When it comes to dominating those search result pages, it all seems to come down to two options, SEO or PPC. But which is better and why?
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation is centred on getting your website ranked as highly as possible whenever someone searches for a relevant query to your business on search engines such as Google or Bing. For instance, if you own a real estate company in London, specialised in lettings and sales, you will want to show up on the first page of Google search results whenever someone types “Best real estate agency in London”.
Search Engines consider dozens of metrics when deciding which websites to rank for specific keyword searches. The challenge for the SEO experts is to understand the weighting and correlation between all these on-page and off-page ranking factors.
At the end, a good SEO strategy is all about building websites that are able to deliver great content and answers that are in line with the searchers’ intent. If properly done, your website will rank in the top of the search result pages and start driving consistent, long-term traffic and leads to your business.
Advantages of Search Engine Optimisation
As we’ve mentioned previously, SEO is a great long-term digital marketing strategy. Being organically visible in search engines for your targeted keywords can put your business in front of potential customers without having to pay for online advertisement.
Organic rankings are also more credible to the modern and more informed online consumer. Most people perceive an organic page result as more credible than an advertisement.
Although SEO is neither cheap nor easy to do, it is more cost-effective in the long term than PPC. The cost of SEO can come down significantly after you start ranking for specific keywords and getting reliable traffic and leads for your business. This makes SEO very valuable to any business looking to compete in the long-term.
Disadvantages of Search Engine Optimisation
SEO can be slow to produce results initially, unlike PPC, which is generally instantaneous. It can take months before you start to see any major shifts in traffic.
There’s a common misconception out there that SEO is actually substantially cheaper than PPC, but this isn’t really the case.
When you factor in the time spend producing content, getting it completely spot on and ranking for the right keywords, it can actually prove just as expensive, at the initial stage of the SEO strategy.
So, what is PPC?
Pay Per Click advertising is a way of getting your website, product or service sat at the top of the search engines results page, without having to spend months investing in SEO.
PPC involves, as the name suggests, paying per click. You can pay for your website or landing page to show up whenever someone types a keyword relevant to your business. It works as an auction by biding on specific keywords against other competitors and trying to show up on results more often and at a higher position.
Offered by most search engines, PPC can function effectively as part of a bigger marketing campaign and can be considered both inbound and outbound marketing.
Advantages of Pay Per Click
PPC’s biggest advantage is always going to be its immediacy. As soon as you get a PPC campaign running, you’ll have fresh leads clicking through, if your ad is attractive and competitive enough.
You also get more space to display additional text, links, and images, than the available space for organic results. Having more space will help you when it comes to sending your message out, showing your product or service.
A PPC campaign also allows you to target extremely specific demographics (age, interests…) and geographic areas (cities, postcodes…), that are more relevant to your business. This means that you can make sure that your PPC investment isn’t being wasted on the wrong demographics, and you can boost click-through and conversion rates.
Another advantage of paying per click is the fact that the PPC ads are displayed on the top of the search results pages, just before the organic results. So, continuing with our real estate example, you can use PPC to display on the top of the results page.
Disadvantages of Pay Per Click
The biggest downside with PPC is the substantial on-going costs. PPC is always going to be an expensive way of advertising. The results will be highly dependent on your available budget.
There’s also the common misconception out there that PPC can help with organic ranking, it doesn’t do this at all. Investing in pay per click will not influence your organic rankings on search engines like Google. Organic ranking and PPC are completely separate and different arms of marketing.
Plus, as we’ve mentioned before, online shoppers are getting more savvier when it comes to their search habits, and organically ranked websites carry more credibility to some users than the PPC ads at the top of the search result page.
Finally, PPC involves so many options and strategies which can make it difficult for non-professionals. Successful PPC campaigns need constant skilled management and optimization in order to outrank competitors. You need to monitor and adjust bids, make sure you achieve high quality scores, good ad positions and click-through rates.
As a small business should you use SEO or PPC?
The most important thing to remember is that in marketing, there’s no one size fits all strategy or solution. Building the most effective strategy comes down to your current situation, your goals and aims, and most importantly your budget.
With that in mind, for many small-to-medium companies, the ideal set-up is a combined approach of both SEO and PPC, with a continual eye on what’s working and what’s not.
For example, when launching a new product, PPC can get it in front of searchers way quicker than SEO, but PPC might not be a good long-term approach if you have budget restrictions.
Fundamentally SEO and PPC are equally powerful strategies, but with different strengths for different applications. It all comes down to budget, brand maturity, and strategies, but both are needed when it comes to making your mark in any crowded online marketplace. Taking a combined approach allows you to dominate search results, both through organic and paid traffic, which is essential when it comes to rising above the crowd.