SEO vs. PPC: Should You Invest More Time or Money? Finding the Strategy that Suits Your Business

looking at analytics of your website

With more than 30 million small businesses in the United States alone, positioning yourself as a market leader can be difficult. Considering the fact that in 2019, a third of these businesses allocated less than $10,000 of their budget to advertising, according to TheManifest, choosing the right marketing strategy could be what ultimately determines the success of the enterprise. In the past, marketing online has been a cheap way to differentiate yourself but with stiff competition and the shift in recent advertising trends, everything has seemingly changed as we enter a new decade.

While Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been a viable and lucrative marketing strategy for many years, there are now thousands of companies in each industry competing for the same consumer keywords and targeting the same prospective buyers. In 2020, business owners now feel that gaining consumer attention now requires implementing paid advertising.

Google has at least 210 ranking factors (as far as we are aware of). Chances are, there are probably twice as many or even three times as many ranking factors. With numerous ranking factors, determining whether to invest in paid advertising or website optimization seems nearly impossible for companies with smaller budgets.

If you want to know which strategy is better for you, you first need to understand the foundational principles of each approach.

Organic Search vs Paid Advertising

PPC and SEO are both part of Search Marketing or SEM for short:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): acquiring Internet traffic through optimization
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC): acquiring Internet traffic through paid advertising

Comparing the two strategies: on the one hand, SEO is much cheaper but requires more work upfront before seeing any tangible results. While companies invest heavily in creating high-quality consumer-centered content to generate traffic – these results can months to achieve. While it takes time to rank in the top 10 for a respective keyword, once you manage to rank, you will not need to invest as much time (or money) into SEO. You will have a continuous flow of visitors 24/7 without having to pay ongoing marketing costs. Content marketing is approximately 60% less expensive than typical marketing and is proven to triple lead generation campaign conversion rates.

On the other hand, you have PPC. A strategy that will bring in new visitors instantly but requires a lot of monetary investment upfront. Paid advertising is essentially like turning on the faucet: as soon as you turn the knob, water flows and you begin to accrue associated costs.  If you need a quick surge of visitors, you can always launch a PPC campaign, target the demographic you want, and watch the prospects come pouring in.

Both strategies have their pros and cons and while we are sure you are aware of that, the question is, which strategy will suit you better?

Today, we will try to answer that question. We are going to look at a few key metrics that are impacted by each strategy and compare the results of both approaches.

Lead Generation            

·       Case Study:

In this case study performed by Blue Corona, an HVAC company operating in New Jersey wanted to increase the number of local leads. The company’s SEO work to date had given their website a strong number of daily visitors, however, their lead conversion rates were low. They hired an SEO company to help decrease their lead generation spending.

Using PPC, the company reduced their cost-per-lead (CPL) by 38 percent and their conversion rate by 13% by the end of the campaign. Using geo-targeting, they attracted people from the New Jersey area and were able to focus their marketing efforts to target their ideal customer. In 2014, the website had 130 geo-qualified leads. By 2016, that number jumped to 520, representing nearly a 300% increase in two years.

·       Winning Strategy:

Considering lead generation results, PPC is the way to go. It allows you to target the right demographic and decreases your cost per lead while increasing the overall number of leads. While it isn’t as simple as turning on the switch and watching the leads roll onto your calendar, ensuring that you have an effective customer acquisition sales funnel like Clickfunnels in place will help you be successful.

Visitor Traffic

·       Case Study:

Polar Design, a company that usually does SEO decided to conduct a study to see how much traffic they would be able to generate using SEO versus PPC. Their client, a mortgage company, wanted to get more exposure for their website, which made them the perfect subject for this study. The results confirmed the original marketing bias Polar Design had but the findings are still very interesting.

During the first three months of a year-long study, their PPC campaign managed to attract more visitors. At one point, using paid advertisements, they managed to attract 1,000 visitors a day. However, that number dropped dramatically as soon as they stop paying for advertising. SEO, while attracting only around 200 daily visitors during the first four months, steadily attracted between 400 and 500 daily visitors by the end of the study.

·       Winning Strategy:

If you want to have a consistent stream of visitors, you should go with SEO. PPC works much better if you are running a promotion and you want to attract visitors for a certain amount of time. While the effects of PPC are short-lived or dependent on your advertising dollars, SEO will continue to produce traffic for the long-term.

Direct Sales

·       Case Study:

In the end, when business, you need to generate sales and bottom-line profits to survive. We have seen what these strategies can do to generate traffic and leads, but let’s take a moment to explore direct sales.

Which strategy will help you sell more of your products? Alistair Dodds of the Ever Increasing Circles looked at one of their clients to determine the best strategy for direct sales.  

Their discovery: “while running a Google Ads campaign generated a decent return on Investment, SEO yield much better results.”

They found low-competition keywords and began working on ranking for them. By ranking for those keywords, they doubled the client’s traffic in just three months while managing to increase overall sales by more than 130%.

·       Winning Strategy:

While it will require patience, you need to invest in SEO to increase your sales. SEO will not make an effect instantly, but by targeting the right keywords, you will eventually find the right customers and increase your sales metrics.

The Bottom Line: SEO or PPC?

In the end, each business will have to decide which strategy is best for them by answering the question: which one is better? SEO or PPC? By now you are aware that the answer isn’t simple because there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Paid search can never replace organic search and vice versa
  • PPC might be more expensive but SEO is not completely free
  • In the long run, statistics can be quite deceiving

So, which strategy should you select when choosing between SEO and PPC? In reality there really is not a reason to bother between choosing one or the other. Why pick only one strategy when you can implement both? One strategy will not supersede the other – it simply depends on when you decide to execute.

In our consultancy practice, we generate clients using PPC strategies and funnel these leads into an email sequence that nurtures our leads into customers over time. To recoup our marketing investment, we sell consultation packages to clients who choose to take our offer. While this is our front-end strategy, we invest in SEO and have seen traction in the search engine results – but these outcomes have taken several months to achieve.

When considering how to approach marketing your business, you should also keep in mind that different strategies work for different industries; what works for e-commerce might not work in the automotive industry and the other way around.

The fact remains: if you want to have the best results, consider combining the two strategies. Invest in your SEO efforts continuously over time and perform targeted PPC campaigns to add new customers to your pipeline along the way.

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James Williams
James is our Lead Content Publisher here at Feeds Portal. He has worked with many top websites over the years, including BuzzFeed.

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