’s here today, gone tomorrow. If you spend 5k on PPC ads this week, that money is gone, and hopefully you’ve converted some of that traffic. If you spend 5k on an SEO campaign, you could see benefits for years to come. Via links that continue to drive traffic, a better optimized website (the gift that keeps on giving), and an easier to use website. Also, most SEOs will typically setup analytics and conversion tracking for you. Just make sure you trust them to keep the analytics account up and running if you cancel the SEO.
  • Some people just don’t click on PPC ads. I am the type of person that rarely clicks on PPC ads and I’ve never made a purchase from clicking on a PPC ad.
  • Sometimes your keywords might have such a low monthly search volume, that search engines simply won’t display PPC ads for the search phrase.

When PPC makes more sense, if you must choose.

  • If you need to rank immediately for a phrase and you currently rank outside the top 50.
  • If you aren’t sure what keywords to focus on, and your keywords are highly competitive short-tail phrases. Short-tail phrases can be much harder to rank for and usually take more time. So before you invest in months of SEO work, a PPC campaign can quickly help you figure out what keywords might be the best for you. Alternatively, in a lot of cases, long-tail phrases or location based phrases can be obtained fairly efficiently with an SEO campaign. For those of you who don’t know the difference between long-tail and short tail phrases, it’s pretty simple; “Web Design” would be a short-tail highly competitive phrase and “Web Design Firms in Utah” would be a much less competitive long-tail phrase.
  • If you want to A/B test marketing phrases. If you spend months of work getting to page 1 with an SEO campaign, you don’t want to be changing the title tag and meta description on a weekly basis. For the novices out there, your title tag and meta description are typically what search engines display in their search results. Changing your title tag could impact your ranking. And even if you did change it, it would take time to cache, and it would be tricky to monitor. PPC is designed and built for the very task of A/B testing. In addition to displaying your ad, most PPC campaigns typically default to the search engine automatically determining which variations of your ads result in higher click-through rates (CTR), and they display the higher CTR ads more frequently . Remember to check for this setting and make sure you have it the way you want it.

I hope I’ve given you some new insight on the decision between SEO and PPC. And preferably you have the budget for both, as when combined, they make each other stronger.

If you have any questions, hit me up on twitter @redoliveryan. And you can follow our entire team here.

One Response to “SEO vs. PPC – If you have to pick just one.”

  1. It’s easy to tell business owners who have websites that both SEO and PPC are important, but you’ve outlined clearly why each is important as well as what their limitations are. You’ve ultimately shown the pros and cons of both SEO and PPC, and in so doing, explained a little bit about how they work. Excellent post!