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SEO vs. PPC: Which Is Better for Your Business and Why

The SEO vs PPC debate has been around for a long time. Like any good debate, it continues to exist because there’s no straightforward answer. Both sides have valid arguments, and the right answer depends on your circumstances. So, as a small business owner, which one makes more sense: SEO or PPC?

Running a business comes with making difficult decisions. When you’re deciding where to spend your digital marketing dollars, you’ll probably find yourself wondering which of the two is the better choice.

Is there a right or wrong answer? Is it possible to do both on a tight budget? To find the best solution for you, you need to understand the pros and cons of both SEO and PPC.

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The Pros of SEO

1. SEO is highly profitable

Organic Google listings on page one have an average CTR (click-through rate) of 77%. For context, the CTR for paid ads is just 3%. When we compare dollar for dollar, it’s obvious that SEO can be one of the most profitable tools in your marketing strategy. A 2020 Forrester Consulting study found that SEO can significantly improve a crucial business metric – your customer lifetime value (CAC). Getting organic traffic to your website results in more engaged and loyal customers in the long run compared to traffic from paid channels like PPC.

2. SEO is “always on”

You may go to sleep at night, but SEO works 24/7. Perhaps the biggest difference between SEO and PPC is that organic search rankings serve as a constant promotion for your brand. You don’t have to think about adding advertising spend or configuring dayparting like you would with PPC.

3. SEO offers great ROI in the long run

When you focus on your SEO strategy and really boost your visibility in organic search results, your business will benefit — not just today, but tomorrow, and years from now as well. The ROI from your SEO investment compounds over time.

4. SEO occupies more space in SERPs

SERPs stands for search engine results pages. If you look at the layout of a SERP, you’ll notice that paid ads sit at the top, but they occupy a significantly smaller section compared to the features of organic results. You have sections like Featured Snippets and People also ask, and if you optimize your page well enough, it can not only appear in the regular results but in these sections as well. That way, you’ll occupy multiple spots in SERPs, thus increasing your chances of getting more traffic and leads.

5. SEO showcases your creativity and expertise

It’s much more difficult to impress users with a short ad rather than with an entire website they can find in SERPs. When it comes to organic results, you can experiment with different content ideas to showcase how well you know your craft and how unique you are compared to your competitors.

For example, you can try some of these formats to get additional real estate in organic search results:

  • Publish customer research articles
  • Write long-form blogs about important topics relevant to your industry and line of work
  • Make a video series showing off your service/product, your team, your company values, etc.
  • Design eye-catching infographics
  • Upload SlideShares

If you’re working with a good SEO company, they will incorporate all or most of the above content formats into your strategy, thus giving you an advantage over your competitors.

The Cons of SEO

1. SEO takes time to yield results

There’s no way to shortcut through this. Proper SEO takes a lot of work and a lot of time to materialize and start giving ROI. That’s where the crux of the SEO vs PPC debate lies:

  1. The ROI you get from PPC is immediate, but it vanishes if you don’t keep investing.
  2. SEO takes time, but you’ll continue to get ROI long after the investment. Even with little maintenance, your returns can increase exponentially year after year.

How much time does it take to start seeing results? There’s no set time frame for that. It depends on your goals, your industry, your domain authority, and a number of other factors. Generally speaking, it will take at least six months before you start getting results.

2. Google algorithm changes

In the world of SEO — Google gives, and Google takes. In other words, Google regularly changes its algorithm, which means that it changes the way it ranks web pages. This requires you to constantly be on alert for Google updates and to adjust your SEO strategy based on that. You can’t follow the set-it-and-forget-it mentality with SEO if you want to be successful in the long run.

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Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

The Pros of PPC

While SEO is the process of organically ranking your website in search results, PPC is all about using Google Adwords or Bing Ads to pay to be at the top (or bottom) of the SERPs in the section allocated to ads.

1. PPC brings near-immediate results

Although you get quick results with PPC, things don’t happen instantly. You still need to do the initial research and set up your campaign or ad groups, but after that, it’s uphill from there.

Although PPC can be costly in the long run, there are many reasons to consider its short-term benefits. If you want to promote a new product, run a sale or a special promotion, or gear up for the holiday season, PPC can give you that quick boost while SEO will be able to produce results months from now.

2. PPC lets you target specific audiences

When you’re paying for ads, you’re sort of calling the shots. What this means is that you have greater targeting capabilities than with Organic SEO. PPC lets you target specific emails, users who perform certain searches, similar audiences, and your options are close to unlimited.

With PPC, you can easily show one ad in one location, and a different ad group in another location all at the same time. You can even run 50 different campaigns in 50 different locations, if that’s what will suit your business goals. PPC makes that possible.

3. PPC gets you straightforward data

In the world of SEO — Google gives, and Google takes. In other words, Google regularly changes its algorithm, which means that it changes the way it ranks web pages. This requires you to constantly be on alert for Google updates and to adjust your SEO strategy based on that. You can’t follow the set-it-and-forget-it mentality with SEO if you want to be successful in the long run.

The Cons of PPC

1. No money, no results

The harsh reality of PPC is that it runs on money. The moment you stop paying, you will see a drop in traffic, especially if your SEO is weak. So, if for whatever reason you need to lower or cut your budget, your business will have to suffer the consequences of losing traffic. SEO works the other way around. It takes time to pick up speed, but once it does, it keeps rolling long after you stop pushing.

2. Higher cost per customer acquisition

As a small business owner, one of your main goals is to drive costs down, and that includes the cost of acquiring a new customer. PPC will definitely not make that easy for you. You can easily spend hundreds and thousands of dollars a month to get the results you want. You can also spend a ton of money on failed campaigns which will automatically raise your customer acquisition costs.

3. “Banner blindness”

Banner blindness is a modern phenomenon that causes people to ignore ads. As people get used to the outlay of search results pages, it becomes easier for them to scan a SERP and ignore the advertisements at the top. That way, even if your ads show up in their search results, they may never click on them because of their banner blindness. A study by Hubspot found that up to 80% of people ignore PPC ads.

Which Is Better for Your Small Business: SEO or PPC?

Now that we’ve reviewed the pros and cons of each comes the natural question: which one is better? It’s one of those questions that don’t have a single answer. In a perfect world, a strategy that incorporates both SEO and PPC can offer the best results for a business. You will quickly see more clicks, calls, and leads with PPC while you wait for your SEO efforts to pay off and get organic traffic.

But, having both in your digital marketing arsenal requires a certain amount of budget and time on your hands that you may not readily have. In that case, you’ll have to make a choice. These are your two options:

  1. Choose PPC if: you have the budget and your goal is to see an immediate boost in your sales.
    Setting up an engaging PPC campaign with well-researched and targeted keywords will typically show you the fastest results. However, there’s a lot of trial and error in PPC, especially for the inexperienced enthusiast. If you have the budget, hire a PPC expert to mitigate the risk of overpaying for ads (and mistakes) with no ROI in return.
  2. Choose SEO if: you don’t need to see immediate results and have a longer timeline in mind.
    SEO takes time and can offer great results if you’re persistent and patient. In the long run, SEO can generate traffic and leads to your website without you having to pay for each visitor like you would with PPC.

However, if you’re serious about promoting your business and having a strong digital marketing strategy, you need to combine both SEO and PPC. Some internet advertising agencies offer flexible solutions that make it possible (and affordable enough) to incorporate both efforts into your digital marketing.

So, if you don’t feel like you should choose between SEO and PPC, find an agency or an expert that can offer both and boost your business. 411 Locals would gladly help you take your business to the next level. Give us a call if you’re interested in discussing our offers!

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