This question has plagued marketers since the start of the Digital Era. Most marketers are uncertain of the role of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising in their search marketing strategy, overall, and in individual marketing campaigns. Each approach or channel has its advantages and disadvantages, where your intent and objectives, your product or service, your industry, and more decide on the important levels for each approach or channel.
SEO has always lent itself to a long-term stratagem, whereas PPC is used as a short-term approach by marketers. The former is very useful in building brand awareness and influence in the market, while the latter is an efficient and pragmatic means of generating revenue – selling.
Odds are, eventually, both SEO and PPC can be beneficial, to varying degrees, in realising your search engine marketing strategy.
But how, exactly?
Before moving on, one should know that there are two key differences when considering SEO vs PPC.
So what can SEO do?
SEO can help marketers drive targeted, organic search traffic that is pertinent to their industry. It helps their brand gain higher visibility and more exposure. It makes it easy to entice the target audience that will potentially convert into customers/clients. SEO is the word of mouth of the Digital Era. It is a completely new approach to win more referrals for the business at a lesser cost. When you look at the traditional word of mouth marketing, you find that the traditional approach is not as scalable as search engine optimisation, and this makes SEO much more compelling.
It is not all peaches and cream; there are minuses to SEO. In numerous scenarios, organic traffic can be slow to come by, and as a marketer, you may be heavily outnumbered. If the brand is only starting out in the digital world, and the keywords being targeted show results dominated by giants like Amazon and eBay, then you have to amend your plan. You have to create content assets to achieve strong organic visibility. Most brands (especially young ones) don’t have the in-house resources to deal with content development, and this will become a significant hurdle. Ploys such as safe, sustainable link building can be difficult to master, and usually, the strategy needs support from domain experts.
A substantial quantum of organic traffic comes in through informational or pre-purchase research queries. While it is valuable traffic, it requires a more staged approach to nurture those users to purchase. This is a cornerstone activity in Digital Marketing; yet, it is not always simple, and most importantly it is not a good fit for all businesses.
Now, what does PPC do?
For starters, Pay-Per-Click
In the Digital Era where content marketing and thought leadership rule, PPC can cultivate the middle ground of nurturing and helping the middle of the funnel via advertising content downloads, seeking newsletter signups, contest entries, and pushing for app downloads. PPC can support several elements of the sales funnel and the path that your prospects take from awareness to becoming a customer. When the marketer sends his PPC traffic to dedicated landing pages and tracks it all the way to conversion using Google Analytics, he/she is able to clearly see what was spent and what it drove in terms of the campaign end goals. No billboard or magazine ad can attribute to sales like that!
Similar to SEO, PPC does have a Dark Side. It is as the name suggests “Pay-Per-Click”, paid – hence, it needs continuous investment. When you stop paying the piper, your ads disappear and the lead generation dries up. With marketing, you can’t spend a little and get a bit. If you don’t have the resources (read Money) to get over the bell curve, then it isn’t worth chasing. Several brands have been in this scenario – innumerable hours spent conducting keyword research, creating ads, analysing data only to find the budget is being depleted, digital traffic isn’t of high quality and the orders just aren’t coming in. It is not unusual to get into bidding wars with other brands/advertisers, which can drive costs up.
Stay tuned… for the verdict on the question.