Choosing an online marketing strategy for an online business can be difficult. Businesses looking to drive more traffic to their websites are faced with the tough decision of choosing between Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
Depending on your business's situation and goal, one strategy may work better than the other. For some businesses, it may be even better to use a combination of both SEO and PPC.
To help you identify which strategy is optimal for your business, we’ve listed the key advantages and disadvantages of SEO and PPC below.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Businesses can increase both the quality and quantity of traffic to their website through SEO practices. SEO drives organic users to your business by increasing the search engine ranking of your website. Most SEO efforts revolve around improving ranking on Google, the market-leading search engine with a market share of approximately 90%.
Typically, SEO involves making changes to website layout and content by beliefs held about Google’s search engine ranking process.
- Traffic Quality
Traffic driven through SEO arrives because the link is directly relevant to the user’s search query. Users who arrive organically through SEO are filtered already by the search engine and are more likely to become customers.
- Long-Term Effect
While SEO takes time to take effect, the upward boost in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) continually drives organic traffic to your site. While it may require occasional maintenance or content updates, SEO can keep your website on the front pages of Google continuously. SEO may require a significant time and money investment up front but will continue to pay dividends over a long period. SEO will continue to drive traffic to your website for years, even if the marketing budget dries up.
SEO is not cheap - creating large quantities of quality content takes tons of effort and money. However, because of its sustained nature and effect, SEO tends to be more cost-effective than alternative marketing methods such as PPC.
Building trust and awareness with your users is the key to converting them into customers. Appearing on queries related to your business will improve your brand’s visibility and public recognition.
If your website appears on a variety of topics, your website may begin to be recognised as a reliable source of information on your business’s field. By establishing your website as a leading resource in certain areas, you also establish your business as a leading brand within the industry. Many consumers also tend not to trust businesses that appear in the advertisement results on Google – SEO does not run into this issue as search engine optimised links show up as organic search results.
- Long Startup Period
Moving up SERPs can take months or even a year. During this period, the ROI isn’t very large. SEO only starts paying dividends after a certain period.
No guarantee investing in SEO will propel your business to the front page of a Google search. Furthermore, because SEO can take months or years, a business may end up investing a year into SEO only to find the outcome disappointing.
Many businesses in the same field as yours may also be investing in SEO. In this case, to rank higher than them, it may take more investment into longer and higher quality content.
PPC marketing usually revolves around bidding to have your links appear in the ads section of certain keyword searches. By paying for PPC, you can ensure that anytime a user enters certain keywords in Google, your business appears on the front-page ads section on the top of the SERP.
- Immediate Results
After your PPC ad campaign is approved and your bid is high enough to hit the front page, traffic will begin rolling into your website. While moving up in SERPs via SEO can take months or even years, PPC ensures that users will come to visit your site immediately. For certain events such as a sale or launch, a business may wish to utilise PPC to drive users to the website immediately.
- Targeted Users
While the trust factor of SEO-obtained traffic may be an issue, PPC traffic results from searches containing certain keywords chosen by the business. As the web traffic is already pre-filtered by the search engine, traffic that arrives through PPC is very likely to be interested in your business, given a correct selection of keywords. By paying for PPC for certain keywords, you can ensure that all users who come through have searched for products or services that you provide.
- Guaranteed Front-Page Appearance
Appearing on the first page of a Google search is incredibly powerful – most searchers on Google don’t bother looking beyond the first page of the search. Depending on the competitiveness of certain keywords, it can be extremely difficult to hit the front page of Google search results through SEO. By paying for PPC, a business can ensure that they will appear on the front page of Google and that they will get that visibility and traffic boost by appearing there.
This goes hand-in-hand with front-page appearances. By appearing on the front page on Google search results through PPC, users may begin to recognise your brand. Users who recognise your brand over several different searches will be more inclined to both visit your site and potentially become a customer.
PPC is tremendously easy to scale up or scale down. If the marketing budget is increased, more keywords searches can be added. If the marketing budget is decreased, scaling down PPC is as simple as just removing appearances in certain keyword searches.
PPC can be expensive. Because the price to appear on the front-page Google ads is chosen through a bidding process, higher competition for keyword searches increases the price-per-click and advertising cost. On top of this, PPC is naturally expensive – the cost per click typically is around £1-£2. PPC typically also suffers from a smaller return on investment when compared to SEO – the cost-per-click of PPC tends to be significantly higher. When paying for PPC marketing, your business’s website has to make the traffic that arrives count.
- No Longevity
Once a business ceases to pay for PPC, it no longer appears in the ads section of searches. From that point onward, any traffic that arrives at the business from the PPC marketing will typically only be repeat customers or users with brand recognition. When the marketing budget faucet for PPC is turned off, the traffic faucet from PPC is simultaneously turned closed.
SEO PPC… Or Both?
Many businesses want immediate results and cost-effectiveness bundled up in one package. Combined, SEO and PPC work together to fill this need perfectly. While PPC works to drive users and traffic to a website immediately, SEO works in the background to boost organic traffic by slowly moving the website up SERPs.
For a business, taking advantage of search engine traffic via SEO is extremely important. By establishing an SEO budget early, a business can ensure that there will be a strong flow of organic traffic coming into the website for years into the future. As the business grows, so does the traffic that arrives through the initial investment into SEO.
PPC can also be enormously powerful for small businesses. For many small businesses, PPC can be a strong option to accelerate sales and grow the company. While SEO efforts may take years to bear fruit, PPC allows small businesses to make those crucial sales during a business’s early days.
While search engine marketing and optimisation are effective tools for any business, it is also important to make sure that your website platform makes the most out of the traffic that reaches your website. Even if SEO or PPC is effective in bringing users to your site, your site must be good enough to keep users engaged. Having a professional, well-functioning and responsive website will do wonders towards converting your users into customers.
SEO and PPC are both powerful tools that can market a business’s products to a wide audience. While both SEO and PPC will be effective for the vast majority of businesses, it is also important to consider the current situation, needs, and goals that you hope to achieve with your marketing budget.
SEO and PPC both work to drive traffic to your website but differ in several important key areas that may be very significant to your business. In many cases, SEO and PPC form an effective combination that can bring traffic to your online business at a reasonable price.