It’s a question older than mankind — maybe. Should I use SEO or PPC to market my business?
Whenever this question comes up, digital marketers immediately split into two camps. SEO on one side and PPC on the other. It’s an unstoppable force against an immovable object.
And whose corner are we in at Digital Impact? Well.. both.
Instead of pitting them against each other, we prefer to run integrated campaigns that tap into the benefits of both. Tag team the traffic to turn it into conversions!
In this article, we’ll look at the differences between SEO and PPC in terms of search visibility, traffic potential, and costs. Then we’ll discuss how each can benefit a business on their own merits. Finally, we’ll look at how they can work together.
SEO vs PPC: The Breakdown
As most of you probably know, the main difference between SEO and PPC is that:
- SEO butters up and convinces the search engine to rank higher in their results, generating organic traffic.
- PPC pays the search engine to temporarily appear in the sponsored ads on the first page before the organic results.
But what are the other differences between these juggernauts of digital marketing?
SEO vs PPC: Search Visibility
As you can see from the screenshot below, the PPC adverts are positioned at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) and the organic results are beneath them.
You can also see that Google places a little [Ad] box beside the PPC ads to distinguish them as sponsored ads.
PPC ads will always appear above the organic results, but what position it appears in depends on a number of factors.
Every time a user makes a search of your keyword or criteria, the search engine ad platform you’re paying will compare your bid to everyone else’s.
And yep you guessed it. The highest bidder takes the top spot.
Then the next highest bidder takes the second, and so on and so on until all the ad spots have been filled.
In reality it isn’t quite as simple as this. There are other factors involved in determining who gets the top spot. Usually the ad platform creates scores based on the value of your bid and the quality of your advert and website. The scores are then compared with your competitors and the positions get secured.
Organic results will always appear below the PPC adverts in the middle of the page.
Whether your business will appear at the top or bottom of the results depends how successful your SEO is.
Most people are aware that to earn one of these coveted top spots on the organic listing you must have quality content, rather than having just paid for your position.
Therefore people trust the organic results more and that is why it gets 85 percent of the clicks, with the number one spot capturing the most clicks with 32 percent.
Google is aware that the organic listings still capture the most clicks and therefore position the PPC paid ads higher on the SERP.
Because they know people will have to at least scan over the ads before finding the organic results. So at the very least they will see the ad even if they don’t click on it.
And it works. 84 percent will view the top sponsored PPC result, and 26 percent will click.
Remember although the search engine’s job is to get you the most relevant result. They still make money from paid ads. So ideally the PPC ad will provide both.
However, ranking highly, naturally, on Google gives you a credibility and authority that you will find hard to achieve without. Therefore people still go to the organic results first, believing it will contain their desired content.
SEO vs PPC: Potential Traffic
“Organic SEO results are 8.5 times more likely to be clicked through than a PPC link.” [Moz]
Eight point five times more likely! That is a huge difference.
But let’s not forget about PPC just yet.
Why? Because those results are based only if you are ranking organically on the first page of of the SERP.
Do you know how many click throughs you will receive from organic results on page three or more? Under 1 percent. That’s because people normally don’t look past the first 5 results!
So unless you are organically ranking on the first page, you’re invisible.
If you’re on page three or four you might have 100 people searching your term. Maybe a handful of people will see your page 3 listing. And maybe, just maybe, one will click it.
And that’s where PPC begins to shoulder it’s way back in.
PPC lets you bypass months of hard SEO work and gets your website on the first page of Google in five minutes.
Depending on your industry, organic marketing might never get you there. And if it does, it can take a very long time. I’m talking months. Maybe years.
SEO vs PPC: Cost
As we know SEO traffic is free. Yay!
And although that is true it doesn’t mean that their isn’t a cost.
SEO takes a lot of time, effort and hard work. The competition can be extremely high and you really need to be on top of your SEO game to keep building your traffic month on month.
With SEO there is no shortcuts to get you there. It is going to cost you in man-hours. If you aren’t comfortable with SEO then the best bet might be to hire an SEO expert. And that is where you fall into the money trap for SEO.
PPC, on the other hand, has never had any qualms about its cost. It is literally there in the name pay per click.. And that’s exactly what it is.
Unfortunately, the cost of the bid for each keyword depends on the popularity of the keyword. You want to bid on Lawyer London? It’s going to cost you a fortune. How about Beach Wear Inverness? That’ll be quite a bit cheaper.
Okay, enough doom and gloom. Time for some good news. With PPC you only pay for the clicks your ad receives.
If one million or one hundred million people see your advert, you’ll only pay for the people who actually click their mouse. And if your ad is well optimised and your landing page is persuasive, the clicker should convert into a customer.
SEO vs PPC: The Short vs The Long Game
So, SEO wins the battle of traffic on the first page. It also gives your business trust and authority from the visitors than paid ads just don’t get.
But it can take a very, very long time to get to get there. And why wait? When you can use PPC and get on the first page immediately?
Sure, it gets you 8.5 times less than the organic results on page one. But if you aren’t on page 1 then the only way is up, right?
PPC ads still receive 15 percent of the clicks and will bring in traffic immediately.
This makes PPC perfect for when you need immediate traffic. For example, when you are starting-up a business and need a boost in visibility, or when you are running a special offer for a limited time.
Perfect for the short game, but not great in the long game.
PPC is like the Pied Piper. Whilst you’re paying for the ads, it’s bringing you in traffic. But as soon as you stop, the traffic disappears with it.
SEO, however, excells in the long game. Good SEO will develop sustainable traffic channels that will continue attracting traffic even when you stop working on it.
SEO & PPC: Better Together
The amazing thing about PPC is that it allows any business at any stage to immediately boost their traffic.
This is ideal for instantly kickstarting your business, generating traffic and leads to keep things going, whilst you run your SEO campaign in the background.
Working together, the PPC can build immediate traffic and leads and over time your SEO campaign will build your site a presence and authority which can hopefully begin to generate its own free traffic.
PPC also allows you to test and track your ads. Using tools such as Google Analytics, you can quickly see which keywords are the most expensive, most successful, which are generating the most bounces and ultimately, which keywords are delivering the most ROI.
From this you can then feed it into your SEO campaign and even swap some of the more expensive bids into a higher focus in SEO.
Effort also translates across both your PPC and SEO campaigns. The effort you put into optimising your site and landing pages will help towards your PPC campaign to ultimately succeed in conversions, and vis versa.
It also never hurts to dominate the competition. If you rank well in your organic results then you already have a strong authority and dominance . But you might as well help squash the competition by removing their presence from anywhere on the first page and being the brand that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Want to talk marketing campaigns?
It can be hard to decide which marketing is best for your business.
But we hope our articles have provided you with some great information to get you thinking.
To keep you on the right track, we’re happy to talk through your long-term objectives and make some recommendations about how to get there. Pop us a quick email to get started.