If you’re unsure about the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or are not really even sure what one or the other is, this article is for you! Let’s take a deeper look at them both, the differences between the two, and what makes sense for you and your business.
At first glance, SEO and PPC may seem similar, and while they have things in common, they also are two very different tactics you can use to promote your business. The financial outlay for these two options can be marketed differently and both follow a different timeline. As an advertiser, marketer, or business owner you need to understand these differences between SEO and PPC so you can choose what best fits your requirements.
The fundamental goal of SEO is understanding how your customers search for your business on the internet. What kinds of words and phrases do they use? Once you have identified these keywords (which I’ll cover in a new post soon), they should be tactically and sensibly integrated within your online presence: in your website content, blogs and social media company pages.
The best way to understand what you need to do is to consider a simple example. If you sell second-hand cars, your potential clients will be searching the internet with phrases like ‘second-hand cars,’ ‘used cars’, ‘cheap cars’, and ‘used cars for sale’. Once you have identified the keywords your customers will most likely use in their searches, they should be incorporated throughout your content, website and entire online presence.
After doing this work, your online presence becomes more visible to the search engines. Search engines have one simple desire, to please the enquirer. Their primary aim is to provide results which are the most relevant to the search terms used. Search engines judge millions of websites in a fraction of a second and the more relevant your website is deemed to be, the higher it will appear on the list of results. Websites which rank higher on the list are most likely to be clicked on by the enquirer. Keep in mind that optimizing your website with content and speaking to the search engines in such a way, is SEO. The process of a new website ranking or an old website beginning to rank is a process that does not happen overnight. It takes time, research and the ability to make improvements before your website will begin to gain rankings.
The confusion between SEO and PPC often arises because both are based on the use of relevant keywords. However, PPC incurs an ongoing cost. You bid on a keyword to ensure that your website ranks highly in the search results for that keyword. For example, you might use Google Adwords and bid one dollar for the keyword ‘second-hand cars’. So long as your competitors haven’t bid higher, your website link will be displayed prominently in the search results for that keyword search. Keep in mind others may bid two dollars, others may be less, each keyword is different but the concept is the same. You are bidding on the few advertising places that are on the website. Every time you are clicked and receive a visitor you pay something. (Or you could pay for impressions, but we’ll cover that later)
What’s right for you?
Both SEO and PPC are important tools to drive business to your website but each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Many people feel a proper strategy is to use them together but everyone does not always have the budget or time to invest in both. Let’s look at some of the details of each below.
SEO – the long-term investment
- Identifying your keywords and weaving them into your online platforms will cost more time and money upfront than PPC.
- At the beginning, there may be only a few clicks through to your website.
- With time, performance improves and has the potential to exceed that of PPC campaigns.
- Ongoing content and site updates are necessary.
PPC – the short-term push
- Upfront costs are lower than for SEO.
- You only pay for the number of clicks through to your link. If you opt for a maximum set expenditure per day, costs will remain static for the lifetime of the campaign.
- Return on investment is higher than SEO in the short term: results are almost immediate. But normally the results peak early in the campaign and aren’t sustainable in the long term.
- There are no maintenance costs; by entering keywords and bid amounts, the rest is managed automatically by the PPC platform, (however having a business manage your campaign to make improvements when needed is probably a good idea.)
- You will always pay per click or per impression and in order to generate leads and sales as well as up conversion rates, you must have a well-developed website and great content.
Many advertisers will create a marketing strategy based on both SEO and PPC. Solid SEO delivers long-term results whereas PPC is a great option for a short-term push with a new product launch or when working in addition to on-site optimization, (monitoring of your on-site conversions of website visitors to actual purchasers.) When you have a budget for PPC and the time to continue to improve your content, it’s highly recommended to start with one and slowly enter into both worlds. I personally focus 85-90% on SEO and 10-15% (occasionally) on PPC but that does not mean you should follow that percentage. We have two people managing content for multiple sites, so the process of writing new content and optimizing our web presence is easier internally for us. If you are in a position to simply set and forget a PPC campaign with a budget monthly to spend, this may be a better place to start.