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SEO and PPC. Two well known strategies in the world of digital marketing, but which one is better? Should one be pitted against the other to see which rises to the top, or should they both be used to boost your business’s visibility and sales?
That’s a big question so let’s begin with the basics. If you are already familiar with the terms SEO and PPC, feel free to skip this first section, if not we will begin by explaining what SEO and PPC are.
SEO stands for “search engine optimisation”. In simple terms it is the process of improving your website in order to increase its visibility in search engines, primarily Google. The purpose of this is so that when users search for terms relevant to your business your site is presented to them in the results.
PPC stands for “pay per click”. This is the term used for adverts that are created to show themselves when a user searches for a term that is relevant to your business. They are the results marked ads that show at the top (and bottom) of the Google results pages. When a user clicks on to your advert, you are charged an amount by Google; how much will depend on several variables such as your competition.
Both of these digital strategies can be targeted to your location (or that of your clients) or applied as a nation, or worldwide strategy. Generally in both cases, the larger the required reach, the higher your budget will need to be to gain and sustain results.
With both techniques in mind, it may seem the simple option is to pay for clicks in order to gain the top spot in the rankings. Unscrupulous companies will often actively promote the notion, broadcasting that they can achieve huge search engine optimisation returns on a limited budget, in an instant. We have seen deals offering to get you to the very top of Google, for any keyword of your choosing, for just £100 a month. With a deal like that, who wouldn’t be tempted?
However, the reality is not quite as it seems and such offerings really are too good to be true.
What these companies are actually selling are thinly disguised PPC campaigns, ad campaigns dressed in trench-coats to look like SEO campaigns. They are blurring the lines between one offering and another and leaving business owners confused.
Using a small set of keywords that are relevant to your industry, they will set up a basic PPC campaign to ensure that your ad presents itself when those certain terms are searched for.
Bingo. Technically they’ve done what they’ve promised, you are number one in Google, but is this a viable strategy?
I think you knew this was coming, but the short answer is no. You can be guaranteed that this route will mean that you don’t get the best from your PPC campaigns, and in addition you won’t be getting any SEO or conversion optimisation carried out on your site either.
Whilst it may see you reach the top slot for a handful of your keywords, this isn’t what PPC is for or how it should be used. Successful PPC works by having a sophisticated advert campaign set up in Google ads, by carefully setting up targeting based on market trends, location and competitor analysis. Getting positive results from PPC also relies on having a website that is optimised for conversion, so that when users click through from an advert in Google they are encouraged to buy your product or get in touch. Campaigns should always be set up by a PPC expert to get the best from them.
Setting up a PPC campaign without these considerations only guarantees to burn a hole in your pocket and will not produce all important conversions. If competition for your search term is high and your ad has not been optimised correctly, it will likely only be presented a handful of times before your budget runs out, and your ads will cease to show.
In addition, unless your billing is set up to be taken directly from Google, and a healthy and well analysed budget is allocated, not only will you be unable to compete with others in your marketplace, but the company running your ad campaigns could be taking more than their fair share to manage your campaigns, leaving only a fraction of your budget to power your ads.
The dynamics, reasoning and strategy behind PPC and SEO are actually very different and for good reasons.
Google describes the differences between SEO and PPC as:
“SEO is a traditional cornerstone of successful online marketing, because it gives your business the best chance of being found – even if the optimisation process takes a while to get right. Google Ads lets you reach customers more immediately, no matter how large or small your business is […]”
According to a study carried out by Bright Local, “Local Services ads by Google receive 13.8% of local SERP clicks.” As users become more familiar with the appearance of ads, they are starting to realise that they can offer a highly targeted search result, that will take them straight to a quick buy option in most instances. At the end of the day, if you are capturing those leads that would otherwise not have found you, and they are converting, PPC is likely worth the investment.
A brand new PPC campaign is a great way to get lots of views and traffic very quickly. PPC is great for increasing brand awareness and getting some quick wins. SEO is a longer-term strategy, that depending on your business can take upto a year before the real results start to roll in.
So PPC offers a quick win for your brand, but this traffic is dependent entirely on you paying Google every time your advert receives clicks. This means that every sale or lead that comes through an ad has a cost attached. Providing your sales outweigh your spend, PPC is a great option, and can see you achieve a great sales boost.
Establishing yourself in the organic rankings using SEO does take time, and will for a while need investment with likely little return in the early days.However, once you’ve established yourself and settled in to page one of the search results for your key search terms the results will roll in at little extra cost. Then with continued maintenance of your digital strategy, you will reap the benefits of a well placed website without the need to pay for clicks.
Another factor to consider whilst weighing up PPC vs SEO, is that while PPC is much more instant to establish itself, it’s just as quick to go away if you were to turn it off.
SEO on the other hand takes more time to build the foundations of in the early days, but the positions you’ve gained don’t disappear instantly the moment you decide to pause your SEO efforts. Granted the very top table slots take some serious work to maintain but were you to pause SEO for a short time, your listing would not disappear overnight.
Interestingly, consumers behave differently when looking at ads versus when they’re looking at the organic (non-ad) listings on Google, as trust seems to be an issue. Generally a PPC ad is trusted less by users, as many people believe that they are in that position thanks to being the highest bidder. Whilst PPC ads can be a useful tool to gain sales, they are not still not regarded in the same way as strong organic rankings are, by Google users.
Aside from gaining a higher click through rate, strong organic rankings are a sign of authority, longevity and expertise for a given query. Being the top result for a search means that a company has demonstrated that they know what they’re talking about and that they’ve put the work in. Depending on your sector, that level of trust may be the difference in securing a bigger contract or a bulk order that would have otherwise passed you by.
An ad at the top of the page doesn’t demonstrate these things at all, with a little knowledge anyone can place an ad for any given search and have their listing shown. Authority and conversion in the ad space is demonstrated with carefully planned ads that resonate with users through great ad copy, great targeting and a knowledge of exactly what that person wants to see… and when.
You may have been told that PPC will improve your organic listings, but this is not the case. Google’s stance on this is as follows;
“Google’s first responsibility is to provide Search users with the most relevant possible results. If businesses were able to pay for higher rankings in the search results, users wouldn’t be getting the information they’re looking for.”
This makes perfect sense, as Google would not be the search engine it is today had it just allowed the top ranking sites be those who had paid the most for that position, even if it is not fully related to what the user wants.
It is difficult to say which is better, SEO or PPC. They both offer a very different marketing strategy and can, if managed successfully bring outstanding results.
The takeaway from all of this is that SEO and PPC campaigns have their own strategies, purposes and strengths, but using one as a substitute for the other won’t give you the results you’re after.
Our suggestion, particularly if you are establishing a new business, is to use a combination of the two approaches.
The powers at Google agree with us, stating that “Using SEO and Google Ads together may give you the best chance of bringing traffic to your site in the short term, and enhancing your business’s presence online for long-term success.” It is evident that in an ideal world, strong ads and targeting that resonate with users combined with knowledge and authoritative results in the organic SERPs is the most powerful combination.
A strong SEO strategy alongside PPC campaigns will mean that not only are you targeting the percentage of users who click the ads, but you will be higher in organic search and more likely to see conversions thanks to gaining trust and recognition.
If you’re building on your brand for the long term, running strong PPC campaigns alongside your SEO strategy is vital to ensure you acquire leads and sales whilst your website climbs the organic listings. A great example of this is our client Golf Geeks, seller of premium second hand golf clubs, who run Google Shopping Ads to ensure they have a good presence in the SERPs and are getting sales in the short-term whilst waiting for SEO to take hold.
Ultimately when it comes to picking an agency for SEO, stay away from the cowboys. If the offering sounds too good to be true it probably is.
You shouldn’t be paying over the odds for digital marketing services, but having a trustworthy SEO expert in charge of your website won’t come for nothing. Remember, whatever you spend should offer a good return on investment by way of increased awareness and conversions. Find a digital agency that can demonstrate their experience with case studies, testimonials and reporting.
Of course if you are looking for an SEO Agency in Norwich, we would be happy to talk through your project and let you know the best strategy to reach your business potential.