Pay Per Click versus Organic Search Engine Optimization
(Cross-posted on the Scott-Gallagher.net Blog)
In an ideal world you would use both strategies to maximize your site’s profile. Due to budgetary constraints however, this is not often possible. Trying to do both on a limited budget or with limited resources can result in neither campaign producing ideal results. If this is the case, you must focus on one or the other. Since the majority of users click on organic listings and anyone can pay for PPC listings, I almost always focus my effort on SEO over PPC. However, this short article may give some insight into what’s best for you.
Organic Search Engine Optimization
I’m going to identify some of the advantages here of SEO versus PPC.
Trust. Studies have found that searches trust organic listings 86% of the time versus its counterpart. This is because paid ads are, well just that, paid. Anyone can place an ad on the networks and entire fundamentals of Google, to organize the world’s information, is why their search engine is number one. Their listings and their algorithm is very, very tough to game, and in turn, their results are very accurate. Hence, increased trust.
Click Through Rate. I know you’ve clicked on more organic listings in your lifetime than paid. So has your competitors, friends, family. It’s a given and therefore it’s safe to assume the click through rate on organic listings outperform PPC listings. To prove this, a study I discovered found that search users are up to six times more likely to click on the first six organic results than they are to click on any of the paid results. Another interesting find was a study of eye tracking, a solution to measure where the human eyes go on a webpage. This study found that over 50% of users start on the top left corner of the listing, varied groups scanned middle left to right and few users started their scanning on the paid results. Finally, another study shows that 30% of searchers click on paid listings, leaving a whopping 70% who click on organic listings.
Visitor Value. Trends are showing that more sales are resulting from organic listings than PPC. Additionally, the overall conversion rate of a few of the sites that we manage, which are local businesses, is $17 higher for unpaid search results than the rate for PPC.
PPC Awareness. Hundreds of people on the Internet are millionaires, some billionaires, from managing affiliate PPC campaigns. It’s much more difficult to do this since PPC has become visible to the average surfer as a marketing tool. While I don’t have this statistic reference, I recall reading that only 50% of searches are aware of the distinction between PPC and organic. Frankly, when I’m selling SEO and I ask the question “Do you know the difference between PPC and Organic listings?” the answer is typically, ‘well no, not really’. I know this happens more than 50% of the time.
PPC Pricing is increasing. This is obvious. This is economics of supply and demand. As more advertisers compete in the PPC world, the supply doesn’t change that much, however the demand is increasing. Therefore, as costs go up, your profit margins shrink.
Long Haul Game. Marketing anything is a long term endeavor, however, PPC changed that. While there are pros and cons of each, SEO takes longer to get results, but your efforts stick for a longer period of time. Just as quickly as you can get an ad up in PPC and begin to get results, you lose that traffic as soon as you stop paying.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
I can hear your little voice now saying, why would I want to even read this PPC section, I’m sold on SEO. I’m not discounting PPC - it’s an effective strategy. If you have the budget left, even $200 a month, I would suggest running a PPC campaign for at least your first 6 months.
Results. Your results are instant. You get an account right now, in 15 minutes you could have traffic. Your SEO efforts can take months to get results.
Budget. OK, nothing is free. While we say organic traffic is free traffic, let’s not kid ourselves. Organic traffic is not free, in fact it’s very expensive. Whether you’re spending your time or money outsourcing, it’s costing you. Hiring someone for $250 a month will not get you decent SEO results. We charge upwards of $1000 per month for a small business on SEO. But bear in mind that for $12,000 per year, we have generated millions in revenue.
Easier to manage. OK, so this is a long post and I remember the first time I begun to learn SEO, I was overwhelmed. It has taken me years. I don’t expect you to know SEO like I know it. Even a step by step book can’t simplify SEO to the point that a monkey could do, it still requires intelligence. A simple PPC campaign can be managed in house by someone with little experience in marketing. I’m not saying this person will be successful though, since I heard once over 50% of all online campaigns fail. I think they were referring to PPC.
No Contract or Time Commitments. While we do not have time contracts for PPC, most SEO firms will require you to invest with them for six months or more. For SEO, I’m considering offering 12 and 24 month SEO contracts. We need six months of your investment, or we won’t get results. Granted, we’ll get local results in the first month, but we need top placement results to look good for several keywords. We achieve this in the third and fourth month and by the sixth month, our clients have translated a lot of that traffic into business.