PPC vs SEO: Which Provides you the best value?

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Are you wondering whether SEO or PPC delivers you better value? Not sure about which method to take advantage of first?

You're not alone. This is a question that comes up often, and it's one that doesn't come with a simple answer. Generally speaking, it really depends on your specific situation and goals.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of PPC and SEO so you can make an informed decision in regards to which strategy makes the most sense for your business.

The differences between PPC (pay per click) and SEO (search engine optimization) are two-fold. Paid ads are found at the top of a search results page in Google, for example. This means that they appear above organic search listings.

SEO listings are often referred to as organic listings. Getting ranked organically via SEO methods means you don't pay when a searcher clicks on your listing. Using paid ads, of course, means you'll pay every time a searcher clicks.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Benefits

Page position - Searchers won't have the chance to miss your listing because paid ads usually appear in the first four positions on the search results page.

Increase brand visibility - A comprehensive paid ads campaign allows you to show up for multiple keywords related to your product or service. As your target market searches for various keyword phrases, they see your name multiple times at the top of the listings.

Visual possibilities - Taking advantage of the visible shopping ads option allows for improved click-through rates because people like to click on images.

More ad space - Since PPC ads are advertisements, there is usually more flexibility in terms of using sitelinks, calls, pricing, locations and callouts to make your presence stand out more than regular SEO listings.

Faster time to traffic - It's going to usually take some time for SEO to result in top rankings. PPC campaigns, on the other hand, can bring instant traffic.

Laser-targeting - PPC ad campaigns bring with them the ability to target in the following ways:

  • Day of the week
  • Keywords
  • Time of day
  • Language
  • Geography
  • Audiences
  • Device

Organic SEO traffic can't be predicted in this manner.

Stable traffic - Organic listings have the potential for some turbulence when search factors shift. While the paid ad environment isn't entirely devoid of disturbance, it is relatively more stable than the SEO listings. Once you get your PPC campaign working well, your rankings shouldn't shift very often.

PPC Disadvantages

A paid ad campaign requires constant investment. Once you stop paying for the campaign, the traffic immediately stops. If you have a successful ad campaign running where ROI is positive, this shouldn't be an issue. However, it's not as easy as some people would have you believe in getting a winning paid ad campaign dialed in.

In comparison, taking the time to ramp up your SEO efforts will result in long-term traffic without the constant ad payout required.

Keep in mind that PPC advertising can get quite expensive. This can occur when you get into a bidding war with competitors. As each side tries to outbid the other, costs have the potential to skyrocket. When you enter the market, you are taking a slice of traffic away from those who were there before you. As others come into the PPC space, they are now eating into your results. All of this adds up to higher costs over time.

PPC also takes constant monitoring in terms of what types of ads are working or not working. For example, you may have started with text ads for a group of keywords. Over time, new competitors may have entered the market and found success using product listings. You need to adjust your campaign now significantly.

Once you finally build a winning PPC ad campaign, it's relatively easy for your competitors to copy what you're doing. They can copy your ads, reverse engineer your entire funnel and eventually outbid you for the traffic you were previously counting on for sales.

Today's PPC world requires skilled optimization and management, such as mastering quality scores, bid monitoring, and click-through rates. You're going to need time to hone these skills or hire out a PPC expert to run your campaigns.

SEO Benefits

Trust and credibility - There is a significant group of searchers who have become immune to ads and will skip straight to the organic listings. In their eyes, a business in organic listings has more credibility. They will trust your brand more for having a presence that only SEO can provide.

Better branding opportunity - Using informational search terms and commercial keywords provides you the chance to create a positive brand presence. When your listing shows up organically after a searcher asks questions, for example, it helps give you an authoritative brand voice in your market.

Site traffic - This is the apparent reason for building SEO results, but it needs to be mentioned.

Visibility - Just like PPC advertising, getting ranked for your best keywords brings visibility and awareness your business needs for an increase of customers and revenue.

Cost - SEO isn't free, of course. Especially when you outsource the work to a professional, there is going to be an associated cost to the result. Unlike PPC, though, the results can last for many years once your site begins getting ranked.

Free cost-per-click - While creating your initial presence in the search results with SEO does require effort and time; there isn't any direct monetary charge as searchers click on your organic listings.

ROI - Once you get your SEO efforts snowballing, ROI results are usually much improved over ROI realized from PPC.

Better CTR - Generally speaking, using SEO to get into organic listings will bring a better click-through-rate to your site when compared to PPC listings.

Long-lasting results - Once you gain organic rankings, you may benefit from site traffic for several years. This is a significant advantage to PPC, where all traffic stops as soon as you stop paying for that traffic.

SEO Disadvantages

Keep in mind that it does take some time for your SEO efforts to result in rankings, traffic, and ROI. The time required to get ranked depends on your industry, competition, and the difficulty of keywords chosen. For example, it's highly doubtful that you'll outrank companies like eBay, Amazon, or Dell when you're just starting.

It takes time to create the content required to achieve organic search rankings. You might be at a disadvantage if competing with a company that has more resources to develop blog posts or videos. Mastering safe link building isn't an easy task.

Another aspect to consider is that there is an art to choosing the keywords to target. If you want too many informational keywords, for example, you might discover that your traffic is high, but you aren't attracting prospects that are close to a buying decision.

Which Should You Choose?

While there isn't a stock answer to this question, most companies will benefit from a mixture of both PPC and SEO campaigns. However, it's more than likely that you should weigh your efforts more heavily in the area of SEO.

The reason for this is that the money spent now will provide you longer-lasting, evergreen traffic results for years to come. You can always supplement your organic rankings through PPC, but there's nothing like the stability that steady site traffic gained via SEO provides your business.

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