Increasingly, business owners and ambitious individuals are practicing search engine optimization (SEO), a set of strategies that, if done properly, can increase your chances of ranking highly in search engine results pages (SERPs) produced by Google and similar engines. Basically, it’s a shortcut to the top of the organic rankings so you can generate more traffic for your website.
This is an organic strategy you can begin practicing without spending any money. It takes time to develop, but it often pays off many times over.
An alternative option is to use pay per click (PPC) ads, which allow you to place advertisements above the fold in SERPs. Is paid search worth it if you already have an SEO strategy in place? Or should you focus all your efforts on organic search optimization?
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SEO and PPC Ads: Two Different Approaches
SEO and PPC advertising do share many similarities. They both belong to the category of search engine marketing. They can both be optimized to see better results. And both of them tend to get better over time, helping you see better results for less of an investment.
However, SEO has some severe limitations. It takes a very long time to start generating momentum, especially if you’re launching a new website. Managing a content marketing and link building strategy is complicated, and it can get expensive. And if you’re dealing with significant competition, your investment may be compromised, reducing the effectiveness of your tactics overall.
Because of this, PPC advertising represents a different and complementary approach.
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How PPC Complements Your SEO Strategy
How does PPC advertising complement your SEO strategy?
Faster, more immediate results. As the name suggests, “pay per click” (PPC) advertising requires you to only pay for people who actually click on your ads. As soon as you’re ready to start bidding, you can have ads up and running in a matter of minutes. In SEO, you have no such luxury; it might take months before you start seeing any measurable results. While you’re waiting for your organic campaign to take off, you can invest some of your budget in PPC ads, generating a nearly instant stream of traffic for your budding website.
Fine-tuned targeting. Search optimization gives you at least some degree of control over your rankings and traffic generation, since you can research potential keyword targets and choose only the best ones for your campaign. But with paid advertising, you’ll have much more effective tools you can use to target your audience. You may be able to target people based not only on what they searched for, but also where they live, who they are, and what their online behaviors have been like in the past.
Instant competitive viability. Competing on a national scale in the organic search optimization world requires a monumental investment and ample patience. But with paid advertising, you have immediate competitive viability. If you have the budget for it, you can start going up against top competitors in your industry right away – and even attempt to place advertisements for their branded keyword terms.
Direct sales potential. It’s possible to optimize your product pages and landing pages for search, but it’s more common to take a totally inbound approach with search engine optimization; you’ll spend most of your time and effort promoting internal pages of your website that provide informational value to your prospects. With PPC advertising, you have more wiggle room. You can place literal advertisements for your products and services, directly appealing to your audience in a more outbound fashion.
Audience understanding. Old school market research methods don’t hold a candle to the insights you can glean from PPC marketing. Thanks to Google (and other platforms) collecting massive amounts of user data, you can crunch the numbers and form a much more thorough understanding of who your audience is and how those people think. From there, you can place better ads, write better content, and see better results in more areas than just SEO or PPC.
Robust tools for improvement. Finally, PPC platforms typically have a wide assortment of tools you can use to improve your campaigns. AB testing is easy, user data is abundant, and you can do behavioral analyses to determine exactly why your ads were effective (or ineffective). In SEO, meaningful data is also available – but it’s harder to access and harder to process.
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The Bottom Line
Though similar in practice and function, PPC advertising and SEO are totally distinctive approaches to lead generation and traffic generation. They have different strengths and different weaknesses and can be used in opposite directions to produce similarly beneficial results for your business. Accordingly, if you practice digital marketing at all, you should set aside some of your budget for both of these tactics – and use them together.
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