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One of the most frequently asked questions when clients are exploring digital marketing or have been running a digital marketing campaign is ‘What will be better/works best for my business; SEO or PPC?’
In short there is no definitive answer to this question, there are too many variables to take into account which include the competitiveness of the industry, the marketing budget available, the short and long term objectives of a business and many more. As an example, a business entering a highly competitive industry will often find that the benefits of optimising their site for the search engines (Google, Bing) will not be seen for quite some time. In this scenario PPC may be an option, although PPC can be very expensive in competitive industries such as finance, law and insurance. Advertisers are often paying very high cost per clicks for exposure and traffic, and unless the campaign is optimised to a high standard costs can often be hefty with very little in return.
The Appeal of PPC
PPC is seen as the clear winner in terms of a short term solution. Once the PPC campaign is setup with targeted keywords and ads, users can find themselves at the top of Google search results for their targeted keywords right away. This leads to instant traffic coming through which means data is quickly visible. Learnings can then be taken in order to further optimise and refine the campaign. The main drawback is of course that every click is being paid for and it is not ‘free’ traffic like SEO. When setup incorrectly a PPC campaign has the potential to spend a lot of money and achieve a poor return on investment.
With PPC you also have the advantage of various features that can be included onto your advert such as Sitelinks, Price Extensions, Callouts and more. These extensions allow your ad to feature additional selling points, features or pricing points which will aid the appeal for a searching user to click your advert. In addition PPC is not just about your typical text ads, PLA’s (Product Listing Ads) are a huge component of PPC and an essential part of a PPC strategy for any E-Commerce business. PLA’s feature an image of the product as well as the price and brand, which in theory will mean a click via a PLA will be better qualified. According to a 2017 Digital Marketing report from Merkle, PLA’s achieved a 30% higher conversion rate on desktop against Non-Brand text ads while for Mobile it was 21% higher. It is no surprise that PLA’s are becoming a fundamental part of the overall paid search strategy for E-Commerce companies.
SEO – Key for Long Term Success
SEO is seen as a mid to longer term solution particularly for websites that are fairly new or do not have much domain history. The creation of high quality content is essential to achieve strong rankings as well as many other factors such as site speed, user experience, mobile usability etc. All of the factors take time however it is the creation of interesting and fresh content that can be especially time consuming. In most cases SEO requires a lot of work to build the strong foundations which lead to traffic and visitors, however once this does happen there is no cost for the traffic like there is with PPC.
Once SEO is running well and bringing a good to high volume of traffic to the site, a strong ROI is obviously much easier to achieve than with PPC where every click is being paid for. As the SEO continues to grow in terms of traffic and visibility, the ROI in theory should also continue to grow. Another aspect to consider is should there be reductions to a marketing budget SEO would be vital as organic traffic should not be affected in the way PPC would be. If budgets were to be reduced for PPC the drop in traffic would be seen instantly.
PPC and SEO Together = The Money Team
There are many pros and cons of SEO and PPC, the truth of the matter is they are both too important to favour one over the other.
Ideally PPC and SEO running together should be two main components of a digital marketing campaign. If a website is new or lacks history with Google then a PPC campaign can help the website gain some exposure and traffic which in turn could have a beneficial impact on the SEO. In addition PPC can be used to achieve exposure on keywords where SEO visibility isn’t as strong.
Should PPC and SEO be run together strategically it can lead to a very successful partnership where each channel picks up where the other isn’t as strong. It can help lead to drastically increasing the traffic share within a market should both strategies be carried out well.
It is vitally important to have the right skills and expertise when managing SEO and PPC campaigns, failure to do so will result in little growth in rankings for SEO or worse still a site penalty from Google, while PPC has the capacity to spend a great deal of money with poor returns if not managed with the expertise required.
SEO and PPC should both be a huge part of any digital marketing strategy, when both are done to a high standard and in line with one another they can deliver a knockout to your competitors.