SEO or Pay Per Click?

This morning I received an email from a friend and fellow small business owner, she wanted to know my opinion on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) vs. Pay Per Click (PPC).  I’ve been asked this question many times…so, here’s my take on it, pros and cons on both.

SEO, which is what I prefer is difficult, takes a good amount of research, is time consuming and requires ongoing commitment with rules that change when Google alters their search algorithms, making it a moving target.  Sounds fun, huh?  I myself, am fascinated by SEO, enjoy reading about it, the challenge of getting closer to page one and working on it daily.  I also enjoy writing, which is really helpful for SEO.  It’s not for everyone and in many cases may be better handled by a professional, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

If hiring someone is a better fit for you, make sure you do your homework, get references and MAKE SURE they are NOT using “black hat” techniques to get your site to appear on page one.  Find out who their customers are and what key search terms they have been successful with (getting a company’s website to appear on page one when you search by the company’s name is no challenge and not impressive).  Getting a printing company like PrinterBees to page 1 for a keyword like “business card printing“…now that’s impressive!   Important Note: There is NO GUARANTEE with SEO and any company which guarantees “page one”, I personally wouldn’t trust.   It clearly states on Google’s site there are no guarantees with SEO, making any statement to that effect, false.   The best place to learn about SEO, what it is and how it works is right on Google’s site, Google Webmaster Tools has everything you need to know and more, I encourage you to check it out if you’re considering an investment in SEO, even if you plan to hire someone.

SEO Pros:

  • It’s free and the payoffs are huge.
  • A much higher percentage of people click on the organic search results than the paid search results.
  • Organic results give more “authority” to a site than paid.

SEO Cons:

  • It’s time consuming, there are no guarantees, a site can loose page rank overnight for no apparent reason.
  • It’s never ending, the rules change regularly.

PPC, which I don’t currently use as a method of driving traffic is no easy task to set up or manage and mistakes with PPC can be costly.  The same risk holds true for any marketing campaign invested in.  On a positive note, there are easy ways to control your budget and what your willing to spend, making it easy to “tinker” and experiment with PPC without huge financial risk.

When it comes to setting it up, there is a considerable amount of research that needs to be done before you can effectively launch a PPC campaign.  You must research which key words you wish to target and budget how much you’re willing to pay each time someone clicks on that keyword, leading them to your website.  There are some keywords that cost upwards of $9.00 per click.  I picked the term “online printing” to see the Cost Per Click (CPC) for this keyword.  $9.03 on the high end…wow!  For companies like Vista Print or Fedex, it’s a drop in the bucket and worth every penny, $9 a click for a small business eats up a marketing budget quickly.  This is the extreme, but a good example of how costly it can be.  CPC is a pretty simple bidding system, the company willing to pay the most shows up at the top of the search engine results.  The key is to find words that are a good match for your business, have a high volume of searches AND are low in competition, therefore cost less.  The CPC is much lower when your ad shows up further down in the search results vs. the top of page one.  You can choose to be top of page two, it’s very flexible.

PPC screens shot
This is a sample of a keyword search in the Google Adwords tool showing the number of searches, the competition for each keyword, the search volume around the world and in the US and the approximate cost per click should you wish to bid on that particular keyword.

The best way to figure out what a campaign would cost is to create a Google Adwords account and play around with it.  Try different search terms you think people are likely to type in the Google search bar and see what you find.  It’s pretty fascinating and the perfect way to get your feet wet.  My best advice with PPC marketing is to make sure you manage it, watch it and pay attention to results.  Set a reasonable daily budget for PPC marketing and see what happens.  Maybe it will be successful for you, there’s only one way to find out.

The Pros of PPC:

  • Having control of your traffic, testing keywords, testing landing pages, testing products, testing ads, testing banners.
  • The testing opportunities are endless and instantaneous because you’re in charge of the search term and who you want to click, how many clicks you want, etc.
  • You have control and aren’t at the mercy of Google, other than paying them to advertise, of course.

The Cons of PPC:

  • Costly
  • Time consuming
  • Needs to be monitored and be managed regularly to be effective.

Both methods are very effective.  Some companies start with PPC while ramping up SEO efforts, which could be a good approach as well. 

This article is an original contribution by Nadine Larder.

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