Sep 19

SEO vs PPC

Findability has been an important part of running an online business for a while now. Search engines like Google use many algorithms to influence search rankings for your website.

SEO and PPC are both legitimate ways for a business to appear in the search engines. Optimising your site for content and relevancy is termed SEO while PPC works on auction-based systems through providers like Google and Facebook.

A Google insight showing the survey of 1000 people on whether they use the internet for the personal purpose. This consumer survey shows that 90% of people do so. This leaves a lot of room for businesses to reach their consumers either via SEO or PPC.

SEO

Effective optimising means maintaining a good presentational value of the website, and the quality of your content so that Google’s algorithms recognise that and allow it to appear high on the rankings.

SEO efforts help a site appear as ‘organic links’ in the search engine. Like any organic matter, SEO has to grow in a way that is natural and the results produced through SEO can be slow, and ranking highly in this way can take anything from 2 to 8 months. This doesn’t mean that other forms of progress cannot be achieved. SEO copywriting is and should be your go-to strategy in the interim. Your SEO will have considerably more amplification if your content on the site is sorted out.

However, if your site isn’t moving up by around six months, then there’s probably something wrong.

PPC

PPC or Pay-Per-Click is what the name implies. PPC are links that are used to direct users to websites in which the owner pays for when clicked. PPC works on a payment model based on keywords.

example pla ads from adwordsThere are a large number of ways PPC ads are displayed including display advertisements integrated into content websites (AKA banner ads), and search ads shown directly on Google or other partner properties.

Google Adwords allows online business owners to pay for certain keywords. The website using the PPC can appear higher in search engines without the need to optimise it properly.

This is especially useful if as a retail store you are adding a new product line or as a brand you are entering into a new category of products.

PPC allows clients to skip the wait time associated with doing the same thing through SEO.

However, this instant return only applies to whichever keywords are being paid for, so a client of PPC is limited by the number of keywords they are willing to pay. PPC is a great solution for instant results but leaves less room for expansion without paying serious dollars.

What do SEO and PPC look like?

Here is a breakdown of the position and amount of each link as they look on the page:

  • Up to 4 PPC links
  • Up to 12 SEO links
  • Up to 3 PPC links

How do they compare?

SEO and PPC both share a couple of similar attributes, with different factors for each. Conversion rates of both the mediums differ in various ways depending on the type of traffic. Carefully understanding and weighing these factors will make it easier to decide which method is best for your website:

Cost

SEO and PPC are both different sides of the same coin. The difference is the amount of money needed to be successful with each method.

PPC costs

With PPC, the sum of money that you spend will determine how effective your website works with a service like Google Adwords or FB marketing.

 

Regardless of the question, Millennials look for the answer online. Search engines such as Google are the first port of call. When shopping, online researchers normally turn to search engines first (55%), followed by brand websites (27%). For this young audience, mobile is a key resource while researching and making purchase decisions. 40% of Millennials- in other words over twice as many as those 35+- research their purchases on a smartphone.

Millenials Stories

However, there is an extra hidden cost to top on that.

Google Adwords is an incredibly complex system, dealing with millions of websites at once. As well as the great wealth of options available, small business owners using Adwords also need to work out which keywords to invest for maximum ROI.

With only a few words feasible due to the costs involved, this is a critical decision, with data and analytics to go along with it.

While you can sit down and learn these yourself, the process is very complicated. That’s why there are whole teams created with the purpose of learning the intricacies of PPC management.

You are much better off hiring one of these companies, ensuring that your investments go well and you can focus on bettering your website.

Of course, this only adds to your budget, making PPC an even more expensive route to take long term.

SEO costs

On the other side, we have SEO. While the links themselves are free, SEO is not entirely free of costs. Like PPC it is a hugely complicated process – perhaps even more so – and requires an expert team of professionals to do a good job. You will need to work out what your business caters to, various aspects to consider when optimising your business and relevant optimisation strategies. A good SEO package will obviously help address all aspects of your business strategy.

Now, just as with PPC, you can try and do your SEO, and in some ways, you’re more likely to succeed than with PPC. However, if you want great results in the SERPs – not to mention without getting in trouble – then it’s probably a good idea to hire some professionals.

Effectiveness

There are conflicting opinions of how effective each method is. Whether SEO or PPC works best for your website depends on what you want out of them. However, there are definite pros and cons for each.

PCC effectiveness

PPC operates a bit like a billboard advertisement.

Brand advocates from PPC adsThe client pays for a spot in a particular situation, and anyone who finds themselves in that situation will see it. In PPC that spot is a particular keyword when searched as a query, and they have to pay every time their link is clicked rather than as a set fee. There are other ways to advertise using Youtube videos ads ( effectiveness ), remarketing ads and even in-app ads.

The good thing about this arrangement is that their website will appear in this spot for all searches, regardless of things like organic rankings.

Not only is the number of appearances limited, but also the potential for greater reach. PPC can only expand as far as the client is willing to expand their ad spend, meaning it cannot grow naturally and as extensively as SEO.

The second thing to consider is a little more nebulous. However, there is increasing proof of its effects.

Data collected over time, whether on message boards or search statistics suggests that users have some level of aversion to PPC links. People will often ignore the ad links at the top of the page in favour of organic links, even if the PPC link is exactly what they were looking for.

SEO effectiveness

SEO is an ever-evolving process.

SEO purchase decisionNot only can websites receive too little SEO treatment, but inversely they can also be over optimised. Tweaking your site so that it works more like a ranking machine than a piece of useful media can get your site flagged by Google’s security algorithms.

SEO cannot be rushed and must be developed and nurtured in a way that is natural.

Almost every e-commerce site I audit don’t get the basics straight. Sometimes is just pure over-indexation / duplication caused by facets, filters, tracking params, others just wrong implementation of canonicals, robots-tags, hreflangs.

Which is better?

Both SEO and PPC serve a useful purpose in increasing the findability of your website; but which is better? Well, the answer is: it depends. Both methods have clear advantages, as well as aspects that are more situation-oriented.

PPC offers instant results and a reliable source of findability. However, it also requires a greater cost up front and can yield results only as good as the money put in, usually for a specified amount of time.

Video User Targeting

SEO is free after a certain time and can offer nearly endless findability results, but it takes a lot of work, and potentially even more time to get going.

With all these pros and cons it’s difficult to point either method out as the best option.

Our strategy

We think the best way to go is to use both of them.

At the beginning of your findability endeavour what you want is to find customers fast.

After all, what’s a bit of sunken cost if it can grow your business?

Here is a good strategy to consider:

  • At the beginning of your venture, pay for some carefully managed PPC at the beginning.
  • However, at the same time, also look into a bit of SEO for your website. You don’t need to get too in depth, just enough to get your site ranking organically for some queries.
  • As your website grows due to all of the traffic you are receiving through PPC, gradually move away from the payments, allocating resources to improve the strength of your SEO.

Doing so will get your website the findability it needs to get going early on while allowing its success to go beyond the constraints of a purely PPC-operated model.

Be smart, and you’ll succeed

Whatever method you invest in, make sure you carefully consider what your website needs. Either way, it’s a good idea to choose at least one. Findability is important, and you need to decide whether you will get it through money or effort; preferably both.

success cartoon

Sources

  1. https://xkcd.com/349/
  2. https://www.consumerbarometer.com/en/stories/millennials
  3. https://www.consumerbarometer.com/en/insights/?countryCode=AU
  4. https://shopping.thinkwithgoogle.com/
  5. https://trends.google.com/trends/story/US_cu_6fXtAFIBAABWdM_en

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

8 Comments

  1. Kevin
    September 20, 2017 at 9:42 am · Reply

    What I usually gather from these sorts of discussions is that I really shouldn’t ignore either. I don’t understand why some folks in these two industries feel at odds with each other.

    If you are doing everything you can for your PPC campaign you’re already likely creating content rich web pages designed around keywords. Why you’d ever think that is a bad thing for SEO I’ll never understand.

  2. Jason
    September 20, 2017 at 9:43 am · Reply

    Personally, I started in PPC and moved into digital media buyer roles. I still do plenty of search, but I get to play with everything across the board. Social, display, native, etc.

    PPC is a narrow field. It doesn’t leave a lot of room to grow into a new direction.

    It can also be boring. More than half of ppc, in my experience, is grinding it out. Raise or lower cpcs, check search terms, write new ads, etc. It can get boring.

  3. Geln
    September 20, 2017 at 2:16 pm · Reply

    My advice is learn the metrics first (CPM, CTR, CPC, Conversion rate, etc). Learn what they mean and what affects them. Learn the difference between SEO and PPC (hint: they’re completely different things)

    Honestly – you should probably spend a year or two just reading and learning before you start pissing money away on traffic.You should spend time learning what all this stuff is before you start dumping money into it. This stuff isn’t magic, but it’s also not easy. If it were, everyone would be rich.

  4. Dave
    September 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm · Reply

    From a reddit thread advice that I simply cannot replicate

    If you drive traffic you need to make sure it’s valid through targeting – if you get a bunch of likes what does that mean? Was that your goal? Why is that the KPI you are reporting? Why not look at CPM/CPC/CTR – things you can link closely to sales. Yes, PPC drives traffic but you need to action it to the best of your ability to see good sales otherwise you’ll never get your money back. Think of all the touch points and get analytics to tell you how many people are dropping off. SEO won’t help at all if you don’t focus on conversion optimization. Outside of that once you’ve got that traffic you need to think about retention and how to hold onto it and keep it interested. This comes down to good content and branding as you mentioned above.

  5. Brendon
    September 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm · Reply

    Online advertising is complex, and like all forms of advertising only works if you have built and executed proper strategic business and marketing plans.

    As for the proficiency of PPC, Google made $75 billion and FB made $27.6 billion last year in revenue from advertising. If PPC didn’t work they wouldn’t be making any money.

  6. Mason
    September 20, 2017 at 2:19 pm · Reply

    Generally, I agree with you. There is some calculation to be considered on the competitive of the SEO and PPC markets. Once you do this you can look at the value of the visit (i.e., which converts at a higher rate). There generally is a difference and it’s not always one or the other, contrary to what many assume.You might be able to, in some cases, net cheaper traffic with PPC than SEO, considering all traffic has a cost (e.g., SEO has the cost of content and/or optimization of that content and distribution).

    We often equalise this debate with the calculating the cost of the visit for both the SEO and PPC.

  7. Kevin
    September 20, 2017 at 2:26 pm · Reply

    I read a nice indepth conversation on some of these points and while it would be great to write a full response here is a summary of the same.

    Here is where I think Google is going:

    Direct response advertisers are spending about as much on Google as they ever will. There is growth here, but it is correlated with the overall economy and isn’t large enough to satisfy Google’s shareholders. Google started with this market and did very well, but in order to continue to grow they will need to look elsewhere…

    One area for growth for them is small business who underutilise AdWords (often because they have been burned in the past)

    The other opportunity is to try and capture more “brand” spend.

    Both of these opportunities change their core product in a way that isn’t great for direct response advertisers but they do offer a couple of career opportunities:

    There will be increased demand for those who understand PPC metrics but who can also talk the brand advertising metric talk (recall/sentiment/whatever)

    There will be a demand for tooling/support for those managing hundreds of small local accounts (although I expect G’s own tooling to push the profitability of this option down over time)
    The other trend that I think is important is that (because of better tooling and the industry getting more experience with what works and what doesn’t) the percentage of PPC that is really easy is increasing.

    A non-exhaustive list of examples of this:
    Product level bidding is quite hard to get right. Google Shopping gets you most of the way there with much less effort. Everyone does split testing of all kinds of things

    Broad match is much improved compared to the past and with modified broad match there is less of a need to do a whole tonne of work with tens of thousands of very similar keywords
    As an experienced PPC professional this has two important implications for my career:
    I can’t charge a premium for my services if a graduate with 6 months experience can deliver 90% of the same results. (Don’t think we are at this level yet, but I’d say we are heading that way)
    The trend is towards simplification and automation (provided by Google) which reduces my scope for professional growth

    That is my overview of the landscape. How this will affect you depends on where you are now and what your competencies are.

    What is quite common is that people broaden their scope from PPC out into other channels (/u/K3zzeR talks a bit about this). The other common approach is to move to a role that involves more management. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

    I’m not particularly interested in management. I don’t think I’m awful at it, but I don’t have a passion to improve.

    I feel kind of similar about other channels; I’m not necessarily bad at SEO/email/etc; I just don’t really care much about them.

    What I do like is using data to figure stuff out and make changes. PPC is really good for this but it isn’t the only thing that is really good for this. So I see myself moving in this direction over the coming years.

    How to get there from here? Right now I’m looking at things that involve PPC and maths and trying to get clients hooked on that combination. Then I can use success there to push maths + something else at them.

  8. Evan Wilkins
    September 18, 2018 at 6:53 pm · Reply

    The greatest blog ever because it’s helped us so much. I am very impressed by your blog. It’s such an interesting post. I am thankful for this.

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