SEO vs. PPC: Which Digital Marketing Strategy is Right for Your Organization?
SEO or PPC? Many organizations are conflicted which of these two approaches is the best way to stay competitive and relevant in today’s digital world. Let’s take a look at the nature and pros and cons of each approach.
Competitive Digital World
The world economy is becoming ever more digital. Seventy-five percent of businesses in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (PDF) area in 2015, including 35 countries from North and South America to Europe and Asia-Pacific, have an online presence.
With the majority of businesses now having an online presence, what are the chances that your company’s website will rank high in Google’s search engine results?
The Nature of SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It refers to the measures undertaken to make your website obtain a high-ranking placement in search results.
Data from Statista showed that bulk of the search engine market share in Canada as of April 2017 went to Google (with 61.59% searches), followed by Bing (21.34%), Ask (12.2%), Yahoo (3.05%) and Other (1.83%).
Every search engine has its own criteria on how to rank billions of websites around the world. The criteria for ranking websites are kept secret by companies such as Google, Microsoft (owner of Bing search engine) and Yahoo to prevent the public from manipulating the search engine results. As of today, Google, for instance, has over 200 criteria to rank a website.
For being the most popular search engine, manipulators descended upon Google to sway the search results. The term “blackhat” SEO was born as a result. Google defines blackhat SEO as “Illicit techniques that manipulate search engines to try to rank a site higher”.
The following techniques are considered as blackhat SEO by Google:
The use of blackhat SEO can ruin your site and your online reputation. Once Google determines that you’re using blackhat techniques, it may remove your site from the Google index or demote your site.
Google, meanwhile, allows website owners to optimize their website to rank high in the search giant’s results by using “whitehat” SEO techniques. The search engine giant defines whitehat SEO as legitimate “techniques aim to improve a site by focusing on the visitors instead of on ranking higher”.
Creating high-quality content on your site is considered by Google as whitehat SEO. The use of keywords in your content is encouraged in order for internet users to find what your organization is offering. What’s prohibited is the use of too many keywords, especially those that are out of context.
The Nature of PPC
PPC stands for pay-per-click. It’s an internet marketing tool in which an advertiser pays a certain amount of money every time a user clicks on an online ad. The top search engine companies – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – each have their own PPC program.
Google, being the dominant search engine, is also the dominant PPC program provider. The search giant’s PPC program is called Google AdWords. This PPC program offered by Google lets you show your online ads to the right audience, right location and right time.
The search giant, however, emphasizes that PPC won’t help your SEO ranking. Although PPC in no way affects your site ranking, the tools that come with AdWords will help your organization figure out how to optimize your site organically – without paying for ads.
A case study (PDF) conducted by Google showed that a company that sells a self-help course of a personal nature improved its PPC conversion rate by opting to show its online ad only to customers who might only sign up or purchase when they were in the privacy of their own home – that means outside the regular working hours.
The Google case study showed that while the time change lowered website visits from 9861 to 5652, it increased the client's conversion rate by 3 times, from 1.49% to 4.49%.
Other than ads schedule, other factors that affect PPC conversion rate are improved landing pages, choice of various cities and regions, particular keywords and groups of keywords and device.
SEO and PPC Comparison
Here are 3 key differences between SEO and PPC:
1. Budgetary Requirement
Appearing on top of Google’s search listings as a result of good SEO practices is free. “Search listings are free, and no one can pay for a better ranking,” Google said.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the person you hire to optimize your site is free. And even if you’re doing all the optimizing yourself, there’s still an economic cost to what you’re doing, for instance, creating high-quality content instead of working on other tasks.
PPC, on the other hand, isn’t free. As mentioned, you pay every time a user clicks on your ads. You can control your PPC cost by setting a daily budget – an amount that you're willing to spend each day.
In terms of physical placement in Google’s search results, Google’s PPC ads are placed on top of the organic search results – listings that appear because of their relevance to the search terms and as a result of good SEO work.
So even if you’ve worked hard publishing high-quality content on your site, your competitors’ PPC ads will still appear on top of Google’s search results.
3. Time Element
Good SEO practices can greatly impact the search rankings of your site over time. Many internet users take time to look through the organic listings provided by Google.
The impact of PPC, on the hand, is immediate. This online marketing tool allows you to reach wider audience based on their age, interest, location, language, particular time of the day and device they use. This immediate impact is beneficial to small organizations that can't consistently update their SEO strategies to show latest promotions or seasonal offerings.
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