While using both PPC and SEO is often an excellent approach for driving new customers to your business, there may be a point when you are going to need to choose between a strategy that is based more on Search Engine Optimization or one that is going to follow the Pay-Per-Click model. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, and it is important to understand what they are, when to use one over the other, and when to use both. In addition, paid search tools like re-targeting can enhance both your Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click efforts for a minimal investment compared to what you spend on SEM.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of SEO

The great benefit of SEO over PPC is that over time it provides a much lower cost per acquisition, it works for a while even if you stop working on it, and it helps to build credibility for your brand.  The downside is that the price for using SEO isn’t only measured in only in effort and money but also in time, and it can take surprisingly long before you will actually see the results of your hard work, let alone a return on your investment. Depending on where you are starting, it can take 6 months to begin driving substantial results, and 9-12 months or even longer to maximize your results. On the other hand PPC provides virtually instant results, although in some cases it may take 1-3 months or longer to make it profitable.

When your site finally ranks in the organic results, hold on to your hat…

Organic results are in many cases eight-and-a-half times more likely to be clicked on than PPC results, and in the long run they will prove to be 5x-10x more profitable than paid search efforts, proving once again that the tortoise beats the hare. This is assuming, of course, that your website is well developed with the best content, design and messaging to attract and convert the right prospects for your business,

Another advantage of SEO is that your website will show up in various results on multiple search engines; each one of them has their own algorithm, but they are similar enough that if you are able to rank in Google you will likely rank well in Bing and Yahoo! search results. Search engines are changing their algorithms almost daily, so if you don’t keep up on your efforts and your understanding of the changes  you may at some point find yourself back at the beginning while your rankings plummet. When this happens, you may have to scramble to adjust off-site and on-site efforts to meet the search engine’s new demands, and you may have to implement a PPC program to drive business while you wait for the rankings to turn around.

Of course the search engines only get paid when people click on the paid ads, so they put the paid results in priority positions over the organic results. Having your business in the paid results even when you are ranking well in the organic results will help you build credibility in the search results and push another competitor off of the page.

When do you prioritize SEO over PPC?

These are the major factors that influence this decision:

  • You already know your most profitable search terms
  • Cost Per Click for PPC is cost prohibitive
  • You can afford to invest in SEO with no expectation of driving new sales from your efforts for 6 months
  • You are ranking so well organically that you cannot handle any more business you might get from PPC

In these situations, using both SEO and PPC is an excellent strategy:

  • You know that PPC is profitable or at least break-even
  • You are not getting all the leads you can handle from SEO, even though you are ranking well
  • You are trying to discover and test new search terms or new markets that can help you grow your business
  • You have a longer sales cycle for at least some of your sales and can benefit from re-targeting, which will help you stay in front of your prospects

When to Prioritize PPC

We can safely say that SEO is the slow-but-steady approach that over time will lead to an excellent return on investment and lots of traffic, provided nothing unexpected happens, there are a few challenges to SEO that can make PPC an attractive choice:

  • You have an unexpected drop in rankings
  • You don’t know which search terms drive the best prospects to your website
  • You are ranking well, but you don’t seem to be getting the sales results you expected. In this case, PPC can help you figure out what changes you should be making to your target keywords, website design, and website content

An Unexpected Drop In Rankings

If something unexpected happens to your rankings you may not always have the luxury of time to get things turned around. In this case,  a well developed and implemented PPC campaign can help you bridge the gap while you fix your SEO efforts. You can use this time to test and discover which search terms, ads and landing pages work best for your business so that when your rankings come back you will generate even better results than you had before the drop.

You Don’t Know Which Search Terms Drive the Best Prospects to Your Website

Since Google hides the search terms that drive organic traffic from their search engine results, it can be difficult for some businesses to determine which search terms are driving the results they want. If you are unsure which search terms are or will drive the right prospects to your website, PPC is often the best approach for your business for the first 2-6 months. If you do a great job with PPC testing, split testing, tracking which search terms, ads, and landing pages drive the best results you will be able to implement a much more successful and efficient SEO strategy.

You Rank Well for Your Target Terms, but Inadequate Results

In these cases, you may want to stop investing in SEO for a while and ask these questions:

  1. Is my website limiting the results?
  2. Are we targeting the right keywords?

A well implemented PPC program will help you answer these questions and more. It allows you to test different keywords, ads and website designs to see what works for your specific business.

The experts at RefractROI can help you answer many of these questions specifically for your business, and help you determine the best strategy that will work for you. Contact us today for free assessment via phone or fill out our form.

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