SEO vs PPC – What’s Best for My Business? (Podcast)

What is best, SEO or PPC?

Hi, Tony here, and welcome to today’s “Pickaweb Business School” podcast. And we’re going to be answering the question, “SEO versus PPC, what’s best for my business?” And this is a brilliant question.

Basically we’ve got SEO or search engine optimization and PPC which stands for pay-per-click and these are two of the most popular ways of getting traffic. So let’s first of all understand the difference, the high-level difference between them.

What’s the Difference between SEO & PPC?

So SEO or search engine optimization. Here we’re interested in getting organic traffic from Google listings as well as Bing. Don’t forget Bing is going to be getting 20% or 30% of the search traffic, but mainly we’re concerned with Google here.

Then PPC, or pay-per-click, this is when you pay for traffic. When someone clicks on an advert, those adverts that appear at the top of Google for example, that’s pay-per-click.

Also when it comes to PPC these days there’s loads of different types.

There’s AdWords which is the classic Google offering, then there’s remarketing, there’s Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Sponsored, and there’s loads of different types of other forms of paid social.

But, for the purpose of today’s podcast, let’s assume that we’re talking about Google AdWords, because that’s the most common type that people talk to me about.

And people often say to me, “Tony, where should I be putting my money? Where should I be putting my effort, into SEO or into pay-per-click?” And that’s what I want to address, that specific issue today and help you make an informed decision.

SEO isn’t ‘Free Traffic’

Now, on the surface SEO is a great option because it’s free.

People just think, “That’s great. I’m just going to do some SEO, and then I’m just going to get loads and loads of traffic, ad infinitum, into the future, and all I’ve done is a bit of stuff up front.”

Well, if only it were as simple as that, because the point is you do need to do stuff. It’s going to cost you time. It’s going to require skill and commitment.

So, don’t think that this is some kind of free lunch. It’s not as free as it sounds.

SEO is a Long Term Strategy

What I would say is that once you’ve done the basics, once you’ve got into your groove, once you are into your rhythm, you’re going to find this is a brilliant option for you, because you can then effectively start to get free traffic after a while.

We’ve got content on our website that gets thousands and thousands of visits every single month and this is stuff that we created ages ago.

Yes, there’s some work up front. You’ve got to make sure that you get that content out there and promote it and optimize it.

But the key thing is we’ve created that content, we’re not doing anything, we don’t have to spend any more time on it and it’s just working away for us, which is brilliant.

So SEO is a bit like front-loading your investment. You do need to do some stuff up front, but you’re going to get a long afterlife, a long return on investment from your content.

PPC Requires Continuous Investment

PPC on the other hand is going to require cash up front from day one.

And the general idea here is that you set up an ad campaign, and you send traffic to your website, and, hey presto, the orders are going to start coming in.

So the great thing there is you start paying cash, you start getting leads coming to your website.

Also, when you look at Google search pages recently, you may have noticed that they’re now starting to give more and more space to their adverts at the top and the bottom of the page.

It used to be three at the top, and now it’s four, and that’s increasingly taking over the space and there’s less space for the organic listings.

So it would seem that PPC, this is a good option, because you’re going to pay some cash, you’re going to end up at the top of the ranking, and you’re basically going to be squeezing out the people who are doing SEO.

PPC Requires Skill and Expertise Too

However, I’ve just lost count of the number of times that I’ve spoken to business owners who say that they’ve been burnt using pay-per-click.

Typically they’ll say, “Tony, I’ve spent some money. I’ve spent a load of money. I hardly got anything in return. I’ve switched off the campaign. What do I do?”

So, that’s what we’re going to answer here. What’s the best option for you?

Some Advantages of SEO

So let’s think about the pros and cons of each option.

Well in terms of SEO, the advantages are this is a long-term play here. This isn’t something which is just plug it in, and off you go, and it’s going to work absolutely immediately.

This is something for the long-term.

It’s more effective for lower competitive industries especially. I would definitely say that.

You haven’t got to put as much effort in if you’re not in such a competitive niche.

If you’re in web hosting, for example, same as us, this is extremely competitive, ultracompetitive. Finance, and mortgages, and insurance, those are other types of hypercompetitive markets.

SEO is Easy for Less Competitive Markets

But if you’re a local business, believe you me, you haven’t got as much competition. You haven’t got to do as much to get a high ranking.

Also, it’s hard to switch off traffic that you’re going to be getting. It’s going to be coming through your website from well-optimized pages, from great content, so your content has got a really long half-life, if you like.

It’s going to work day in day out for you for years to come if you do a good job on it.

And once you’re up and running with SEO, it’s fairly easy. Once you know what you’re doing, you’ve made that initial investment, as I said, you’re into your rhythm, then it’s fairly straightforward. It’s also very, very cost effective.

SEO is increasingly about great Content

And SEO is increasingly content-based and this is something that I talk about in other podcasts.

It’s based all around content, and this is exploiting your expertise and your knowledge, and that means that it’s hitting lots and lots of sweet spots.

So, it’s ticking boxes when it comes to blogging, content marketing, social media, link building, all that type of thing. It’s also estimated as well that, because it’s based on content and expertise, you’re going to be getting lots of better quality leads, because people are finding you through your expert content.

So, lots of positives for SEO.

Some Negatives of SEO

In terms of negatives, it does require some skill up front. It does require some knowledge. It can get technical.

Again, this is when you’re getting more complex, you’re getting more competitive, it can get technical.

So, be aware of that if you’re in very, very competitive markets.

And you possibly are going to need some external help to get up and running, but if you do it the right way, once you’re up and running, you can probably manage it yourself.

Advantages of PPC

In terms of PPC, it’s a faster setup, and you have the potential to get instant traffic.

Do it right, you are going to get traffic. There’s no doubt about that.

It’s also cost-effective, again, if you do know what you’re doing.

Also you can definitely get lots and lots of leads if you set it up correctly. We’re talking here landing pages where you set up a specific web page, and the intention is that you get people to either phone you or download a report to do a specific act.

So, you can do all sorts of things with it. There’s all sorts of tricks and techniques that you can use to exploit it to get more and more leads. So, pay-per-click from that perspective is very, very powerful.

Some Disadvantages of PPC

On the downside, it’s a lot more technical than people would have you believe. This is not plug-and-play marketing.

Some people will say to you, “Yeah, that’s it, great. Pay-per-click, just switch it on”.

You know, Google will ring you up. Their sales team will ring you up, ‘Yeah, yeah. Did you know that there’s 30,000 potential customers that were searching last month?’

Well, good luck on that one, because there’s all sorts of things you need to do. You’ve got to think about the types of keyword that you’re looking for.

Are they broad match, exact match? There’s all types of technical gubbins going on there.

Landing Pages – a Key Component of PPC Success

You’ve also got to think about landing pages.

A classic mistake with pay-per-click is just sending people to your homepage.

What you should be doing is sending them to a specific landing page that matches exactly what you’ve actually said on the advert, and then there’s all sorts of things like conversion rate optimization and analytics.

Believe you me, it can get very, very complex and technical if you want to do it well, and it can be expensive if you’re inexperienced.

This is what I’m talking about when I hear people saying, “Tony, I’ve burnt a lot of money on pay-per-click. It just hasn’t worked for me.” You can see that it’s easy to make mistakes.

And don’t forget, once you switch off the cash, once you stop paying, the traffic’s going to stop. So, you need to be aware of that. And, in some respects, it can form bad habits. It can get you into really lazy forms of marketing.

Tony’s Verdict?

Okay. So, here’s my overall verdict.

You’re looking for a decision.

Well, I’m going to come down clearly on the side of SEO. Why? Because I love content.

If you check out my podcast on blogging and content and look at our blog and our YouTube channel, this is what I’m talking about.

I love blogging, I love content, and I really believe, especially for small businesses, that this is the future. This is what’s going to really set you apart from your competition.

And I want you to think about your website as being like a museum or an art gallery that has a gift shop attached to it, okay? Now, your content is the gallery.

That’s how people are finding you. That’s what people are searching on. Whereas your sales pages are like the gift shop, so they come in through your content, and they leave through the sales pages, all right?

That’s a bit of an analogy to get you thinking about how content can be really, really effective in getting people to find you and trust you.

And I really believe that the businesses who create great content that demonstrate their skill, that demonstrate their expertise, shows their knowledge, these are going to be the ones who are going to win the traffic battle in Google.

These are the ones who are going to get more and more social media action.

PPC Is Not Plug & Play Marketing

Now, by all means, use pay-per-click, but don’t fall into that trap of thinking that it’s just as simple as pitching up, sticking up a few ads, and the phone’s going to start ringing.

As I said, pay-per-click is not plug-and-play marketing.

It’s technical.

It requires constant tweaking.

It can cost you a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing, if you’re not eliminating things like negative keywords, because you’re making your adverts more expensive.

And don’t forget, when you turn off the cash, the traffic spigot, the traffic tap, it just stops dead there and then. And if you’re not measuring the return on investment, you can just be wasting money basically.

As I said, it’s not to say that pay-per-click isn’t good.

Just make sure that you’re going into it with your eyes open, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look for experts who can help you to set up your campaigns and optimize them on an ongoing basis.

All right. I hope that that’s helped you to make an informed decision. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope you found that useful. Thanks very much, and keep listening to the Pickaweb Business podcast. Thanks so much for your time. See you soon. Bye-bye.


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    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for the comment. These days Authority is what Google is looking for & it’s hard to claim that if you’re not creating great content.

    Also Social Media is soooo much easier with great content.

    Also, you can use content in PPC ads – take people to a landing page with a free report, etc. & you’re building trust rather than just asking people to ‘get their card out’ there & then (which is hard). Great content builds trust & when the time is right people will use your services.

    All the best!

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    Agreed there is no such thing as free traffic. It seems to me that ppc and SEO are somewhat inseparable, in so far as they both benefit each other. We encourage clients to look at both as part of their budget. Especially for those just beginning the SEO work on their site. It can take several months, depending on the niche and competition, to get website ranking up the the place where it will start getting organic click traffic, so positioning a few ppc ads can be a huge value. Another typical strategy is to move some of the PPC budget into retargeting once the SEO ranking starts to take effect.
    Thanks for the article Tony.

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    Hey Tony Messer,

    Thanks for the SEO vs PPC analysis. In my opinion both are better be used: PPC for short-term method, nearly instant results while SEO organic traffic builds up and eventually brings you a nice surprise.

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