You have to be found online.
This isn’t something a business owner or marketer can opt-out of anymore.
And so, the classic question, “Should I invest in PPC or SEO?” still haunts today’s decision makers.
Yet, choosing one at random could mean throwing your money into a burning building and waving goodbye. There are significant factors that can make one better for you than the other. Since you probably can’t afford to throw money away, it’s important to determine which approach best fits your company
First of all,
1. Do you have goals?
You’re considering these two options for a reason. These are the top 4 reason we run into with our clients that they talk about – which do you identify with most?
- “I want to rank higher than my competitors.”
Everyone does. The thing to note here is that you can easily rank number 1 for a good keyowrd and still go out of business. You could be pulling in junk traffic, not have a conversion funnel, or just have an ugly site – the reasons are endless.
If you’re considering a way to beat your competitors, you need to look at using PPC to bring people to your site that are researching your competitor’s brand name; and bid on your own brand name while you’re at it.
- “I want to be the highest ranking site for keyword x, y, and z.”
Putting all your time and energy into ranking for the wrong keywords is the best way to burn cash with no results. High level keywords bring in traffic that aren’t looking to convert, and never will.
If your keywords are targeted and have an intentional strategy built behind, them then maybe you’re thinking in the correct direction when you’re considering SEO.
- “I want to be more visible online overall.”
SEO and PPC can both do this in terms of grabbing traffic, but really putting a face to your brand is best done through social channels. Using both organic and paid forms of social grow your visibility in front of the right people.
- “I need to increase sales and revenue.”
You can always drop money on getting leads tomorrow, or work hard to earn an evergreen source of leads overtime. Wanting to add some jet fuel to your sales funnel is one thing, but you need to evaluate the level of emergency to do this.
Basically, SEO is taking the long-term view on your business that allows it to grow and scale over time. Ideally, every business would start using SEO from day one, but usually budgets don’t allow this.
2. What does your timeline look like?
SEO typically takes 2-3 months before noticing a visible change in traffic and lead count. The real sweet spot, though, is that 6-month mark where you have enough data to an in-depth comparison on the numbers to see where you’ve been vs where you are.
And SEO ain’t no joke. BrightEdge data shows us that organic search was the largest traffic and revenue driver to websites across a huge number of sectors – even higher than paid search.
So, if you don’t have this kind of time and want leads in now, PPC is the answer. This provides great return if you’re okay with a comparably high opportunity cost.
Many business owners we’ve done SEO for take this route because they’re looking down the road a bit, months or years so.
3. Calculate Your Customer’s Life Time Value
Marketing your business online requires an investment. You should be able to make more than you spend over time.
But you don’t know how well your online tactics will work if you haven’t worked out your ideal customer life time value on paper beforehand.
As marketers, we can always raise the total customer volume of a business, but will that increase or decrease your company’s overall profit? This hinges heavily on customer LTV.
Here is the general rule: if your customers have a low life-time value, PPC won’t work so well for you.
And the proof of this is in the name – Pay Per Click. Paying for each click only works when your customer value justifies the cost of the click. Here’s how to figure this out if you aren’t sure.
4. How competitive are the keywords that matter to you?
Who shows up above you? Who is writing quality content? Who is getting backlinks? Who shows for niche/location specific results? If you don’t know, you need to find out and get a picture of how competitive your industry is from an SEO standpoint.
If your industry SEO competition is low…
Google needs to see that you are the absolute best at what you do for you to earn that top position. It’s a lot easier to do this when your industry competitors are not writing optimized content, don’t have a backlink strategy, and don’t have an optimized website backend.
Having low competition gives you the opportunity to do all of these things and earn those long-tail keyword rankings over time.
The great part about this is that after you’ve earned that first place spot it takes a bit of time to kick you out. This makes SEO easier to predict and harder to get blindsided by with other marketing channels.
If your industry SEO competition is high…
If all your keywords, including long-tail and location based, are dominated by a high-authority sites – it might make sense to pay for traffic with PPC.
A cool thing about using PPC in a highly competitive industry is that you don’t need to go through a long setup time to start taking a chunk of traffic from your biggest competitors. And if you’ve got great landing pages and invest in a smart bidding strategy, you can even get your PPC ads to be in the best position over them.
5. What can you realistically afford?
The classic question. Of course you can’t have it all, but what can you have? How much money is enough to make either PPC or SEO work?
We’ve found that our clients do best with PPC at $5,000 a month and up, while SEO campaigns can work at $2,000 a month and higher.
Of course you can start lower than these figures – but just think about this: What are you really getting when you pay less than this? With this kind of marketing, getting the data to improve it and make it work won’t be possible with a miniscule budget.
With something like PPC, the total cost of the service is divided into the media you’re buying, the people you may be paying to do it for you, and any profit margins if you’re hiring someone else to do it for you. To take care of these costs and get the data needed to make the campaigns work, you have to be at a baseline level.
6. So which one do we personally recommend?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question.
But at the end of the day, SEO and PPC will have different effects on your business, and we see the best approach as a mix of both. Maybe one works better than the other based off what you’ve already learned. As an important note- being present in both organic and paid results on your most valuable keywords has a multiplicative effect.
If you’re still in doubt, check out a real example of how we used SEO to get online marketing to work for CareNow.