The pros and cons of PPC vs SEO

If you’re looking at ways to boost the traffic to your website and increase sales, you may be trying to decide whether it would be better to invest in Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising or to hire a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialist.

Many people believe that PPC and SEO are mutually exclusive. That isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, many businesses use both PPC and SEO to raise the profile of their website. For this to happen successfully, you need to take a strategic approach, understanding the pros and cons of PPC vs SEO and combining the strengths of both to achieve your goals.

But what are the pros and cons of PPC vs SEO? Below, we’ll look at them in more detail:

The pros of PPC

If you want to drive more traffic to your website within a relatively short time frame, then PPC may be your best option. Once you lay the initial groundwork, PPC is fast to implement, and campaigns can be up and running within a matter of weeks. You can also make changes to your PPC campaigns quickly and see almost instant results because of those changes.

As any SEO expert worth their salt will tell you, no-one can guarantee you a spot on page one of Google, especially if you’re targeting highly competitive keywords. However, with PPC ads, your page one listing can be secured. This can be effective if you have a couple of organic listings and a PPC ad as it builds a sense of authority to see that you have several high appearances in Google. It can also help if your SEO efforts haven’t yet given you page one rankings or you want people to see a specific promotion.

Another benefit of PPC advertising is that it lets you target keyword phrases other than those your site is built around. This can be helpful if you want to capitalise on a trending topic or promote one of your less prominent services without having to rebuild or amend your website.

PPC is also appealing because you can quickly and efficiently test the effectiveness of different keywords, phrases, landing pages and promotional offers. If something isn’t working, it’s easy to spot and to refine your campaign.

The cons of PPC

On the flipside, PPC advertising does have some cons. The most desirable keywords have a lot of competition and the highest cost per click. If you go after popular keywords, you may find that the costs of your campaign mount up pretty quickly. If you target more inexpensive keywords, you may not attract the volume of traffic that you want or appeal to the most relevant audience.

While we’re on the subject of costs, whenever you have a PPC campaign running, you have to keep paying for it. If your budget drops or you decide to stop the campaign, you will immediately notice a significant drop in your website traffic and sales.

It’s also worth being aware that some Internet users simply refuse to click on PPC ads. Their thinking is that any company can pay to appear on page one of Google and that the only listings that can be trusted are organic. This means that there may be a proportion of traffic that you simply cannot convert to leads or sales.

Finally, PPC can be time-consuming, especially without expert support. You may find that you’re not sure how to set up your campaign, what keywords to target or how to make the most of your budget. PPC advertising can be time intensive and need regular input to monitor and tweak the effectiveness of your campaigns.

The pros of SEO

And so we come to the benefits of SEO when compared to PPC. Ultimately, SEO is the less expensive option when viewed over the long-term. The changes you make to your website and social media to improve your SEO and create a more engaging user experience can see long-lasting results that increase your traffic, conversions and sales for months at a time.

With SEO, your efforts all combine to support one another. Even if you stop using social media for a couple of weeks, for example, your on-page optimisation should continue to drive traffic to your website.

Another benefit of concentrating on SEO is that any improvements you make, such as creating a mobile-friendly site, boosting your page speeds, fixing crawl errors, writing a regular blog, etc. will help your website’s visibility across all search engines, not just Google.

Finally, as mentioned above, people tend to view organic listings as having more credibility than PPC ads. If you can improve your rankings, you can also improve perceptions about your authority, knowledge and quality of service.

The cons of SEO

As with PPC, SEO does have its downsides. In most cases, you will need to change your website to implement SEO changes, which might mean having to hire a web designer as well as an SEO service.

If your website has been built using an SEO-unfriendly platform, you may need technical support to help you find effective workarounds. Again, the costs of this can add up.

With SEO, it’s unrealistic to expect overnight results. SEO takes time – it can be months until you see whether the steps you’ve taken to improve your SEO are working.

Many businesses hire SEO companies with the expectation that their website will grab the number one spot on page one of Google for all of their chosen keywords; of course, some less credible SEO companies promise this as part of their sales spiel. The reality is that there are no guarantees. The search engines make hundreds of small algorithm changes every year, and significant algorithm shifts – as witnessed when Google Panda, Google Penguin or Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm were rolled out – can suddenly hit your rankings without warning.

It’s also important to recognise that, for all your SEO efforts, there’s a high chance that your competitors are working hard on their rankings too. If you’re going after the same keywords, you may find your website is constantly vying with the same businesses for the Google top spot.

On the subject of keywords, these days SEO works best when you create each page around a single search intent. This means that the number of keywords or long-tail phrases you target can be fairly restricted to the size of your website.

Finally, search engines use more than 200 different ranking signals to decide which results to return whenever a person types in a search. Some of these signals are unknown. Even SEO experts with their fingers fully on the pulse of current and predicted SEO trends can only make educated guesses about what all the ranking signals are and how the search engines weight them.

So, which is best? PPC or SEO

As we can see from the points above, PPC and SEO both have different benefits.

If you are interested in building long-term results, then SEO is probably where you want to spend your budget. We find that SEO is most effective for companies that are keen to improve the user experience of their website and are committed to creating fresh, customer-focused content. SEO also works well for companies that are prepared to play the ‘long game’ and will wait for consistent results.

If your budget is limited or you want to steadily increase the traffic to your website and build the authority of your domain, then investing in SEO should serve you well.

On the other hand, if you want website traffic fast, especially to promote specific products or services, then you may focus your efforts on PPC. PPC is great if you don’t want to change your website in the near future and if you have a robust advertising budget. It’s also a fantastic way to target highly competitive keywords or to test their effectiveness, or that of specific landing pages. Many companies also use PPC if they have a campaign that they want to be able to switch on and off.

Using both SEO and PPC

If you want to maximise the potential traffic coming to your website from multiple channels, then you might choose to invest in both SEO and PPC. While your SEO efforts are focusing on the long-game, you can bring potential customers into your site within a short time-frame using PPC.

PPC can help you to test how your SEO keywords might convert in the long-term or which landing pages you should use on your website. As mentioned in the PPC pros above, paid-for ads can also help raise your profile on page one of Google; even if you have several organic listings, having an additional PPC presence can convey the impression that you are a skilled, reputable company with a good advertising budget.

If you are going to invest in both SEO and PPC, we would recommend sourcing a company that either offers both services or works in collaboration with an accredited Google AdWords partner. This is because, by working in collaboration, the SEO specialist and Google AdWords partner can identify the best keywords to use, prevent overlaps, manage keyword testing and ensure that you’re not spending money on PPC for keywords that are already performing well organically.

At SEO+, we are experts in SEO and we work closely with a trusted Google AdWords partner who brings their extensive insights into PPC to the table. This allows our clients to build on the strengths of both options, and minimise the potential for duplicated efforts.

To find out more about how SEO, PPC or both services could bring more traffic into your website, boost conversion and increase your sales for a more profitable business, why not give us a call on 01626 270 085?

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5 thoughts on “The pros and cons of PPC vs SEO”

  1. Great Read thank you.

    I have been struggling with seo for over a year now. Unfortunately our budget is limited so i used facebook ads to drive traffic which was very cost effective at 0.02 ppc and have been doing whatever seo techniques I can learn online. Eventually I got our business onto the first page of google for our targeted key phrases but my search traffic has remained the same. I was expecting an increase in traffic if even just a small increase. Have any suggestions what might be the reason?

    Reply
    • Thank you Brian.
      If you have targeted the right keywords you should indeed be seeing an increase in traffic. Are you sure that you’ve targeted the keywords that people are actually using in a search to find your services or products?

      Reply
  2. Hi Hazel

    Thanks for the reply.

    As we are an eCommerce site and sell some well recognized international brands i had found that we were doing well on product pages but lacked ranking in general terms like ” buy (x brand) online)” so we targeted those are and getting the 1st spot for one brand and page 2 for the second brand but there is really very little difference in traffic if any at all. I have noted that my competitors seam to be getting a lot more search traffic then me so I will have to dig deeper into the keywords and google trends. Thanks again for the posts I enjoy reading them, keep up the great work.

    Reply
    • If the site is ranking on page one for the search terms that your potential customers are using but your traffic hasn’t increased it might be that your description tags aren’t enticing people to click through to your site. Adding a benefit-rich statement to give your readers a reason to click your listing, not your competitors could be the answer.

      Reply
  3. Both play an important role and give benefit to the business. Every term had their own advantage.

    Reply

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