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SEO vs. PPC: Which is Best for Your Small Business?

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small business digital advertising

There are two popular digital marketing strategies that many small businesses employ to increase traffic to their business on the Internet: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC).

In this post, we’ll discuss what each of these strategies is and the pros and cons of each so you can decide whether your business is best suited to use SEO, PPC, or a combination of both to drive Internet Business to your site.

What is SEO for Small Business Internet Advertising?

Have you ever wondered why some webpages appear first in Google’s search results while others are much more difficult to find? Search Engine Optimization, better known as SEO, is the reason a search engine’s results are ranked differently.

Search engines are the first place most consumers go to find local businesses, and 92% of consumers will choose a business ranked in the top ten search results. When analyzing online reach, it’s clear that your site’s ranking is important.

Various SEO best practices can help search engines better locate and index your website while ultimately improve your website’s ranking. These different forms of SEO fall into the following categories:

Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves configuring specific technical settings on your website so that search engines can better crawl and index your website without issues. This type of SEO is low‑maintenance. Once your site is optimized from a technical SEO perspective, you will not have to spend more time on it in the future.

On-site SEO

On-site SEO involves optimizing the content on your website. This type of SEO makes sure that search engines have the signals they need to understand both the meaning and the context of the content on your website. Unlike technical SEO, excelling in this type of SEO is often time‑intensive and requires producing a large volume of quality website content to produce worthwhile results.

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO, often referred to as “link building”, involves increasing your site’s backlinks. These are instances in which external websites link back to your business’s website. Backlinks are a signal of trust to search engines and, depending on where they’re coming from, can reflect positively on your site’s search engine rankings.

By focusing on an SEO strategy and increasing your search engine ranking, you will increase the visibility of your business on the Internet and drive more traffic to your site. To learn more about SEO for small businesses, check out our post, A Small Business Owner's 5-Minute Guide to Unlocking SEO.

SEO Pros

Awareness. By focusing on SEO, your website and business will rank better for targeted keywords, which will put your Internet business in front of potential customers. Like advertising, SEO can drive brand awareness for your business.

Credibility and trust. If your site is ranked high in organic results, you will gain more credibility and trust amongst potential customers as they’re searching for information related to your product or service.

Cost per click.  While focusing on SEO takes time and effort, there isn’t a direct cost each time someone comes to your site. Because of this, SEO is often one of the most cost-effective digital marketing tactics for driving relevant Internet business traffic to your site.

Improved click-through rate (CTR). A higher percentage of Internet users will click organic results than paid ads. While there are a few exceptions, you’re more likely to generate a higher CTR on a ranked organic listing than on an ad.

Return on Investment (ROI). Traffic from organic search also provides a higher ROI than traditional paid media tactics.

Lasting results. If you put in the time and effort to improve your SEO, the results can last for years. If you continue to promote your content and focus on getting a few backlinks, you’ll consistently improve your rankings over time.

SEO Cons

It takes time to see results. Making improvements in your SEO takes more time than other marketing tactics. While six months to one year may work for some companies, it may not be ideal for those who require instant results.

It requires a wide range of skills and resources. In most cases, developing content is critical to gaining a strong organic ranking. Content development requires resources and time, which may prove difficult for some small businesses. Improving your SEO may also require HTML, CSS, and other programming/technical skills.

Uncertainty. Google and other search engines work through algorithms, which are constantly subject to change. There’s a risk that your website’s ranking may drop slightly when these types of changes are rolled out. 

What is PPC for Small Business Internet Advertising?

When searching on Google, you may have noticed listings tagged with “Ad” at the top of the results. These listings are a result of pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising. Through this popular type of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), businesses can run ads on platforms like Google or Facebook. Businesses only pay when the ad is clicked, which is one of the reasons why this model is appealing to many businesses.

Through PPC, businesses can bid on search keywords that are relevant to their customers. Keywords with higher search volume and competition are more expensive, as these will reach a larger audience.

If an organization needs immediate results but doesn’t have the time to improve their website ranking organically, PPC can be a viable option. Through this tactic, businesses can stay ahead of the competition, quickly get in front of their target audience, and ultimately drive Internet business.

PPC Pros

Position on the page. PPC ads are listed in the very top of the search results. They are typically the top four results on desktop and the top three on mobile devices. By having this high‑visibility position on search results, your ad will be viewed by the right person searching for information related to your business.

Improved ads. Because PPC listings are advertisements, you can customize them with your business’s unique brand and message. You have the control to tailor your listing’s call to actions, locations, site links, pricing, and bullet points (callouts).

Budget. PPC also gives you the ability to closely control your budget. You can determine how much you want to spend each day and your campaign will be set to never exceed that fixed amount.

Targeting. Unlike organic tactics, PPC provides advanced targeting capabilities so you can make sure that your ads are getting in front of the right audience. A few of the many targeting parameters include location, gender, age, language, and device type. You can also expand your audience by targeting users with interests related to the users who have clicked on your ads.

Speed. A PPC campaign can be created in just days and can drive results within weeks if properly established. This is one of the fastest ways to get in front of customers on the Internet.

Stability. While AdWords settings change over time, these changes are minor, very easy to operate, and unlikely to harm your campaigns. 

PPC Cons

You pay for every click. For PPC, you’re required to pay for every click. However, if the traffic drives profit for your business, the clicks will be worth the cost.

Growth is tied to budget. Even though PPC is easy to scale, the success of campaigns is tied to your budget. Because of this, you will need to continue to pay if you want to continue selling through this tactic. The minute you stop paying, your ads will stop displaying, so your overall ROI will not continue to grow long-term as it does with SEO tactics.

SEO and PPC: An Integrated Approach

As you can see, SEO and PPC can both serve to provide incredible potential for your business. Because of this, an optimal strategy involves the combination of the two. These two strategies often create the best results when working together to drive Internet business. The benefits of an integrated approach include:

  • With a combined approach, you can target users throughout the customer’s journey, from research to conversion.
  • Your PPC keyword and conversion data can be used to improve your long-term organic search (SEO) strategy.
  • You can increase your overall traffic by targeting your clicks in both paid and organic forms for top-performing keywords.
  • High-volume keywords that are more expensive (but still important) can be shifted from PPC to organic search.
  • You can use ad copy A/B testing insights to inform your organic listing and landing pages.
  • You can use remarketing to stay in front of website visitors after an initial search through organic searches and customize your messaging based on how they engage with your website.
  • By having strong organic and paid visibility, you will increase both consumer confidence and awareness in your brand.

An integrated strategy is often optimal for high-growth marketing, rather than focusing on either SEO or PPC separately. Oftentimes, businesses will invest in both to see which strategy will help them grow better. With that said, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for every business on the Internet. Whichever strategy you choose should depend on your business's specific needs, budget, and goals.

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