SEO vs PPC: The Pros and Cons of an Integrated Approach
As businesses continue to compete in the digital landscape, search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising have become two of the most popular strategies for driving traffic to websites. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, and deciding which to use can be a daunting task. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of an integrated approach to SEO and PPC, and offer insights on how to leverage both for maximum results.
What Is SEO
Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a website and its content to improve its ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). This involves making changes to the website’s structure and content to make it more visible to search engines, and building backlinks from other websites to increase its authority.
What Is PPC
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a form of digital advertising where businesses pay a fee each time their ad is clicked on. PPC ads are displayed on search engine results pages, social media platforms, and other websites.
Search Engines Landscape
When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay-per-Click) advertising, it’s essential to make an informed decision that aligns with your business goals. To do that, you need to understand the makeup of the search engine result pages (SERPs) for the keywords that matter to you.
Gone are the days of “10 blue links” as search engines have evolved to provide a more comprehensive user experience. Today, SERPs feature a wide variety of page elements, all designed to offer detailed answers and allow users to delve deeper into a topic.
Modern SERPs feature:
- Knowledge panels.
- Featured snippets.
- Top stories (news).
- People Also Ask.
- Organic listings.
- Search tools (related searches, etc.)
- And more ads.
Search results are complex and diverse and each of these areas offers an opportunity for keen-eyed search marketers.
There is a common mistake that a lot of local businesses make, which is to assume that what they see when they Google their target keywords at their location is what everyone sees.
It is important to track your results from different locations as the ads, local pack and organic results (typically localized) will vary.
What we recommend here is that you either conduct manual rank reports from different locations or ideally, use a rank tracking tool that will show you your rankings at various points across the geography you cover.
Pros of SEO
- Cost-effective: While SEO requires an initial investment, it is generally cheaper in the long run than PPC advertising.
- Long-term results: SEO takes time to show results, but once a website begins to rank well, it can continue to do so for a long time.
- Builds credibility: High rankings on search engines can help build credibility and trust with customers
Cons of SEO
- Time-consuming: SEO can take months or even years to show results, which can be frustrating for businesses looking for immediate results.
- Constantly evolving: Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, which means businesses must stay up to date with best practices to maintain their rankings.
- Limited control: Businesses have limited control over how their website is ranked on search engines, as it ultimately depends on the search engine’s algorithm.
Pros of PPC
- Immediate results: PPC advertising can drive traffic to a website immediately, making it a great option for businesses looking for quick results.
- Targeted audience: PPC ads can be targeted to specific audiences based on demographics, interests, and search terms.
- Measurable: PPC advertising allows businesses to track their ad spend and measure their return on investment (ROI).
Cons of PPC
- Costly: PPC advertising can be expensive, especially for highly competitive keywords.
- Short-term results: Once a business stops paying for ads, traffic to their website will drop off.
- Ad blindness: Many users are becoming increasingly blind to ads and may not click on them, regardless of how targeted they are.
The Third Option: SEO & PPC
In most cases, the right approach will not be either SEO or PPC. But rather a holistic SEM strategy that combines both.
SEO and PPC can be a real ‘boost’ when they are strategically aligned to work together.
A blended approach will typically drive overall results greater than their parts.
The benefits of running SEO and PPC together include:
- Keyword and conversion data from PPC can be fed into organic search (SEO).
- Geographic areas with weaker SEO coverage can be covered by PPC.
- The total traffic volume can be increased by targeting clicks in paid and organic for high-performing keywords.
- High-cost, high-volume or low-converting (yet still important) keywords can be moved from PPC to organic search.
- A/B testing of ad copy and landing pages can be fed into your organic listing and landing pages.
- Remarketing allows you to stay in front of visitors after an initial touch via organic search and customize messaging around their engagement with your site.
- Test your keyword strategy in PPC before committing to long-term SEO strategies.
- Target users at all customer journey stages, from research to comparison to purchase with commercial keywords.
- Increase confidence and awareness by having both strong organic and paid visibility.
In our experience with thousands of businesses, an integrated search strategy that looks at both SEO and PPC is the optimal approach.
We may often start with heavy PPC while organic is built up and then dial that back a little. Alternatively, PPC may be the icing on the cake to bag sales that were set up with SEO traffic.
What is right will always depend on your situation and goals, but the smart mindset is to look at how to get these two titans of modern marketing working together.