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As a business owner, you know that digital marketing is essential to reaching new customers and growing your brand. But with so many options and strategies to consider, it can be hard to decide which path to take, which channels to use, and how much to spend.
That’s why we’re breaking down the pros and cons of two popular digital marketing strategies: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO).
Read on to see which one is best suited for your brand’s needs.
What Is PPC Advertising?
PPC advertising is a paid form of marketing. As the name suggests, you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad. PPC ads are sold in an auction format so the price you pay per click depends on the competitiveness of your industry and keywords. More simply, the more brands bidding for keywords related to your product or service, the more you’ll have to pay for those clicks. Higher demand requires more spend to win the allotted ad space.
What Every PPC Strategy Should Include
Here’s what PPC advertising for Google Ads typically involves:
Keyword research – Learning what your customers search for
Bid setting – Figuring out how much to pay for a click
Ad creation – Creating an eye-catching, relevant ad
Audience targeting – Deciding who you want to see your ad
[Related: A Detailed Guide To Vetting And Hiring A PPC Agency]
Pros & Cons of PPC
Advantages of PPC advertising
The main advantage of PPC advertising is that the results are immediate. Once you set up your campaign and start paying for clicks, your ad will show up in search results right away. And because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, it’s a relatively low-risk way to test out different keywords and messaging to see what works best for your brand.
Disadvantages of PPC advertising
The downside of PPC advertising is that it can be expensive in competitive industries. If you’re not careful with your keyword targeting, you could end up paying for a lot of clicks with no conversions (meaning people who clicked on your ad but didn’t buy anything or convert).
PPC can also be time-consuming. Though results come quickly after it’s set up, getting set up in the first place can take time. If you’re not an experienced marketer, it can be difficult to set up and manage a successful campaign.
These pre-vetted PPC specialists are ready to set up your PPC strategy.
What Is SEO?
Unlike PPC, SEO is an organic (unpaid) form of marketing. SEO focuses on improving your website so that it ranks higher in SERPs (search engine results pages).
SEO has no direct costs. However, it takes time and effort to improve your website’s ranking—not only to create a strategy but to implement a strategy that works.
Every SEO Strategy Should Include
Here are the cornerstone elements of Google-friendly SEO:
Keyword research – Discovering what people search for
On-page SEO – Creating content that searchers are looking for
Off-page SEO – Building trust and authority from backlinks to other websites
Technical SEO – Making sure search engines can crawl and index your content
Pros & Cons of SEO
Advantages of SEO advertising
Aside from having little-to-no cost, one of the main advantages of SEO is that once you achieve a high ranking in SERPs, you’ll continue to get traffic to your website (if you maintain the page with relevant information). People who find your content through SEO are also more likely to convert into leads or customers than those who find it through PPC ads.
Why is SEO better for conversions? Because people have already done their research and are more likely to be familiar with your brand before they land on your website.
Disadvantages of SEO advertising
The primary downside of SEO is that it takes time—usually several months—to see any real results. And since SEO depends on Google’s ever-changing algorithm, it can be difficult to maintain a high ranking without continuously making changes to your website.
Once achieved, one way to ensure you maintain a high ranking is to hire an SEO specialist.
Similarities between PPC and SEO
Are there similarities between PPC and SEO? You bet!
First off, they are both parts of a broader SEM (search engine marketing) strategy and both search engine-centric means of improving your bottom line—by making your brand easier to find for people who want your products or services.
Beyond that, SEO and PPC both operate on long-tail and short-tail keywords. In basic terms, the difference between long- and short-tail keywords comes down to how specific you want your ads or content to be—or how much you are willing to spend.
Long-tail Versus Short-tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are more specific—and often longer—than more common, short-tail keywords. As a result, long-tail keywords capture lower search traffic. However, because search intent is specific with long-tail keywords, they generally have a higher conversion rate than broader keywords.
Short-tail keywords are more general search terms. They usually contain one to three words that cover a broad topic. As such, short-tail keywords tend to have higher search volume than long-tail keywords, are more expensive to win in paid search for PPC, are harder to rank for organic SEO results, and are better at attracting more website visitors in general.
As an example, “running shoes” is a short-tail keyword. Because of the high search volume of this term, it is a more expensive keyword in PPC—and more difficult to rank for on SERPs—than “red Nike size-10 running shoes,” which is an example of a long-tail keyword.
Now that we’ve discussed the differences and similarities between PPC and SEO marketing, let’s get to the heart of the issue: finding the right one for you.
PPC or SEO?
So which digital marketing strategy is right for your brand? Truth is—without knowing more about your specific brand and industry—that question is just about impossible to answer.
To be honest, a marketing strategy that integrates both is how smart brands capture more leads and increase their sales. When used in tandem, PPC and SEO strengthen your overall SEM strategy. For example, you can use paid retargeting ads to re-engage with website visitors after an initial click from an organic SERP click.
But we understand that “both” isn’t the answer you came here for, and that your budget impacts much—if not all—of this decision.
With that being said, you can start to identify your answer by asking questions like:
- Do I need leads and sales right now?
- Are we ready to play the SEO long game?
- Do we already have domain authority?
- Is the competition fierce in organic search for our keywords?
- What is the CPC (cost per click) for our PPC keywords?
- What is our marketing budget?
[If you prefer, our team is happy to help answer these questions—fast and for free.]
The Right Search Engine Marketing for You
To wrap up, using PPC advertising to drive immediate traffic to your website while simultaneously working on longer-term SEO efforts allows you to reach all of your potential customers and drive more leads—not to mention maximize the return on investment of your overall marketing budget.
In the end, no one knows your brand better than you. So with the knowledge gained in this article, you can identify the best approach to SEM for your brand’s specific needs.
Need help implementing your PPC and SEO strategy? Yes, I want to hire a specialized agency to help grow my brand.