Is A PPC Campaign A Good Investment for SEO Firms?

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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!

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO firm. With nearly 13 years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry,... Read Full Bio
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis

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  • Nick,
    Totally agree with you. PPC prices have gone through the roof over the past 8 or so years as larger companies with big pockets dominate the higher priced / popular keywords. Our view it to network more, PPC for brand name (like you have done), referrals and gain new customers off testimonials. Like you say, “an SEO firm’s own SEO campaign is probably their very best case study” works for us and the companies we manage currently. Down the road we’ll investigate again but for now it would eat up too much of our marketing budget.

  • Dom Dedic

    Well it really depends on if we are talking about the expense to market our own site, or sites for clients. From a online marketers perspective, PPC seems pretty expensive with so much $$ going to Adwords, where with organic optimisation we are able to do the work “at cost”and lulled into a false belief that it is cheaper.

    When you take into account the price you would pay to have someone else do your online marketing for you (as is the case with clients who pay you), you will find there is probably little difference. Calculate regular content updates, blogging, article submissions, infographic design and everything else you do on a daily basis to keep your site moving… I think PPC and organic are much of a muchness… especially considering that it takes time to come up the rankings on valuable search terms, where PPC if set up properly gives immediate returns (at a premium cost of course). They are both equally important.

  • Navneet Singh

    PPC helps in generating the potential client who are really interested in our products and services. But it all depends on how we have created our ad copy

  • Henry H. Hernandez


    I am curious as to what type of clients you were trying to partner with. Picky picky. 🙂

    I believe PPC to be profitable if a campaign is properly broken down. Of course some keywords are hard to really keep going long term unless you have the campaign statistics broken down by time of day etc. to maximize money and efforts.

    Previously, I have broken campaigns down to the top 4 hours in the day and not run them otherwise. Of course, that was a special scenario.

    My Final Answer: Yes, I would use PPC. Yes, it is profitable (not every keyword). The larger your budget, the more you can hammer down the complete conversion funnel to get your ROI.

  • Hi Nick,
    I do agree with you, PPC works greatly for some businesses. It is not at all effective for all kind of websites. To save your advertising dollars from being wasted, you need to keep an eye on each and every metric of your campaign.

  • Thanks for sharing this article! PPC can be a great way to advertise and produce good business for the company.
    Enjoyed reading your blog!

  • Nick,
    I agree with you, PPC will generate a great business for me. It will bring traffic on the site but you have to check the campaign properly. Using site related ads on your campaign and filter the search according to the criteria on the site.
    I really enjoyed your article . 🙂

  • In my humble opinion, it all boils down to which niche you are in and whether the revenue generated are being justified by the cost of ppc. If you have a high profit margin per transaction, ppc is definitely worth it else you are just dumping your cash into the bin. Secondly, the big G is always favouring the authority sites and if you are just a small startup, you won’t be anywhere anytime soon… Reality is harsh