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Search engine optimisation (SEO) Vs. Google Ads (PPC): Which should you choose?

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When it comes to advertising your business online, there are two prominent methods to consider – SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay Per Click/Google Ads etc). In an ideal world, you would use both. But what if you’re a startup on a shoestring marketing budget and you’re forced to choose?

They both have their pros and cons, and it’s important to stress from the get-go that no one is better than the other. It’s about choosing the marketing method that is most appropriate for your business.

So let’s take a look at the advantages and drawbacks of each so you can make informed decisions concerning your marketing strategy – starting with SEO.

SEO: The slow and steady approach.

In case you didn’t know, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your web pages and posts to rank in the organic search results of search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Although let’s be frank, it’s Google you’re interested in.

It’s a multifaceted strategy that involves on-page optimisation (such as giving subheadings their correct header tags), off-page activities (such as link building via guest posts), and other general tweaks to your website to please the Google algorithms that decide the quality and relevance of your page.

So now you know what it is, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Advantages of an SEO marketing strategy.

Organic traffic earned through SEO usually sticks around for a while.

The biggest benefit of SEO is that, when executed correctly, the organic traffic you do acquire tends to stick around. A well-thought-out SEO strategy will see your traffic continue to increase and you add more and more target keywords to your website.

Once you have those top rankings positions, they tend to remain there for a number of years. Even better, with regular updates to your original content, you can even draw in traffic for key search terms for over a decade!

In other words, you could stop your SEO campaign and traffic and leads could still conceivably come into your business, and for a long time period too. Pretty handy, we think you’ll agree!

SEO is usually the cheaper option.

We suppose we should quickly qualify this question by saying that you COULD spend thousands of pounds a month using a digital marketing agency to handle your SEO. But there’s no need to if you don’t want to. With a bit of knowledge a LOT of hard graft, you could see some serious results without spending a penny above your own labour hours.

Of course, hiring an SEO agency with their knowledge of the latest techniques and their ability to churn out content and optimisations much quicker than you ever could on your own means you’re effectively pouring rocket fuel on the fire.

Drawbacks of using SEO as a marketing strategy.

It takes a long time to see results.

Leading SEO platform Ahrefs found that, on average, search results occupying the top ten positions for a search query were over two years old. Those that ranked number one were often over three years old. Only 5.7% of pages rank in the top ten for at least one keyword within a year of publishing.

But before you start welling up about how long it’s going to take, remember the pay off is potentially monumental. Plus, you may be able to win some very low competition keyword rankings in a much shorter time frame. So it’s not all doom and gloom!

SEO requires relevant, high-quality, and authoritative content.

The other issue with SEO is that you have to come up with excellent content. A short 250-word blog post on the theory of relativity isn’t going to get much traction. You need solid, in-depth content with relevant internal and external links that prove you are an authority within your field.

Anything less than that, and you are most likely wasting your time. Not an expert? Interview people that are and write up their answers! Not the best writer in the world? Hire someone who is! Your pages and posts are crucial to winning the top ranking spots. So make them as unique, compelling, and authoritative as possible!

With SEO out of the way, let’s take a look at PPC.

PPC: The pay-to-play sensation.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is, in many ways, the polar opposite of SEO. But we’ll get into why that’s the case shortly. Let’s first briefly explain what it is.

PPC is a marketing strategy that involves paying for clicks through to your website. In the past, it was inexorably linked with Google Adwords. However, today most social media networks offer PPC advertising, with Facebook Ads (which also covers Instagram) being the most popular advertising platform for businesses today.

So let’s, once again, dig into the pros and cons.

Advantages of using PPC.

PPC delivers instant results.

PPC is fast. You can literally head over to any ad platform of your choosing, set up an advert and have people arriving at your website within minutes. Nothing beats PPC for speed of results. Talk about making an immediate impact!

PPC boasts incredible targeting.

Given that PPC advertising is a considerable chunk of social media companies’ revenue (and to a lesser extent Google’s), they’ve developed incredible tools that help you to narrow down your target audience.

For instance, with Facebook Ads, you can target males earning more than £50,000 who live in West London that has shown an interest in designer clothes and jewellery. Not a bad audience for that website you just launched that sells men’s luxury watches!

PPC makes experimentation easy.

Remember how quick we told you PPC is? Well, the advantages of that quick feedback are two-fold. Because you can know how well an ad is performing within a matter of hours, you can quickly return to run A/B split tests to see what factors are making the difference when it comes to converting “passers-by” into website visitors.

You can then quickly scrap what doesn’t work, amp up what does, and make your advertising pounds go much further.

Speaking of costs, let’s get onto the cons!

Drawbacks of pursuing a PPC marketing strategy.

PPC can become expensive.

The biggest drawback of PPC is cost. For quality leads and website visitors, you will pay a pretty penny. The idea is that you’ll convert that visitor into a customer that pays for themselves several times over during their lifetime.

Some industries are worse than others, but high-competition industries such as car insurance could see you paying as much as £30 to land someone on your website. And if they click on your ad by mistake and leave immediately, then tough luck. Click fraud by competitors is also an issue, but Google and the likes are doing a good job of stamping that out and 3rd party tools also exist that can prevent it.

Many people quickly find out that they are losing money running PPC ads. That’s not always the fault of PPC as a medium per se, since you might not have optimised or targeted your ads very well. However, if you do get it wrong, you can find yourself burning through a mountain of cash in a hurry without much to show for it. On the other hand, if you nail it, conversions/leads/sales will come thick and fast!

PPC can lose its mojo.

Have you ever seen the same ad three, four, or even a dozen times? How do you feel after seeing it that many times? You’ve likely lost interest entirely and may even start to resent it. That’s the issue with PPC.

While you could have a great ad that works wonders initially, it will become stale quickly. As a result, you need to constantly update images, tweak messaging, and refresh your audiences to maintain your initial successes.

PPC requires cash up front.

It comes back to that old saying – you’ve got to have money to make money. PPC is pay-to-play, which means you’ll need a decent wedge of cash as a buffer while making your way through the experimentation phase.

Once you’ve landed on a winner, then happy days! But it can take a considerable investment to reach that point.

SEO vs PPC: The verdict.

We’re going to give you the most unsatisfactory answer – it depends! Now you’ve been run through the pros and cons; you’ll have realised that PPC is a perfect method for businesses such as Shopify stores that benefit from the laser-precision targeting features, for example.

However, by contrast, you’ll have figured out that if you’re looking to build a personal brand to win consulting gigs and sell your book, then SEO looks a much tastier prospect. You can build your authority and credibility by churning out high-quality content, and develop your website into a sales machine that you can essentially put on auto-pilot.

As we mentioned in the opening, one is not better than the other. Nor are they mutually exclusive. The highest-performing companies often use a blend of both. It’s about figuring out a holistic online marketing strategy that delivers what you need to succeed.

If you would like help with developing your online marketing strategy, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team to talk through your options.

This blog article was originally published on our subsidiary website, Cakecrumbs.

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