SEO vs PPC - Search engine marketing

I had a client come on board who wanted to generate inbound traffic in order to generate new business leads and clients for his carpet cleaning business in Long Island in New York. But he’d told me in advance that he didn’t have much funds to engage in a paid search marketing (PPC) campaign. He told me that he was keen to get his site ranking with an SEO campaign, but as all SEO professionals know, it takes time to build a campaign.

It’s tough to determine which channel is better for lead generation and sales acquisition. PPC has its value in the marketing mix just as much as SEO. Many marketers prefer the SEO channel because the customer acquisition cost is much lower when it is working when compared to running a pay-per-click campaign.

However, I have also seen campaigns where the competition and the advertising bidding prices were so low, it was actually in the business’s best interest to implement a PPC campaign instead of an SEO campaign.

There’s a few reasons why I want to write this post.

  1. Paid search campaigns have their value if your business can afford it. I would like to demonstrate how the paid search marketing channel can be valuable for businesses over the long-term.
  2. Many businesses struggle to justify the cost to invest in SEO. However, when the costs are benchmarked next to PPC costs, it is easy to see why an SEO investment is worthwhile.
  3. It is important to have these two marketing channels synergised. Even if they are worked on in silos, it is important to incorporate the data to improve and optimise campaigns.

SEO cost vs the cost of doing PPC.

Firstly, it is easy to justify the cost when running a PPC campaign. You spend the money on a marketing campaign that is a direct response. People will either take an action to engage with the site by viewing the content, filling out a form to become a lead or proceeding with a sale.

The cost can easily be measured. For example, if a user clicks on an ad and the ad costs the advertiser $1, but the user went on to purchase an item for $10; the advertiser has made $9 in gross profit from the PPC advertising.

When the advertiser develops a paid advertising model that converts, they can simply increase their budget and expect to get more leads and sales.

Advertisers might spend $1,000 or even $10,000 every month, but they can easily see that $900-$9,000 in gross profit is being made in return.

With an SEO campaign, it isn’t as straightforward to measure. SEO is a process that is implemented in order to get website content ranking for certain keywords, which will then generate the website traffic from the search engine.

When SEO is done really well, the web traffic, leads and sales are acquired at a much lower cost than what would have been spent on a PPC campaign.

How much do you need to spend to do a PPC campaign?

If you are just starting out with your first PPC campaign, you will realistically need to have a minimum budget $30 a day. In some cases, you might be able to keep your daily budgets as low as $15 a day. The more that you can afford, the more opportunity you will have for your site’s PPC campaign.

How soon should you start seeing the results of a PPC marketing campaign?

PPC campaigns are direct response, so you should start to see some activity happening quickly. However, it will take time to optimise the campaign to the point where it will be providing the business with a low cost-per-customer acquisition cost, and yielding a favourable profit margin.

This is partly due to optimisations needed for the site’s keyword bidding strategy, improvements to the quality score and optimisations to the ad copy and landing pages.

How soon should you start seeing the impact of an SEO campaign?

This depends on the authority and relevancy of your website. If you already have an established website, then it should be easier to get some SEO movement. However, if you are starting a brand new website, it is likely to take one to three months to start seeing the initial traction.

As I’ve mentioned before, an SEO campaign needs to be built. So the development incorporates the technical makeup of the website, the content that is published on the website and the links that are built or naturally acquired to the website.

The content can potentially be scaled quickly, depending on the keyword targeting and content campaign that you implement. However, it’s likely that content will need to be published frequently (ideally daily) in order to generate value and to build and retain the audience on your website.

Secondly, links need to be acquired. Some links can come quickly, however it isn’t uncommon for link acquisitions to occur over a 4 to 12-week timeframe. Additionally, if the SEO campaign that you are investing in requires digital PR, relationships will need to be formed with key influencers and these relationships can take several months or even up to a year to blossom.

Once the links are successfully acquired, it can take some time for the links to get indexed and pass on value to the linking site. The impact of this can take another few weeks.

Another thing to bear in mind with SEO is that the results are completely dependent on Google. So a good SEO can implement all of the tactics that they know, however it will ultimately be Google who decides where the website should be ranked on Google and for which keyword.

What is the typical budget of an SEO campaign?

It’s a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. The cost of differs by industry, business and workload. In the past, I have managed small campaigns for $500 per month because the site was in a micro-niche and I could see that there wouldn’t be too much optimisation work required to get the site ranking quickly.

However, I have also managed monthly campaigns worth $40,000 per month and they were much more complex. Despite the differences in price, these campaigns had a common factor, which was the advertising cost that the client was paying would generate them a profit and that the cost was cheaper than their other forms of advertising.

For example, the $500/month client would have to spend $100/day in PPC costs if they wanted to achieve the same result. The $40,000 a month client would have to spend $400,000 in PPC advertising to achieve the same result.

Which is better to invest in over the long-term?

PPC works well, but you will always have to spend money to acquire traffic, leads and sales. Adwords costs will continue to increase over time.  It does provide value, but it can become very costly.

It would be ideal to invest in an SEO campaign that incorporates a keyword-focused strategy and a content marketing strategy. For most businesses, the cost will be a fraction of what they will spend annually on PPC and it usually provides a much higher return on investment. So a $10,000 investment could yield $100,000 in recurring annual revenue. Better yet, it is a one-off investment.

Do you have any thoughts or points of view on PPC and SEO? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also click here to learn more about our PPC services or click here to learn more about our SEO services.

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