It's been said before, but it bears repeating: Traffic is the lifeblood of any online undertaking. The success of an online business greatly depends on the amount of traffic it can generate for its pages. This is an indubitable fact.
What is subject to a lot of debate, however, is the matter of SEO vs. PPC, two of the most powerful traffic generating approaches. SEO stands for search engine optimization. PPC stands for pay per click. Though their end goal is the same, they are different concepts that require different techniques and methodologies.
Both are effective methods of driving visitors to a website, but one method can work very well for certain circumstances, while with the other, you may encounter difficulties generating traffic in the same situation.
To succeed with either method, or with both of them, marketers should know their strengths and limitations so they can be applied correctly under optimal conditions.
When Is It Best To Use SEO?
SEO refers to a group of techniques that are aimed to propel a website to the first page of the major search engines.
SEO is very important for online businesses, as statistics show that 80% of the traffic that can be generated for any website will come from the search engines.
The biggest search engine is undoubtedly Google, which garners more than 3.5 billion searches per day; hence, most SEO campaigns target this specific search engine.
So, when should you use SEO techniques over PPC? Below are some circumstances when SEO would prove highly beneficial for an online business.
- When consistent results are desired. SEO has a relatively long gestation period. Getting to the first page of search engine results won’t happen overnight or even in a week. Getting to the top of the SERPs will take time. However, once your website gets there via SEO, you will enjoy sustained traffic. Also, if you keep up with your SEO campaign, working to maintain and improve results, you can stay on top for a long time and reap long-term benefits.
- When you wish to build an authority site. An authority website is an established resource center for a particular niche. It is the “go to” website whenever members of that niche need certain information. An authority website, once it gets going, will be able to generate lots of traffic based on URL recall alone. The best way to establish an authority website is by sustainably generating traffic to your pages, eventually building up a reputation until it becomes popular enough to dominate its market. The only way to sustainably generate the traffic required is through clever content powered by smart SEO planning.
- When you want to increase the value of your website. Websites are virtual real estates. If you’re planning to sell your website for a premium price, you have to increase its value. There are many factors that can contribute to increasing its value. Among them are amount of traffic generated, consistency of traffic generated, page rank, search engine rankings over a period of time, link popularity, and the like. All of these fall in the realm of SEO.
Keep in mind that SEO isn't "Free Clicks". It's a tremendous amount of work in creating and promoting content which takes a great deal of time and money.
When Is It Best To Use PPC?
Now we go to the other side of the SEO vs. PPC debate.
Pay-per-click marketing is a method of advertising on search engine results pages. Basically, you bid to have your ads appear in the sponsored results when someone types in a query including your keywords.
Why is it named “pay per click”? Because you have to pay for every user who clicks on the ad you are promoting.
Popular PPC advertising platforms include Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook’s advertising platform. Niche-specific PPC systems also abound. One good example is PlentyOfFish.com’s advertisement option, which works wonderfully with dating offers.
So, when should you use PPC marketing? Below are some circumstances when PPC would prove highly beneficial for an online business.
- When immediate results are desired. PPC will deliver results fast. Very fast! You can count the minutes before a rush of visitors come cascading to your pages. This is because the moment your PPC campaign is approved (provided that your bids are high enough to merit priority placement), your ads will immediately be displayed for millions of people to see. The traffic will almost be instantaneous. Hence, PPC works amazingly well with product launches, squeeze pages, CPA marketing and affiliate marketing involving high converting offers, joint venture (JV) projects, seasonal promotions, event-focused marketing, and analogous online business campaigns.
- When highly targeted traffic is sought. Unlike SEO, PPC marketing will allow you to narrow down your prospects based on their demographic data. Many PPC platforms, like social media sites, allow you to promote to the age range, gender, income bracket, education level, and even marital status of the people who will be able to view your ad. Popular social media sites like Facebook also allow you to target people based on their hobbies. These make PPC a powerful way of reaching the narrow band of people your business needs, and leading them to your web pages.
- When promoting a time-sensitive offer. Marketing products, services or events with an expiration date is always a race against time. Often, the long gestation period of SEO campaigns would produce belated results. For these time-sensitive offers, the expedience of PPC marketing would be perfect. Promoting an offer that will end in 2 days? No problem. PPC can deliver the traffic you need in a matter of minutes.
- When your website isn’t designed for SEO. SEO requires content-rich websites that are regularly updated. This is the only way to 1) inform the search engines that your site is relevant, and 2) remind the search engines to keep your site at the top of the pile. Some websites are not designed for this. Squeeze pages, for example, won’t have the required content to even merit a second glance from Google. For websites such as this, traffic can be generated from PPC campaigns.
- If you want to dominate search results for your keyword category. PPC results are displayed above the organic search results. This prominent position means that in many cases, as much as 50% of the search traffic goes to the top 3 sponsored links. By being absent from PPC you're conceding loss of all those clicks to your competitors. If you're serious about maximizing your click-share of available searches for keywords relevant to your business, you absolutely must engage in PPC!
These are some situations when you might have a preference toward one marketing method or the other. I personally believe one shouldn't be thinking in terms of SEO vs. PPC - but rather that both SEO and PPC are important, and complementary, parts of an online marketing strategy.