SEO and PPC are two main ways of increasing the online visibility of a business. But which one is right for you? Honestly, you should be doing both, but if time or money is limited, you may need to pick one. In this case, the SEO vs PPC debate boils down to one question: how urgently do you need the results.
When I started working with advertising, I was working for another company. They had me cold calling and trying to drum up business. I learned how much I dislike cold calling that year, so I started looking for a better way to go about lead generation. The company I was working for was doing basic Google Ads, but they didn’t want to change. I ended up leaving and starting my company.
Since I spent significant time learning about the different forms of lead generation, I noticed something. The various types of lead generation yielded different results. However, people tended to be more wary of pay-per-click (PPC), even if they don’t know what it is.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO relies on organically optimizing the whole website for the search engines with the goal of showing up higher on search results. This process can include everything from relevant blog content to ensuring all images have alternative text. Even after the site is solid, I must feed new material into the website regularly. Otherwise, I cannot rank into the organic results when someone uses a search engine.
For example, this article appears on my blog. For someone to find the article, they either went to my website or searched for something related to online advertising. Now, I needed to help that process. I repeated certain words throughout this piece that I hoped would people would search. I ensured that my grammar and spelling were perfect. I even added the relevant images. Then I left it alone.
SEO is an attractive choice because there are no direct costs involved. I can generate my content and optimize it myself, so the only investment is my web hosting package. The results are organic, so I don’t pay money for lead generation with it. It’s also a very long-term plan since SEO results compound over time.
PPC is short for pay-per-click. This type is the form of advertising I focused on initially. PPC campaigns involve paying the platform for each user who clicks on the ad. This method is a prevalent model, with powerhouses like Google Ads and Amazon leading the field. It can be highly effective; however, I have also found companies that throw away a lot of money too.
PPC is typically organized into campaigns. A Google Ads campaign requires a dollar figure, period, and keywords in addition to the ad content. The choice of keywords can make or break the campaign. I have seen the most beautiful ads placed in front of the wrong audience because they used the wrong keywords. This mismatch results in a lot of false clicks, which don’t convert into lead generation for the business. That’s where campaign optimization helps.
PPC ads have many benefits for business owners. One of the top ones is the immediacy of results. Once a Google Ads campaign is set up, it starts generating views and clicks right away. I have seen businesses who started using paid search, obtaining a similar number of sales leads in weeks rather than in months previously.
Additionally, PPC advertising is vastly flexible since you see the results of your actions immediately and act on them. If I find a campaign is not performing, I can alter it with a few clicks. I also have the ability to quickly compare the performance of keywords, ads, and landing pages with A/B testing.
In the highly competitive industries, it is a common practice by competitors to show their paid ads while someone is searching for your brand name. It is called “brand hijacking” or “brandjacking”. Because paid ads usually show up above the organic results, having a strong SEO ranking won’t help your brand. That is unless you protect your own brand with PPC.
An example of effective brand protection by the Progressive Auto Insurance company is shown below. The search for “progressive auto insurance” returns two listings of the brand: a paid search ad in the first place, and an organic listing in the third place. Without this paid ad, the first place of this search would have been “hijacked” by a competitor’s paid ad.
Progressive is wisely protecting its brand name with a Google Ads campaign. I recommend to all of my clients to do the same.
Both SEO and PPC offer me different returns on investment(ROIs). I’ve found that combining both methods generates the steadiest success. After all, I do not want to spend all my time writing for SEO, and I do not want to spend all my money on direct lead generation.
SEO takes time. It is also significantly harder to measure ROI on since there is no automatic data collection. I could see more people visit my website, but that might be because one of my articles went viral. The rest of the site’s pages and all the time I invested into it would not have made a difference to my lead generation. On the other hand, no one might visit my website because I was optimizing the wrong keywords when I wrote. Therefore, SEO is a more difficult target to hit but offers a longer-term source of traffic.
With the PPC, on the other hand, it’s easier to track effectiveness, experiment, and quickly act upon it. Data is gathered automatically and visible on demand. If I discover I’m not getting the results I want, I can adjust the campaign. It takes far less time than rewriting my website content does. To be able to do that effectively though, you have to monitor things constantly.
Each method has its own strengths. SEO is free and offers the opportunity for long term success. However, it takes a lot of time and energy. PPC is fast and effective, but it requires a financial investment.
The honest answer is you need both because both methods have their strengths. The earlier example of protecting the brand is a perfect example of PPC and SEO complementing each other.