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Pay Per Click versus SEO – Arch Enemies or Kissing Cousins?

Despite what the title may first imply (and many of those who know me think), It does make me laugh a bit when I see someone paying for PPC for phrases that they could easily do well in organic search results for – with just a bit of SEO work.  And it makes me cry when the site owner is someone I know and that I have given free SEO advice to! I do not believe that Pay Per Click advertising is directly opposed to using Search Engine Optimization.

So why do site owners pay out for PPC advertising month after month when they could spend a portion of that amount for professional SEO and probably be able to maintain the good organic results themselves at no or very little ongoing cost?

1. Fear or Friendship.

I know one guy, to whom I have given free SEO advice, who is AFRAID of his web designer.  What she says goes and if she says that this is the best the site will do in organic searches or that SEO doesn’t work, there is no talking around her.

With a bit of tweeking of title tags and use of headings on his site, it would probably dominate the search results for popular related phrases, but he pays out for Google AdWords to get traffic in – and yes, I cry (a little inside) whenever I come across his ads and see the poor standard of SEO of the sites in the organic results.  I’ve seen similar situations with people who have hired a friend/relative to develop websites for them and are afraid to offend the friend/relative by getting someone else to provide SEO services.

Yes, you want to maintain a good relationship with your web designer, especially if you want to continue to work with him, but if the person is not open to investigating all options to provide the best service to you, is this someone that you really want to do business with?

It’s an ongoing debate in the web business whether web developers should provide SEO services or whether development and SEO are two different areas and it’s not the developers obligation to provide an SEO friendly site.  It’s up to the designer/developer/SEO to decide how he wants to run his business and the kind of service he offers.  Personally I think it’s just as easy to create a search engine friendly site as one that is not, so why not? Yes, there are additional services that will bring better results, but at least get the basics in there at the start.  In any case, the designer should make the client understands what level of service he is, and is not, providing.

2. Keeping up with the Jones.

I’ve recently spoken to a number of site owners that feel they have to do PPC advertising because EVERYBODY is doing it.  They’ve read an article about how hot it is, their competitors are doing it, their nephew who’s just graduated with an IT certificate is telling them they have to do it, etc.  One thing I’ve learned in online marketing:  Don’t just look at what your competitors are doing and assume it’s the thing to do.  You don’t know how successful their efforts are.

3. Myths & Legends.

With all of the information that’s out there about online marketing it’s hard for a layman to decide what’s good and what’s just bull. So just listen to me and get ready for some myth busting!

  1. “Running Google AdWords will improve your organic search results.” Google’s Matt Cutts has confirmed in many talks and posts that this is NOT true.  The Google Search and AdWords departments run very separately and the Search people wouldn’t jeopardize the quality of the organic search results in this way. (He also said that running AdWords won’t HURT your organic results either, shattering another conspiracy theory.)
  2. “SEOs are just cowboys.  You have to run PPC campaigns to get results from search engines.” Yeeha! There are some cowboys out there in all areas of online marketing, but there are many reputable SEOs who can show you proven results of how their efforts have worked for clients.
  3. “SEO is expensive.  You need to pay monthly/quarterly to keep your site up there.” SEO does NOT have to be expensive. Obviously you will need to pay for professional advice, but with the right SEO the return will be worth the investment. If you get good advice from an SEO on choosing and using a Content Management System, then you can maintain your site, and your search results, yourself for the long-term.
  4. “SEO is really hard and PPC is very easy.” PPC is not necessarily easier than SEO.  A good PPC campaign needs to be well thought out or you will waste a lot of money.
  5. “PPC is quicker than SEO” PPC used to be a quicker way to get results on search engines, and in many cases still is, but Google’s focus on providing the latest results and including feeds from blog posts and social media channels, sometimes within minutes, has made it easier to get into organic listings more quickly.

Many of these incorrect concepts were conceived because very often site owners and business managers are more comfortable with PPC because it’s more like traditional, offline advertising. Search Engine Optimization, though common sense to some, is still harder for others to come to terms with – and sometimes requires some technical ability.

Although I spend the majority of time on SEO, I do admit that PPC does have a place in online marketing and can work alongside your SEO efforts, especially for:

  1. New Sites. As I said before, in many cases you can get quicker results with PPC so you may want to use it when launching a brand new site, especially if you are not using a CMS with a feed that will be picked up quickly by Google. Link Popularity is a big factor in SEO and it takes time to get a number of quality links to your site.
  2. Seasonal or Last Minute Offers. If you have last minute cancellations or are over stocked on a item that’s near its use by date, PPC is a good way to get an offer online straight away and to take it down when it’s no longer needed.
  3. Targeting a Geographic Location or Profile. Most PPC advertising programmes are set up to target visitors in specific geographic regions and Facebook PPC allows you to target visitors with certain settings in their profiles, like if someone is engaged or has certain interests that would be relevant to your business.
  4. Testing. PPC is a good way test out response to different page layouts, wording, etc.
  5. Highly Competitive Phrases. There are only a limited number of spots at top of organic search engine listings, so if you are targeting very competitive phrases and your competition is very strong on SEO, you may need to use PPC to get the site seen at all. This can very likely happen if you are a smaller regional business competing with larger national businesses.
  6. Really un-SEO Friendly CMS/Shopping Carts. Most CMSs and Shopping Carts are pretty SEO Friendly these days, but there are still a few that are pretty hopeless and no matter how you enter product names or other content the pages are not going to rank well on search engines. I’d advise to redevelop the site using a SEO friendly application, but you may not have the budget or time to do so and PPC may be a good solution until you can redevelop your site.
  7. Where have the organic results gone? With blended or universal search results, where listings from Google Places, Shopping, Images, etc. push the organic results down the page, PPC listings may get your site higher up on the page.
  8. Client is a control freak. Sometimes it’s a hard sell to the client that they actually need to use the target phrases on the website, or the client wants one big image and no text on a page – and this is a real SEO challenge, but PPC can still work to get visitors to this kind of site.
  9. MSN, etc. It’s hard to believe, but there is life on the internet outside of Google.  While you may be getting great organic results on Google, you may not be doing as well on Bing/MSN, so PPC through MSN adCenter may be a good way to get exposure on the MSN network..

Some tips for running your PPC campaign alongside your SEO campaign:

  1. Learn the basics of SEO. There are loads of good articles online on SEO.  Read up and make sure that you at least have a basic knowledge so that you can make the right choices when hiring a web developer or choosing a Content Management system.  This will save you on additional SEO work down the line, or the necessity to use PPC to get any results on search engines.
  2. No such thing as guaranteed results. Watch out for companies that claim to BE Google or agents of Google that guarantee to get you on the very top of search results. They usually do this by bidding very high on a small number of phrases.  They are not really affiliated with Google and they will probably cost you more and get less return than a reliable online marketing professional that you could find yourself.
  3. Budget and Plan. Look at your online marketing strategy as part of your overall marketing strategy. Set out in advance how much to spend on your site development, additional SEO and PPC advertising, as well as any offline advertising you will need to do over the course the entire year.  You will be more likely to stick to your budget and the activities will be more effective when working together. Make sure that you have specific metrics to define your goals. This is easy to do on an e-commerce website with shopping cart, but if you provide services you need to determine how much a visitor to your site is worth – an enquiry, a conversion to client, etc. so that you can properly measure your results and decide if the cost of SEO or PPC is going to pay off for you.
  4. Don’t Double Your Efforts. When picking the keyphrases for your PPC campaign, take out those where your site is already ranking high in organic searches. Some people do double up on purpose as they feel that appearing in two places in the search results will increase the likelihood of getting the click, but I do feel that you can better spend your PPC budget.
  5. Make it Relevant. Take the time to make sure the phrases or audience you are targeting are indeed relevant to what you are offering and avoid wasted impressions and clicks. Filter out irrelevant phrases that you may come up for (i.e. a hotel in Ireland probably doesn’t want to come up for searches for “Hotel Northern Ireland”)
  6. Use Best PPC Techniques. Especially the techniques that have an advantage over the organic search listings: carefully crafted ad copy, relevant landing pages, etc.
  7. Analyse. Monitor the PPC results and site statistics on a regular basis to see where your efforts and money are best spent. Spend some time setting up your analytics to give specific results related to your activities.

So Pay Per Click advertising and Search Engine Optimization are not opponents, but two very effective activities that can be used side by side for a successful online marketing campaign.

Category SEO
Ann Donnelly Search Engine Optimization & Social Media Marketing for Business

For ten years Ann Donnelly has been helping businesses achieve their goals using the internet; starting with developing static brochure ...

Pay Per Click versus SEO – Arch Enemies or Kissing Cousins?

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