by Jerome Swanson, digital marketer at Titan Digital
To anyone looking for the best way to promote their website, bring traffic in and achieve good conversion rates, deciding between pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization has always been a challenge.
When Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates were introduced, thousands of poor-quality websites that used to earn top search rankings through the use of simple, manipulative SEO tactics were wiped out. Many search engine columns wrote about the death of SEO then.
This was when many small businesses began to move their marketing budgets away from SEO and towards PPC advertising: they fully bought the line that SEO was dead. This wasn’t sound reasoning, though. Google’s algorithm updates were meant to put an end to manipulative SEO: not good SEO. Not only was SEO not dead, it was still essential to good website ranking and traffic generation.
Understanding why SEO is relevant
SEO cannot die. According to Google, the search engine judges each website on more than 200 different ranking factors to determine whether it answers what a search looks for. The list has been more or less the same since before the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates; anchor text, link structure, brand metrics, keyword usage, authority features, anchor text, and social metrics have always been important to achieving good search rankings. Each one of these factors can be planned for by SEO professionals when they optimize a site.
Simple, manipulative SEO is the only thing that died with when Google’s algorithm updates arrived. Anyone who believes that all of SEO doesn’t work will only see their rankings fall.
Pay-per-click is important, too
A 2013 study finds that three out of four businesses today invest in pay-per-click advertising, and plan to expand their investment in the future. They use every avenue available to them: Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook and others. Many SEO experts hold that pay-per-click advertising offers businesses an excellent return on their investment. It’s far less expensive than investing in a superior website with great content and professional search engine optimization.
How does SEO really compare with PPC?
PPC and SEO both have their strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a quick rundown:
PPC is quicker: Many businesses turn away from SEO for the simple reason that it doesn’t offer instant gratification the way PPC does. Building a website that plays to the preferences of Google’s algorithms can take time. Once a website is built and tweaked to perfection, it can take weeks, if not months, for it to rise up in the rankings. With PPC, though, results are immediate.
SEO brings you trust: Quality SEO results in organic search rankings. If your SEO gets you to the top of a search page, it’s because Google’s algorithms consider your offering to be relevant to the search. Not only is your website very likely to show to the relevant searches this way, you’re likely to be more trusted. PPC ads are clearly marked as advertisements, and are less trusted for that reason.
Traffic vs. conversion: When it comes to traffic generation, SEO clearly wins. If you do a good job with your SEO, your website can show to more people than with PPC. Unfortunately, it can be difficult with SEO to make sure that Google promotes the right pages on your site. Google is known to often find the most relevant site, but to get the choice of page wrong. While you stand a good chance of winning excellent traffic with SEO, then, your conversion rate tends to be uncertain. With PPC, conversion rates tend to be much better.
Brand building: SEO makes it possible to build a lasting connection between your homepage and a keyword that you need to rank for. It is rarely possible to build a great brand with pay-per-click advertising alone. If you do a very good job with your SEO, you can easily have your website dominate the first five or six organic search listings. With PPC, you can never have more than one listing on a search results page.
You may begin to suspect that you need both
The PPC vs. SEO comparison above is meant to demonstrate that both kinds of online marketing have their positives. Businesses need to invest in both marketing methods to build their brand, make sales and win loyal customers.
Many website owners pick PPC over SEO out of the belief that PPC is a plug-and-play deal. They believe that they simply need to pay a few dollars to get to the top of the search page and sit back. This isn’t true, though. It can take a considerable amount of learning and experience to figure out how to target the right keywords.
When you look at your online marketing plan for a new business, you need to see a two-pronged approach. The best way to approach search engine marketing should be to start out with PPC when your website is new and to keep plugging away with your SEO efforts on the side. It can take months for your efforts to pay off. Your PPC investment can bring you traffic in the meantime. Over time, you can taper off your PPC investment somewhat and maintain it at a low, steady level, as your SEO picks up. It’s important to remember that SEO and PPC aren’t two unconnected systems. Google considers how good your SEO is before deciding on the price to quote you for your PPC ads. SEO is never simply an option. It’s the foundation of all your online marketing efforts.
Jerome Swanson is a digital marketer at Titan Digital specialising local search. Whilst not cleaning up NAP issues he devotes his time to his lovely wife, Football Manager and Liverpool Football Club.