Search engines such as Google have proven to be a key asset in driving website traffic for businesses, with the key approach to finding search engine success resting on a business’s SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (pay per click) efforts. With each of these serving their own role, it begs the question on many business owners’ lips, which of the 2 should they focus on?

Well the answer isn’t as straight forward as simply picking one. In most cases your marketing should in fact focus on both your SEO and PPC strategies. This will allow you to not only benefit in the short term, but also develop a process that’ll continue driving search engine traffic to your website in the long term. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, it’s a strategy that is likely to offer the biggest rewards for most businesses. We’ve looked at a few of the things you should consider when deciding how much time and money you should invest into each channel.

Budget

As with most other aspects of your business, your budget is likely to play a key role in determining how and where you spend your money. SEO is ever evolving and so requires a degree of expertise if you’re really going to excel and achieve results. Therefore you need to consider whether you have the skills in-house to focus on SEO, or whether you’ll have to hire someone or even outsource it to an agency/freelancer. PPC on the other hand can prove cheaper in the short term as employees can be (relatively easily) upskilled, however also needs to be managed closely. You need to ensure the keywords your targeting, and the cost per click of each one is generating a return on your spend. Remember, it’s not just about getting people clicking on your paid ads, you also want them to turn into paying customers or else you’ll soon find that your cost per conversion will be taking large chunks out of your margins, or even eradicating them altogether.

If done correctly, in the short term PPC could well prove the more cost effective method, however it should be kept in mind that as soon as you stop spending money on it, your ads will also disappear. This is where SEO trumps paid ads. The equity you are building in your site, towards your SEO visibility, will always remain, even if you stop or wind down your activity, making it a much more sustainable means of driving traffic to your website over the long term.

Urgency

Yes, in a sense all business should see it as being urgent to drive more traffic to their website. However this may be something that’s more relevant to some businesses more than others. If your business thrives during certain periods of the year, or if you’re really struggling to get traffic to your website then it’s fair to assume that this is the type of business that might see the need for more visitors as being “urgent”. If in these cases your organic listings are lagging behind other results (say on page 3 or 4 of Google) then PPC is certainly recommended. If you can target the right keywords and match it with the correct budget, you could well see your ads appearing on the first page of Google which could prove crucial in increasing traffic to your website quickly.

With SEO on the other hand, it can take time to build up that your site’s SEO equity, especially if you’re just starting out. Be careful to not be lulled into false hope as a new site can often spike in the rankings for a short period before then dropping down once Google has fully decided where it should sit.  The process of simply stuffing your website with keywords and improving your search ranking is a distant memory, with Google placing a greater onus on the usability of your site and its credibility. Depending on the state of your website, improving these elements can take time and so should be seen as a longer-term strategy.

Competition

The level of competition on search engines is also something that can very well dictate which area you focus on. As mentioned above, the process of SEO can take longer before you see yourself rise up the search rankings, and this is something that would only be further compounded if the industry you’re in is highly competitive since there’ll be more businesses vying for the top search results. Alternatively, you might find big brands consuming all the ad spaces at significant prices, forcing you to turn your attention to SEO.

It’s worth assessing the competition for both aspects to ascertain which strategy is likely to prove more fruitful before you start investing in activity.

Final words

Be sure to also have a sound marketing strategy to work from alongside considering the above factors. This will help to give you more direction and ensure you generate a positive return on your marketing spend, whether that be for SEO (e.g. outlining which blog topics to cover) or PPC (e.g. highlighting the most appropriate key words while keeping in mind things such as your budget and conversion rates).

If you were expecting a clear answer in terms of choosing between SEO and PPC then we’re sorry to disappoint you, however you can now go away with a better idea of what you should be considering when planning your SEO and PPC activity.

If you feel you need a hand increasing your leads, then feel free to get in touch with one of our consultants. We can help create a strategy and pinpoint the best method of attaining the necessary leads for you to reach your goals, whether that be through search engine traffic or other means.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.