SEO vs. PPC: What is More Effective?

Which is better? SEO or PPC? Both channels provide opportunities for generating traffic and increasing revenue. But which should you invest in first?

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With so many brands competing for attention online, over 60% of businesses say that generating website traffic and leads is their greatest digital marketing challenge.

Nearly 4 billion Google searches are made per day, and Google is responsible for 94% of total organic search traffic. Yet research from Unbounce shows that paid search visitors are 50% more likely to purchase from a brand than organic visitors.

When considering whether to opt for Pay Per Click (PPC) or Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) marketing, brands always want to know which one is the best.

But ask any digital marketing group on SEO vs. PPC, and you’ll be greeted with a dizzying array of conflicting responses. Some may sing the praises of SEO, while others may only use PPC marketing to generate traffic. If you’ve had a website for a while, then chances are you’ve experimented with at least SEO, if not both.

If you’re questioning whether you made the right choice and if the other would have benefited your website better, then read on to find out how both SEO and PPC marketing can benefit your marketing efforts and generate a highly profitable return on investment (ROI).

What is More Effective? SEO or PPC?

The honest answer to this question is that both SEO and PPC are tried and proven means to drive targeted traffic to your website.

What you should really be asking yourself is which of the two will be most beneficial for your short-term digital marketing campaigns vs. your long-term digital marketing strategy.

In order to do this, you must first weigh up the opportunities and challenges of both SEO and PPC.

The Opportunities and Challenges of SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves generating relevant organic search traffic to your website through search engines. This is the long game approach, and depending on your industry and how competitive it is, it can take 4 to 6 months to see improved SEO results.

Given ever-changing digital trends, SEO is certainly not a one-off launch exercise. It must continuously be tweaked and updated to align with changing consumer behaviours and search engine algorithms. That said, 40% of brands say Google’s algorithm changes are the biggest challenge to SEO.

Only recently, Google released their latest algorithm: Bert.

Emerging brands face even greater digital optimisation challenges, due to limited time, resources and capacity to adapt to market changes – not to mention how Google also favours established brands.

On the flip side, if you do achieve higher ranks, you can consistently hold the top spot for months to come, so long as you uphold current SEO best practices, yet remain flexible enough to adapt to an ever-changing digital marketplace.

If you have a high traffic keyword with over 10,000 searches per month and if you rank in the top 3, you’ll be getting a big slice of organic search traffic.

Research also shows a direct correlation between higher Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings and increased brand authority online. According to Rankpay, 94% of users skip search ads and head straight to organic results.

SEO can also be relatively cost-effective. If you have the expertise to do it yourself, then it won’t really cost you much, just your time. 

When You Should Focus on SEO

If you’re looking for long-term sustainability over instant results, then SEO is the best approach. Although it initially takes more time and effort to lift off the ground, SEO can also be more cost-effective, making it the obvious choice for those working with small budgets.

Organic clicks are 100% free and search visibility is the gift that keeps on giving. This is especially true when taking into consideration how the vast majority of users tend to ignore paid listings anyway.

SEO is also more sustainable in the long-term, and once you gain momentum in your SEO strategy and steadily climb higher in the ranks, it will be more difficult for your competitors to overthrow you.

The Opportunities and Challenges of PPC

Pay per click (PPC) marketing is all about getting instant results and visitors from relevant keywords on search engines. In only a matter of minutes, you can set up a PPC campaign and watch visitors flock to your website.

While SEO strictly focuses on search engine results, PPC allows you to become visible on other websites as well. Your placement depends on your ad type, budget, and target audience. Services like Adwords allow you to carefully manage where exactly your ads show up, which gives you more control over your campaigns.

PPC marketing also attracts highly targeted visitors to your website. Not only can you target the location of the user but you can also narrow it down to their age, background, and income.

However, the ability to laser target users can come at a high cost, up to $54 (approx. £40) per click. You may have control over what you spend, but if you bid too little, you might not end up in the top results on the first page. Instead, you might be pushed down to the bottom of page 1, or worse to page 2.

Not only does this reduce the number of people that see your ads but it also means you’ll get a lower click rate. It’s also worth mentioning that without a fully optimised website, your PPC marketing efforts won’t generate much ROI.

It’s also worth mentioning that PPC will only generate results so long as you continue paying for keywords. Once you stop pouring money into the campaign, the influx of traffic and leads will come to an abrupt end.

When You Should Focus on PPC

When executed properly, PPC marketing can generate quick wins for specific campaigns. But given the cost, it is also unsustainable in the long-term.

If you’re just starting out, you could invest in PPC to get your first few customers. However, you must ensure your website (or webpage you wish to drive traffic and leads) is fully optimised first.

Although it might be very easy to set up a PPC campaign and instantly boost your visibility on SERPs and other sites, getting quality traffic isn’t enough to make it a success. To get good ROI, you’ll need to make sure your website is optimised and channelling that traffic into leads.

It wouldn’t make much sense to dump excessive ad expenses into a website that doesn’t perform well because of hindrances like poor landing pages, 404 pages, broken links, or just a generally confusing website.

The Best of Both Worlds

Digital marketing deserves a multi-faceted approach that begins with a strong SEO foundation that can, and should, be supplemented and enhanced with PPC campaigns to further increase exposure, traffic and conversions.

SEO is the best approach to develop long term traffic, but it can take several months before you start seeing results. PPC, on the other hand, is pretty much instant but costs a lot more money. Therefore, you should ideally use SEO for your big picture digital marketing strategy, and PPC for individual landing pages and campaigns.

Above all, you must ensure your website is in a sound state for success with several key elements in place like the implementation of general SEO best practices, a user-friendly, search-friendly, and technically sound website, as well as a visually and aesthetically pleasing website and digital assets, among other basics.

Once those are (mostly) in place, it would then be quite beneficial to further beef up marketing efforts with some accompanying PPC campaigns to go beyond the limited organic reach and boost your brand’s visibility.

The IIEPD provide a diverse range of CPD accredited digital marketing courses. Unlike other digital marketing training programs, IIEPD provides learners with a host of different digital marketing training resources including access to the IIEPD Influencer Affiliate Program, the IIEPD Influencer Network and subsidised digital marketing services from Pie Analysis.

For more information, get in contact with IIEPD today.

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