SEO Versus PPC: How Do I Know Which is Right For My Business?

Jul 29, 2019

Digital marketing, SEO, and PPC can get confusing. A world of acronyms gets thrown around and even though you might know what they mean in a general sense, the specifics keep getting more complicated. Before you know it, you’re lost in a world of buzzwords and just looking for a way out.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You, too, can maximize the opportunities that digital marketing can bring with it. All you need is a little bit of an introduction into some of the most common terms, and why they matter.

Take SEO and PPC as an example. They’re two fundamentally different approaches to marketing on the same medium – Google’s search results. Understanding their purpose and unique benefits helps you not just know the difference, but also which of the two is right for your business at its current point in time.

Just the Basics: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of making sure that your website ranks highly in Google search results for relevant keywords and phrases your audience might use. It’s a massive marketing tool; Google, after all, processes more than 40,000 search queries every second (3.5 billion per day) as the world’s largest website.

Think about it this way: a potential customer searches for ‘local roofing company’. Research tells us they’ll consider the first page of the results, and little else. If you can build your contractor website to show up among those first few results, you’re much more likely to get the click – putting your company into the running for that customer’s business.

Just the Basics: Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Let’s stick with the same example above. When that person searches for ‘local roofing company’, they’ll likely see a few paid/sponsored results at the top. They’re clearly marked as such. Those are PPC ads, designed specifically to convert new customers, targeted by specific keywords, and paid to get to the top of the most relevant results.

It’s important to get some confusion out of the way, too. PPC can stand for any pay-per-click ad, including social media. Meanwhile, you might hear paid Google ads referred to as SEM (search engine marketing). For the purposes of this post, and to make sure I don’t confuse you even more, PPC will specifically stand for Google ads.

The Core Elements of SEO

A basic definition of the two concepts is only the beginning. Breaking down each of them helps you begin to understand the difference in more detail.

Search engine optimization is, in many ways, a website building process. It almost necessarily has to include a few components that help you rank highly on relevant results:

  • An understanding of what exact keywords you should aim to rank for, accomplished through thorough keyword research.
  • A website designed to rank for these keywords, through on-page optimization tactics that include anything from meta descriptions to image alt text and appropriate page headers.
  • Blogs and other types of dynamic content optimized around the specific keywords you look to improve.
  • Outgoing links to other, relevant and credible websites that make your website seem like a hub for the content based around your relevant keywords.
  • Inbound links from other relevant and credible websites, telling Google that your content is valuable enough to be considered a topical authority by others around the web.

Through these elements, you can see a variety of processes that need to happen to really make a difference in SEO. Thorough keyword research, website development, regular content writing, and strategic link building are all part of a comprehensive SEO strategy.

That takes time. In fact, it will take several months and sometimes years to see results from your efforts. When you get it right, you have immense growth potential based on your placement on the world’s popular website (and other search engines like it). You just have to work hard to get there.

The Core Elements of PPC

Taking a closer look at PPC reveals some similarities to SEO, but also a number of differences that tend to make this tactic an alternative rather than a substitute. Let’s dive in. The typical PPC campaign includes:

  • Keyword research similar to SEO, with a focus on not just the volume of searches but also the average price you have to pay to rank for a given keyword.
  • Copy development that matches both your keyword and the landing page you’re redirecting your audience to. The typical SEM ad has a headline along with multiple lines of copy and a URL to link to.
  • A defined budget that allows the system to continually bid on the keywords you choose and get your ads placed within the most desirable search result spot possible.
  • A defined start and end date of the campaign in which the budget should be spent.
  • Comprehensive analytics attachments that help you monitor the success (or failure) of your ad, ideally including user behavior after they visit your website from that ad.

In other words, this is a clear and defined ad campaign. Once the keyword research is complete, you can start your campaign (and rank for the right keywords) almost instantly. Of course, it also costs money. The most expensive keyword right now, insurance, costs more than $54 for every single click the advertiser gets.

SEO vs PPC: Which (or When) is Right For Your Business

Combine all of these aspects, and you get a step closer to the core question: should your business focus on SEO or PPC?

In many cases, the answer should be both. SEO should be a basic consideration for all businesses. You likely already have a website. Why not put some of your marketing effort into optimizing that website to leverage this potentially powerful tool?

PPC, on the other hand, depends on budget. It has the potential to be a significant part of your marketing success, based on its relevance and presence on Google. But it also won’t be able to sustain your entire marketing strategy on its own.

Smart marketers leverage each of the tactics for their specific benefits. They use SEO for brand awareness, ranking on general keywords that help get attention for the business. PPC becomes more action-oriented, with keywords further down the funnel that end with purchasing calls to action. Others use the keyword analytics gained from short-term PPC efforts to build their long-term SEO efforts.

In other words, there is no absolute in this space. One or both can work great, depending on your budget or situation. You might just need a partner that helps you get the most of them, and that’s where we come in. Our expertise in both SEO and PPC makes us uniquely qualified to work with you on either or both of these core digital marketing strategy. Chat with us or book a free consultation – let’s start the conversation!

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