Online Marketing you can get your head around

PPC vs SEO

Last edit: Monday 23rd January 2017 ?
This date is important. Online marketing and SEO are fast changing fields so always check what you are reading is recent (less than a year old) before taking action or you could damage your rankings!

If you read choosing your keywords for SEO you'll know how to make sure the keywords you have chosen are worth pursuing. But should you pursue them via SEO or PPC?

PPC means advertising and paying every time someone clicks on your advertisement. The more you agree to pay per click the higher your advertisement will appear when it is shown on the results pages of search engines and the more often it will appear when it is shown on other websites.

Every keyword phrase and every situation turns on its merits so there is no 'one size fits all' answer but consider this:

If you use PPC correctly you will be the number one result on the search engines where you run campaigns. If you work hard on your SEO you might be the number three result (after the advertisements) on the search engines.

Note I say "if you use PPC correctly". There are plenty of ways to use PPC advertising, pay very high prices and still not be the top result. More on this below.

But isn't that all wrong? Don't you just Search Engine Optimize your website and then you're top of Google and you don't need to spend any more time or money on it?

Generally speaking any keyword or phrase that is worth ranking for is one that many webmasters are chasing. This means that if you get your top ranking there will be someone out there looking to dipose you just as you toppled someone else and so SEO often becomes a permanent part of what you do - to get rankings or to keep them.

Weighing up the costs

SEO is not free unless you have time to spare that you would not be doing anything else with and you are prepared to spend it learning and putting search engine optimization into practice.

If you hire an external SEO company like mine there will be a cost involved and ironically it is not always worth it because:

  • It could actually work out cheaper to use PPC.
  • A well run PPC campaign affects your organic rankings.

When PPC is cheaper than SEO.

I've seen this sort of situation many times:

The SEO scenario

  • Keyword X is searched 1,000 times a month on Google.
  • SEO company A offers to optimize your website for Keyword X for $500 per month.
  • After 6 months (cost $3,000) you rank in Google's top 5 for Keyword X and get 300 visitors a month because of it.

The PPC scenario

  • Keyword X is searched 1,000 times a month on Google.
  • You take out a PPC campaign targetting Keyword X which costs $300 per month and delivers you 300 visitors a month from day one.
  • Visitors who click on your campaign react positively to your content giving Google data which leads to your website ranking in Google's top 5 after 6 months.

In this situation using PPC effectively delivered the same end result at a lower cost and bought in visitors immediately.

Note I say “using PPC effectively” because if you don't know how to use Google Adwords the right way then the second scenario won't work. See below for more on this.

The most important message here is to consider PPC as an alternative to SEO because it can be far more cost effective.

PPC leads to SEO

Give some people a hammer and a nail and all they'll come back with is a sore thumb. Tools are only good if you use them correctly and so it is for Google Adwords or the Bing/Yahoo Ad Network.

In the case of Bing/Yahoo their systems do not yet provide enough data for what we are about to do here but if you get this working in Google you will get ranked in Bing/Yahoo as well.

Here is the principle

If you have a PPC campaign that targets 'Keyword X' and people who click through to your website from the search results after searching 'Keyword X' react more positively to your content than to the content that is currently ranking organically for 'Keyword X', your website will eventually rank higher than theirs in the organic results.

Lets break that down:

“react more positively” – stay longer, buy more, bounce less, visit more pages, share more content, create more links back to you, etc.

“eventually rank higher” - Google evolves its organic rankings over time, it could take several months.

Monitoring your PPC Campaign's effect on SEO

Of course there is a great unknown here. How can you tell if users are reacting more positively to your content than to that of your competitors. The answer is you can't.

But you can make sure they are acting positively and try to improve and refine this further.

The first step is to make sure your PPC Campaign is optimized and to understand that pick up my book Making the Most of Google Adwords.

The second step is to use Google Analytics to watch what your visitors coming from the campaign are doing and refine this (reduce the percentage who back out, increase the percentage who go deeper, etc.). For more on this see Website Visitor Tracking.

All the time keep an eye on your Google Webmaster Tools data which will show you how your organic rankings are improving for Keyword X. If the ranking starts to plateau for more than 4 weeks at, for example, #10 then you know there are still 9 websites above you who have better user behaviour patterns.



I'm Tim Hill (aka Doodled), a Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help our clients at link2light understand the approach we take to clean online marketing ... but you're welcome to rummage around too!


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