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An Honest Comparison Between the Two Marketing Channels

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SEO and PPC are different marketing channels and most organizations have dedicated resources for both of them. Organic traffic accounts for 40% of all trackable online traffic and paid search accounts for 28%. These numbers are just for trackable traffic and total up to 68% of the 90% traffic that comes to websites through search engines. Just looking at these numbers, you can easily deduce that if you want to tap into all of your potential traffic, you have to use SEO and PPC together. So why is the internet full of articles and videos that compare SEO and PPC and recommend one or the other? One word: resources.

Most organizations have a limited budget for marketing. Most measure marketing success by the increase in revenue generated by marketing campaigns. And doing PPC and SEO side by side can be costly. That’s is why business leaders have to make an educated decision when choosing their next marketing campaign. In this article, we will discuss the advantages and shortcomings of both SEO and PPC and see which one is a good fit for your marketing strategy.

SEO Advantages and Shortcomings

Advantages

It has the potential to bring more traffic (tap into the 40%)

If you are only relying on PPC as a source of traffic, the traffic will dry up as soon as you stop the campaign. However, with SEO you can generate a consistent stream of traffic on your website and tap into that 40% trackable traffic.

It brings free traffic and improves ROI

In most cases, the amount of money you spend on SEO will be smaller than the money you’d otherwise have to spend on PPC. That is why the leads and e-commerce revenue generated via SEO has great ROI.

It increases your brand strength and legitimacy (anyone can do PPC)

Being in the top results organically gives you a lot of brand strength and legitimacy. Anyone can do PPC and appear at the top, but the fact that your website shows up in the top results for free means you know what you are doing. Being in the top organic results immediately wins the customer’s trust.

It provides you with a strategic advantage over your competitors that may be relying on PPC

Imagine a scenario where your competitors have to spend actual money on a keyword for which you rank organically. Every click that you get from that keyword costs you virtually nothing, meanwhile, every click they get takes away from their monthly PPC budget. If you are ranking for keywords other people are paying for, you are already winning.

It is sustainable and allows for long term growth

SEO consists of a group of on-page and off-page activities that you do month after month and work towards growth. This makes it sustainable and helps you create the foundation for explosive growth down the road.

It delivers a better CTR and better leads (in terms of quality)

Organic CTR is almost always better than PPC CTR because people trust organic results more. The leads generated through organic traffic have a higher chance to convert.

Shortcomings

SEO starts delivering results in the long run – there’s no immediate ROI

SEO requires you to commit resources to it but does not deliver immediate ROI. You have to constantly track keyword rankings, build links, improve the content on your website and wait. It usually takes a few months for SEO to start delivering traffic and leads.

There are no guarantees in SEO, you can work with a strategy for months and it may not deliver the results you expected

With PPC, you can know within a week whether or not a PPC campaign is working. With SEO, it may take months before you realize that your SEO strategy is not working. This is because you have to give any SEO strategy at least 3-6 months for it to deliver any kind of results.

It is difficult to find freelancers, agencies, or in-house talent that’s a good fit for you

The heading says it all. While you can do your research, search for testimonials and reviews, but at the end of the day, you will have to go through multiple service providers before you find the right fit.

Your SEO service provider will not agree to a performance-based KPI and will charge you for activities only

SEO service providers usually agree to task-based KPIs, i.e. they will agree to perform certain on-page activities, build a set number of links, make sure your page load speed goes from 30 seconds to 3 seconds, etc., but they will not agree to business KPIs. This means they will not agree to deliver X amount of leads, or get you to position zero for a certain keyword, or promise X amount of traffic per month.

PPC Advantages and Shortcomings

Advantages

You can target an exact audience

With PPC you can target exact keywords, geographical locations, and use a number of other factors for targeting. It gives you the kind of control over your campaign that SEO simply cannot.

You put money in and your ad shows up at the top, no waiting

PPC delivers immediate results at least in terms of getting the campaign up and running. You can set up the campaign, click the start button, and start seeing traffic in a matter of hours.

You have complete control over the budget

You can set the campaign budget before starting the campaign and can hit the pause button any time you want.

You can measure the performance of the PPC campaign with complete transparency and calculate the actual cost of the leads generated

Most PPC campaigns use a similar formula: the ads lead to a landing page and the landing page has a sign-up form to collect leads. This makes it incredibly easy to segregate the data and calculate the exact ROI on your PPC expenditure. With SEO, there’s always unattributed traffic, inbound calls, direct traffic that cannot be tracked, so SEO data and ROI is not as accurate PPC data and ROI.

It produces valuable data

Since you can easily turn PPC traffic on and off, you can use it as a great source of data and insights into user behavior. You can use a small scale PPC campaign to get valuable data and optimize the messaging and design elements on your landing page.

Shortcomings

The cost keeps going up

With PPC, no matter how much you optimize your campaign, the cost keeps going up. The cost per click goes up every few months, and that drives up your cost per conversion. In some cases, you may be able to keep up with the increasing cost but a number of business factors can affect your ability to keep your campaign running.

In most cases, it is not sustainable (conversion rate changes over time)

The conversion rate on your landing page and your website, in general, will not remain the same, so even if you are doing a successful PPC campaign today, there’s no guarantee that the same campaign will work tomorrow. You have to constantly monitor costs and user behavior and keep optimizing your campaign at all times.

Finding the right in-house resources or agency is a hassle

This is even more troublesome than SEO because there’s big money involved. With SEO, you can go through a few service providers before finding the right fit and lose some money along the way. However, with PPC you risk losing the money you spent on advertising as well as the money you spent on the service provider.

The verdict – It all comes down to your budget and business goals

Now that you know what to expect from your SEO and PPC campaigns, you can make an educated decision about the channel that works for you. It all comes down to your business goals and the resources you have at hand. If you are trying to get a small business off the ground, you have to do a PPC campaign. For medium-sized businesses or businesses that already have a steady stream of income, it would be wise to go for SEO.


About the Author: Andrew Wilson is an SEO analyst at Rank Genie. He loves to watch movies, listen to podcasts, and plan about launching his own podcast. He has helped the Rank Genie team shape their rank tracker and make it one of the most easy-to-use and SEO friendly trackers out there. You can find his blogs on www.RankGenie.com.