Comparing Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization

 In Digital Branding, Tips for Clients & Business Owners

There are two ways to get to the top of the search engine listings: using search engine optimization (SEO) to boost your rankings, and buying your way to the top with pay per click (PPC) listings. Which method should you use to promote your web site?

Instant Gratification With PPC

PPC advertising programs such as Google Adwords place a small text ad for your web site in the Sponsored Links section of the search results. Each time someone clicks on your PPC listing, you pay a certain amount of money. Prices are set by competitive bidding and can range from surprisingly cheap ($0.33 for “java book”) to expensive ($12.98 for “web hosting”).

The search engine optimization process is much slower. You have to work your way to the top of the free search results by tuning your web pages so the search engines can better understand them.

PPC and SEO have very different flavors. The biggest advantage of PPC listings is that you can immediately reach the top of the search engine result listing. In contrast, it can take 3 months before you get the full benefit of your SEO campaign. Compared to that time, a PPC campaign feels like instant gratification.

To run an effective PPC campaign we will recommend a monthly budget of at least $600 each month.

So which approach should you be using to promote your Web site? For most people the answer is to use both. Consider PPC as a short-term solution and SEO for the long term.

Some of the advantages of this combined approach are obvious. If it can take 3 months for SEO to show maximum results, why not run a PPC campaign during that time?

But there are other, surprising synergies you can get by combining both methods. In particular, a PPC campaign is the best way to find the keywords you should be targeting in your SEO campaign.

Trust and Relevance

Studies are beginning to indicate that the trust level for SEO results is much higher than that of paid results.

As more and more people turn to the Internet for research and information, more searchers are becoming aware of paid results as a marketing tool.

Users also have rated organic search engine results as more relevant than paid results. On Google, 72.3 percent felt that organic results were more relevant, while only 27.7 percent rated paid results as more relevant. Yahoo offered similar results, with 60.8 calling organic results relevant compared to only 39.2 percent for paid.

Long Term Results

While a pay-per-click campaign may produce results more quickly than an organic search engine optimization campaign, organic search engine optimization campaigns can give you results that last. When the budget runs out for a pay-per-click campaign, or when your company decides that the pay-per-click campaign should be terminated, the results end as well. With organic search engine optimization, the optimized site content and other changes made to your site can have an impact on your search results for a longer period of time.

Finding the Right Words

Wouldn’t it be a shame if you put a lot of effort into your SEO campaign, only to find you chose the wrong keywords?

A PPC campaign lets you experiment with a wide range of keywords. Since it takes only a few minutes to create a listing for a keyword, it’s easy to experiment with many of different words. It’s common for a PPC campaign to target 100 or more keywords. Google include conversion-tracking tools that help you understand which keywords are generating sales. Once you’ve seen which words are working, you can target them for search engine optimization.

Our recommended approach to running a search engine marketing campaign is to start with a small scale PPC campaign. Your PPC budget doesn’t have to be large, since you aren’t trying to buy all the clicks available for all your keywords. You want just enough traffic to let you learn which keywords are working. Within a month, you should have enough data to start your SEO campaign. Once that starts to show results, you can lower your keyword bids or drop them.

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