SEO vs. PPC Search Showdown
I often get asked which is better: Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click Search Ads? My answer is always the following… “It depends.” It depends on what you’re trying to achieve, what the competitive landscape is like for your industry and how much budget you have. I believe it’s not a question of which is “better”, it’s a question of which is more appropriate for your needs!
To better understand the differences, the following lists the main advantages of each:
Advantages of SEO
- Long term benefits, lower ongoing cost – Once top rankings have been achieved, they’re usually fairly easy to keep up (at little cost) whereas PPC campaigns require ongoing PPC spend (at quickly increasing cost).
- Good ROI – SEO usually has the highest return on investment of any online marketing activity.
- Capture more market share – Top organic rankings will allow you to capture a larger share of your search market than PPC Search ads will as there’s a proportion of people who will not click on PPC ads.
Advantages of PPC Search
- Smaller upfront cost – PPC Search campaigns cost less to set up than SEO campaigns (which often have large upfront costs).
- Smaller/nimbler campaigns – PPC campaigns can allow you to run a small campaign to test the viability of search marketing for your business or to test new markets (e.g. testing demand in other provinces or countries).
- Compete for competitive phrases – PPC campaigns allow you to compete for phrases which are too competitive to achieve top organic rankings or are dominated by large companies who can put more resources into their SEO efforts.
So, which is the better fit for you? Here are some scenarios in which I’d recommend one or the other:
- Moderately competitive industry – If your industry is only moderately competitive, then Search Engine Optimization is usually the way to go. By moderately competitive I mean that either you don’t have a large number of competitors in your market your competitors are doing a poor job of search engine optimization. Currently, we still find that most industries are only moderately competitive, but are also noticing that the level of competition is increasing rapidly – so time may be of the essence for you to take the lead in your market.
- Highly competitive industry – If your industry is highly
competitive then a PPC Search campaign may be better for you, allowing
you to gain some search traffic even though your competitors have very
well optimized sites.
- Low budget – If your initial budget is low, beginning with a PPC
campaign could be the better way to go. Use your initial budget to
generate immediate returns which can be reinvested into either further
PPC campaigns or a SEO campaign down the road. We often find that this
is the approach that companies take when trying out search marketing for
the first time. It has the least risk as the budget can be fairly
small, while still producing good, measurable results.
- High budget – If you have a substantial initial budget, search
engine optimization is usually your best option. Use your budget to
dominate the rankings in your marketing. You might also consider both
running PPC Search ads for KW phrases that you do not yet have rankings
for while also search engine optimizing. This way, you’ll be generating
business from search both immediately and over the long term.
- Testing new markets – If you’d like to test new markets to see if
there is demand for your products and services, then a PPC Search
campaign is the best way to do this. You can test geographic markets
(other cities, provinces/states, or countries) easily with small PPC
So who’s the winner in this showdown? Both have their place, so let’s call this one a draw.