PPC vs. SEO – A Holistic Approach for CMOs

Chris Navin  |  Search Engine Marketing Analyst

November 11, 2014

Two methods now dominate the world of search marketing: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO). Both, when used effectively, can draw traffic to your website, although the methods work in entirely different ways. Because each method requires a separate approach, some website owners simply pick one over the other and avoid a combined effort.

In reality, though, a combination of both PPC and SEO strategies can yield excellent results to draw traffic your website. But before you adopt this comprehensive plan, it is important to understand how each method works on its own.

The basics of SEO

Search engine optimization is generally the more attractive of the two options for website owners with a lower budget, as it costs nothing more than time and effort. An SEO approach entails boosting a website’s ranking in organic results on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Although SEO entails a variety of measures, one of the most well-known involves the use of keywords. Through keyword research a website owner can discover what his or her customer base is searching for online and utilize those keywords in a variety of ways to climb the search engine ranks. A higher place in an engine search leads to more exposure and traffic.

One major drawback of most SEO strategies is the lack of immediate control or results from efforts put forth. With SEO, usually time will show that the impact of a consistent strategy and continuous efforts is key. Other factors such as the age of a domain, competitive landscape and site structure can also influence the level of difficulty in achieving SEO goals. When it all comes down to it though, a website’s rank and legitimacy within search engines have to do with site content, structure and integration with other search-friendly platforms such as Google Maps, Google Places and social media.

PPC – A different way of drawing visitors

On another side of the spectrum is the method of pay-per-click advertising. Unlike SEO, PPC isn’t free, but it will place a given website above and beyond the organic results in a keyword search, and results are almost immediate.

A website owner utilizing the PPC method ultimately pays for virtual advertisement space for his or her website, which will be displayed above the organic search results in an engine search. The payment is based on the results you’re looking for, but depending on how competitive, the results can also depend on your payment, the competition of the keyword, placement, etc.

A website owner need only pay each time a visitor clicks on the ad, but the cost of the click is tied specifically to the keyword searched, the competitive nature of the keyword and the strength of the campaign structure. Changes to the campaign, targeting, keyword bids, ad copy, etc., can be made to test effectiveness, but unlike SEO, the results begin to populate almost immediately after those changes are made.

PPC and SEO – how they can work together

Due to their obvious differences, PPC and SEO are often viewed as separate methods that should be approached individually. An integrated strategy, however, may actually be most effective, for a variety of reasons.

For one, by using both PPC and SEO strategies, a website can control a large portion of space within a search; the site may be at or near the top organically and be joined by a paid advertisement, thus taking up more real estate on the search engine results page (SERP) and doubling the possibility of receiving visitors.

Additionally, within a PPC campaign a site owner can view the most heavily searched keywords and words that lead to leads or sales. In turn, the website owner can use this knowledge to modify his or her PPC campaign and SEO efforts.

It is also important to realize that social media advertising on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube is also a form of pay-per-click advertising and can reach an entirely different audience of users interested in a campaign. So when putting together a holistic plan, social media is sure to be one piece that can bring in more conversions and better ROI when combined with the longevity of SEO and the immediacy and control of PPC.

Finally, remember that while PPC ads will be posted within minutes or even seconds after the campaign begins, benefits from SEO can take months to materialize, especially in a heavily saturated industry. While a website owner works aggressively to boost his or her results in an organic search, he or she can still remain in the sights of potential visitors through paid advertisements.

Chris Navin
Chris Navin specializes in SEO, Pay Per Click Advertising and social marketing. When he’s not sorting through content and keyword rankings, he likes to hit the slopes, be out on the water, travel and spend time with his friends and family.

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