Other than the occasional retailer who is selling exclusively from their physical premises, most businesses now rely on being found by their potential customers in the online space.
However, if there is one thing the online environment seems to lack, it is space! It’s incredibly crowded, so how does a company stand out and ensure that it gets found amongst the hundreds, thousands, or millions of competitors, all trying to capture consumer attention?
There are two methods that businesses typically use, SEO and PPC, and this blog is to help you to understand the differences between them and when to use them.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and this is the process of enhancing your website’s visibility to make it rank and gain organic traffic from search engines.
Over 90% of all search engine enquiries are made through Google. So, what we are talking about here is how to ensure that when your potential customer is looking for your product or service, they find you and not your competitors on the first page of results that come up in Google. When you invest in SEO, you’re increasing the likelihood of that happening.
Effective SEO involves many factors including technical know-how, your website’s reputation or domain authority, website performance, content quality and lead sources through backlinks and referrals. Believe it or not, there are actually over 200 separate factors that influence SEO and you can find a list of all of them here.
This list of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors was compiled by Brian Dean, one of the world’s foremost SEO experts.
You may have noticed that when you search on Google, the top search results are tagged with an “Ad” marker. These are PPC adverts. The searches below them are organic and are based upon SEO.
PPC stands for Pay Per Click and it is a form of search engine marketing (SEM) where an advertiser selects keywords within an advertisement and then pays a publisher (such as Google or Facebook) every time someone clicks on their advert.
This model means you pay only when consumers interact with your ads, rather than for the number of times they are displayed. Providing your advert is skillfully worded, every pound spent results in the attraction of people genuinely interested in your products or services.
You set a daily budget of how much you are prepared to spend and your advert is displayed until the budget has been used. The cost of each click is based upon the popularity of the word in search terms. The more sought after the words, the higher the cost. For an SME this means being careful to get the right blend of volume leads versus the cost.
There are benefits to both SEO and PPC, principally:
- It is cheaper in the long run than PPC as there is no cost per click
- You can create different types of content to address audiences at different stages of your sales funnel
- PPC is either on or off. With SEO, once ranked, maintenance will ensure your website stays visible
- When you appear consistently on search engine results pages, it builds your credibility and brand authority as an expert
- PPC delivers results very quickly
- The paid ads appear at the top of the Google Search results page so are seen first, even if they are not clicked on
- PPC allows you to target people from a specific geographic area, age, marital status or interest
- With a PPC campaign, you can run different ads simultaneously to measure the one that converts better. This allows ongoing refinement and improvement in measurement criteria.
The disadvantages of SEO
- The algorithms upon which search is based can be changed by the search engine provider, and they are not commonly known. Consequently, you have to monitor the performance of your keywords regularly and be ready to change them when results change. This can mean changing your keywords, repurposing or rewriting old content and creating new content.
- SEO also takes time to take effect. If your website or domain is new, it can take many months for it to become trusted and established sufficiently for your optimisation to take any effect.
- If you’re not hiring a professional, you’ll need to be an excellent writer and an SEO expert to optimize your site for search engines properly. It’s extremely time-consuming and without a good understanding of the technical aspects of SEO, good writing can still go unread.
The disadvantages of PPC
- Firstly, without money, you cannot run a PPC campaign, and as you have to pay for every link that your audience clicks, your budget can be used up very quickly. As soon as your budget dries up, so does your traffic.
- PPC ads can get even more expensive when you’re in a competitive industry like legal or insurance where individual clicks can cost £30 or more!
- Some consumers will consciously avoid the paid ads as they want to favour small businesses who don’t have the advertising budgets to compete. If your SEO is not great, this means both of your routes to market can be closed off.
- Finally, you have limited control over your paid ad because of the rules set by ad platforms like Google. As such, your copy might have similar wording to your competitors, which makes it easy for your audience to pass over quickly.
So, the big question then is – which is better for my business, SEO or PPC?
The honest answer is, it depends! It is a bit like asking whether it’s better to eat with a fork or spoon – if it’s for spaghetti, you’ll want a fork, but that won’t be overly helpful if you’re having soup!
Use SEO if…
- Your marketing budget is low.
- You want to build your brand authority.
- You’re looking to maximize your long-term return-on-investment (ROI).
- You want to create content that reaches your audience at different stages of the sales funnel.
Use PPC if…
- You want quick results.
- Your product is novel or first-of-its-kind.
- You’re promoting a time-sensitive offer, like a holiday sale.
- You want to direct your audience to a specific sales or landing page.
Take your time to evaluate the pros and cons of both SEO and PPC to see which is the right fit for you. If possible, integrate the two strategies to see even more outstanding results for your business.
If performed in isolation, any work you put into either SEO & PPC will likely be less successful than if it is contextualised with your content or a part of your brand journey. It’s critical to ensure none of this effort is done in isolation.
If you need help creating the right strategy and content for your business, please get in touch with us at Focus7 and we’d be very happy to help.
David Langdown is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Focus7, a purpose-driven, brand-led growth agency. David has been a Fellow of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing since 2003. He has an Advanced Professional Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling and is a practising counsellor.