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I was in the middle of balancing my SEO firm’s online marketing budget for 2013 when I realized that, over the course of 7 years my company Brick Marketing has literally spent tens of thousands of dollars on PPC ads across a spectrum of keywords.
After all, what savvy B2B marketing manager is going to hire an SEO firm that can’t do a good job with its own SEO?
Click costs have gone from a few dollars to $15+ dollars per click for some of the more competitive keywords, and in all that time and with all that money, our PPC campaigns generated a whole two full-service SEO clients.
This got me thinking—had my seven year investment in PPC really paid off? Had it really been worth the time, the testing, and the money?
While every SEO firm and SEO consultant is different, my company primarily targets B2B companies now. When I first started my company I had to take on much smaller clients, but luckily after 7 years my business can stand on more solid ground and I can choose what clients I would prefer to work with; sites that I feel I can actually help and site owners/marketing managers that are going to be good partners.
That being said, I think it’s safe to assume that most B2B marketers understand the difference between an organic listing and a paid ad. How many of those would-be clients are actually going to hire my company simply because my PPC ad showed up in the SERPs? If my website doesn’t have the organic presence, I doubt my PPC ad will make up for that. After all, what savvy B2B marketing manager is going to hire an SEO firm that can’t do a good job with their own SEO?
Think about it—the best SEO firms are going to practice what they preach. They’ll invest heavily in their own company blog and other content marketing opportunities; they’ll have a ton of quality inbound links that drive visitors back to their site overtime; they’ll be active on social media, get involved in community forums, go to events/conferences and so forth.
It’s safe to say that an SEO firm’s own SEO campaign is probably their very best case study! Most SEO firms aren’t going to rely on a PPC ad to drive the bulk of their traffic because it’s typically not very cost effective. If every PPC visitor costs $15 and most of them don’t convert (sign up for a newsletter, download a white paper, fill out a lead form, etc) the customer acquisition cost for PPC is going to be through the roof. Some larger SEO companies might have the budget for that but I’d bet most of us don’t and we have to keep a close eye on where we are spending our money.
Personally, I like to limit my PPC spend to mostly branded keywords because it’s one more piece on SERP real estate I can claim when someone is searching for my company in particular. I don’t mind spending a few dollars a click for branded keywords because more often than not those searches convert. But as the cost of non-branded keywords gets more and more expensive I have a harder and harder time justifying PPC for my own company.
I know that PPC works great for some types of websites; that it’s a great way to drive a lot of traffic to your site while you’re waiting for your SEO to catch-up, but for me the best kind of traffic (the kind of visitors and leads I want) aren’t coming from PPC.
I think back to the tens of thousands of dollars I spent and wonder: was it all a waste? Could I have invested that money another way? Or are PPC ads just part of the price of doing business as an SEO firm.
I’m really interested to hear from other SEO providers. Does PPC bring the kind of traffic you want over to your site? Have you gotten the business needed to justify the cost of your PPC campaigns? Let me know in the comments!