Knowing where to focus your online marketing budget can be confusing, with a deluge of conflicting advice flooding business forums and networking groups. One of the most hotly debated topics is the issue of Search Engine Optimisation vs. Pay Per Click advertising, and I often get asked which approach works best. The answer is usually a bit of both, and you certainly can’t ignore the benefits of either.
SEO has long been the mainstay of Internet marketing; ensuring that one’s website is properly formatted and contains the relevant keywords and phrases that target audiences regularly search for will naturally increase the chances of ranking highly within the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). However, paid search has grown exponentially in recent years, guaranteeing page one presence and offering easily trackable analytics to measure success.
Essentially, good quality PPC campaign management should always follow SEO best practice guidelines, ensuring that ads are constructed to reach and appeal to the right people. One informs the other, and they should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Indeed, if users click on a great ad that directs them to a poorly-optimised landing page, they’re likely to make a quick getaway, so the principles of SEO should be kept in mind throughout every step of the PPC journey.
So how do you divide efforts between the two?
SEO & PPC: A match made in online heaven
Taking time to ensure your site is fully-optimised with dynamic keyword insertion, intelligent use of meta titles, correct formatting of headers and URLs, and looking for quality internal linking will pay dividends in the long-term. These all have a bearing on how search engine bots read your site, and they’ll favour those sites which make the process easy. You can’t afford to neglect the basics of SEO if you’re serious about boosting organic listings, and this should form an essential part of your overall strategy.
However, to really give your marketing efforts a kick, you should also consider investing in pay-per-click, and the two approaches can complement each other to give your search rankings real firepower. Here’s how:
1. Double the data
Studying your organic traffic will give you insight into the keywords that draw people to your site, and the same information can be gleaned from your PPC analysis. By cross-referencing the two, you can see which terms perform best and take this information to ensure both sides are honed to perfection.
2. Test for best
The beauty of PPC is that it allows you to run several variations of the same ad over a set period of time, allowing you to test different approaches to see what converts. Using this knowledge, you can then refine your web copy to ensure that it’s in-keeping with the most successful ad campaign, thus giving you a greater chance of boosting organic results as well.
SEO alone leaves you playing the long-game, as it can take time to determine whether your efforts are gaining sufficient traction. However, PPC gives almost instantaneous results that you can use to accordingly adjust your SEO.
3. Breed negativity
Another bonus of PPC marketing is the ability to define ‘negative keywords’, i.e. the specific search terms that you don’t want your ad to appear for. For example, if you’re selling an sports betting ebook guide that offers best practice advice for play online, you might want to set the term ‘free’ as a negative keyword to ensure that people who have no intention of buying your product don’t click-through, thus needlessly costing you money.
Conducting thorough keyword research as part of your SEO analysis can highlight common search terms that should be avoided for PPC, saving you cash in the process.
4. Total Domination
Ultimately, if you have a strong SEO backbone that places you at the top of organic searches, you can increase your brand presence further by paying for ad space in the sponsored listings. Essentially, Pay Per Click is a low-risk form of marketing as you have complete control over your budget and you only pay when people actually click-through to your site.
Assuming that your landing page is optimised, you should find that paid search generates a very healthy ROI. Likewise, if your SEO is up-to-scratch, your organic results will also deliver qualified traffic to your site.
Two sides of the same coin
It’s a misconception that SEO and PPC are completely different beasts; together they can form a very effective partnership that offers strong business benefits, significantly boosting your company’s web presence.
One word of warning is that search engine algorithms are prone to change, meaning that SEO efforts can sometimes be undone overnight. You don’t have this same issue with PPC, as you’re guaranteed to stay near the top for as long as you’re prepared to run your campaign.
PPC is fantastic for establishing your products and/or services, guaranteeing you reach your target audience, but it’s always good practice to keep on top of SEO too.
As is often the case with such matters, there’s plenty of jargon to get your head around, so if you do consider outsourcing your marketing to a PPC specialist make sure you read these five questions to ask your AdWords agency.