Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about all aspects of search engine optimization: link building, keywords, meta tags, title tags, etc. But for anyone who has done research into how to boost traffic to their website, probably has come across the term Pay-Per-Click or PPC advertising. If someone were to look into each and compare them, there would be some obvious similarities. However, there are some key differences that make each method better suited for different situations.
What is PPC?
Before I go into what the differences are between SEO and PPC, I first want to give a good explanation of exactly what PPC entails. Pay-per-click is the process of buying ads on searchable websites with the goal of gaining traffic to your own site. The Pay-Per-Click refers to how an advertiser is only charged when someone clicks on the ads. Remember Google Adwords? All the words paid for in Adwords are PPC.
PPC advertising works almost as a silent auction for keywords. An advertiser places a bid on certain keywords that they believe their target audience would use when searching for their product. When someone does a search for those words, the search engine or website displays the ad on the page. The results of a PPC search will usually come up under a “Sponsored Ads” or “Sponsored Links” section on a results page.
The placement of the ads is all determined by how much someone pays for a keyword. The higher up on the page a keyword is, the more someone paid for it. The cost for an ad is mainly determined by the popularity of the word. Common search and broad terms like ‘computer’ or ‘football’ come with higher costs then less common and more direct terms like ‘horseshoes’. The nice thing about PPC is that it puts everyone on a level playing field. A smaller company has the ability outbid much larger companies for keywords and gain an edge to get noticed.
SEO vs PPC
So someone might ask, why would I bother with all the time and resources needed for SEO when I can just buy my way to the top with PPC? The easiest answer is that PPC can be expensive. Paying for placement at the top of a page, especially in one of a competitive industry, requires a significant budget. Curious what a certain keyword will cost you? Try using Google’s Keywords tool. SEO is much less expensive, especially for someone who has a significant number of keywords they want to use.
SEO also has the benefit of more permanent results. What I mean by that is the results of a well done SEO campaign take much longer to fade than that of a PPC campaign. Once the money runs out with a PPC campaign, the search rankings are gone, whereas the links and tags involved with an SEO campaign can take years to go away, if they go away at all.
Finally, people and web users are becoming more aware of ads and are ignoring them. Look at this really cool study done on how people read webpages. As you see, more people are ignoring the paid sections of results pages and focusing on the actual search results. Do you really want to spend your money to get the top spot on a page if the searcher is just going to ignore you?
It may seem like I’m saying SEO is the only way to go for marketing. While it’s true that SEO may have better long term results, PPC does have its place. PPC campaigns are great for short term sales or for limited time promotions like Cyber Monday. I would also recommend a PPC campaign for a new website in order to get a lot of exposure right away.
PPC and SEO both have their place in the search marketing world. The key is to figure out which works best for both your short and long term goals. Each strategy has positives and negatives and figuring out which will help generate the most business can be the difference between success and failure in the online world. What do you think? Is PPC worth the investment?