Driving traffic to your company’s site is the first, most critical step in creating an enriching web presence. There’s little question that the success of your online marketing endeavors hinges on attracting and expanding valuable lead-generating traffic from unique and repeat users.
In discussions of best practices for drawing traffic and lead generation or sales conversions, organic SEO and PPC marketing are often pitted against one another. This isn’t entirely surprising– both are, after all, incredibly powerful proven means to the same general end– but is one truly better or more effective than the other?
In our experience: yes and no. More specifically, the question of SEO vs PPC is not which is superior but which is appropriate.
How They Stack Up
Results and traffic generated by PPC are almost instantaneous, as your ads go live and are seen and clicked according to your bid as soon as you turn on the juice. Likewise, any traffic you don’t retain as repeat visitors and potential traffic is lost when you end a PPC campaign (although a residual boost in your site’s profile may remain, as traffic and positive user interaction improve a site’s reputation.)
Organic SEO offers less in the way of instant gratification, but in exchange, the results that are achieved are significantly more permanent.
At first glance, PPC seems like the clear winner, with carefully crafted eye-catching taglines and professionally researched keyword placement, but there’s a wrench in that system. Many internet users are so averse to being actively targeted with marketing that they develop “banner blindness”, the habit of tuning out the sidebar, header, and footer ad content in search results altogether.
Organic SEO is not subject to this phenomenon as it places your site within natural search result rankings, with the tradeoff being that rankings beyond the first few pages of Google are more or less ineffective. The main attraction of SEO is that once you get your site organically ranking high in the returned searches, this is the strongest and most enduring endorsement of its credibility. In fact, last year 85% of clicks resulting from a search were on the organic links rather than the paid ads, and 86% of web searchers currently report that they trust organic SEO listings more.
The straightforward nature of PPC campaigns gives them a certain “set it and forget it” appeal, and sometimes that reputation does hold true, but for businesses struggling to compete and be seen a PPC campaign can require a surprising amount of monitoring and refinement. The same automation and systems for placement and keyword bids that make PPC so easy to work with can, if mismanaged or left unattended, leave you hemorrhaging money and drain your entire advertising budget within hours. I’ve seen it happen.
SEO is equally misidentified by many site owners– in this case, as “free traffic”, when in reality organic SEO campaigns are thoroughly planned, researched, and tested prior to launching. It’s a tremendous amount of highly skilled work encompassing several hours, a necessity due to the risks involved in SEO mismanagement; should your marketing tactics fall outside of Google’s regulations for good practice, the results can be even more disastrous than the massive costs involved in bad PPC. Alecan recently worked with a client whose prior marketing management engaged in artificial Page Rank inflation and earned them a massive penalty from Google’s manual review team, and the process for returning their domain to good standing was complex and incredibly time-consuming.
Bottom line: regardless of which method best suits your objective, your campaign needs to be managed by marketing professionals with a working knowledge of SEO’s current best practices.
What This Means
There are exceptions to every rule, but in general, adhering to the following guidelines will offer you the best results for your given circumstances.
Choose SEO if:
- You can afford to be patient for a payoff of consistent and lasting results.
- You want your site to become an authority site for niche audiences.
- You are a domain “flipper” and want to increase the sales value of an online property.
Choose PPC if:
- You need immediate results from specific markets and can sacrifice permanence.
- Your website isn’t conducive to organic SEO; i.e. you can’t or don’t wish to regularly update the site with fresh content.
- You need to easily set your budget up-front.
Making these important decisions about your site’s marketing through an either/or lens is neither necessary nor wise. Rather than viewing PPC and SEO as opposing forces, understand that each is a uniquely valuable marketing tool with its own strengths and weaknesses. Alecan’s team of marketing specialists can show you the power of a both/and approach to these powerful methods– contact us today to learn how PPC and SEO can work together to get the results you need!