There is much debate about which is better, SEO or PPC. As with most things in the world of Internet marketing, the answer is “yes.” Or “no,” depending on your perspective. The point is, neither one is particularly better than the other by any objective ruling. They’re different tools for different purposes, they just happen to work towards the same final outcome. Rather than worry about which is better, it’s a good idea to instead determine how much of each you should use.
Of course, there’s no one answer to that question either. You have to analyze your situation and determine which will have more effect in the short term, which works best in the long term and which you should emphasize with a larger budget.
SEO and PPC are, as mentioned, different tools with different audiences, different means of operation and different outcomes. They both, however, work towards one end result; more traffic, and thus more sales, for your site.
PPC is what you might call a short-term tool, though it is best used as a long-term investment. PPC is paying for clicks, paying for traffic, at a fixed rate. Spend more money, get more traffic, within certain limitations. As long as the potential audience is there – and with Facebook PPC and its upcoming Atlas, it may be very robust – you can increase your budget for more traffic as you go.
The caveats to PPC are multiple. First, PPC is competitive. Other people, when they discover your niche, can attempt to out-bid you. This means you either get less traffic for your money, or you have to pay more to maintain your traffic levels. It’s a constant game of back-and-forth, looking for new niches to exploit.
Second, PPC is temporary. Once you stop paying for it, you stop getting traffic. If you want to maintain a reasonable flow through PPC, you have to keep putting money into the traffic vending machine.
SEO, on the other hand, is a more long-term solution. It can cost a lot of money right off the bat, and it can be an ongoing investment, with very little in the way of direct correlation. You can’t, for example, put in $100 worth of SEO and get $100 worth of measurable traffic back. The fluctuations of natural traffic flows, combined with Google’s changing outlook, can turn one $100 investment into solid gold and another into the equivalent of peanuts.
The goal of SEO is a long-term buildup in traffic flow. You gain authority, you gain reputation, you gain presence, and all of it is leveraged to pull in people through organic search. Your investment is primarily spent establishing a baseline and keeping up with ongoing trends. For example, you’ll need to:
So which do you use in what proportion? Here are some general guidelines.
Invest more heavily in PPC if your site is new and needs an immediate influx of traffic to establish a baseline for profitability. It takes a lot of effort to get that initial keyword research down, but you can use the fruits of that labor to target blog posts later, as an ongoing SEO plan. You will want to slowly dial back on PPC as your SEO improves, or maintain PPC to keep that traffic up while your SEO boosts you organically.
Invest heavily in SEO if you have an older site with lots of content and authority, being held back by a few critical issues. There are sites that have been established for a while and have a lot of power, but have a few lingering issues keeping them down. If your site is one such example, you can do the site audit and get an SEO plan going to kickstart that beneficial SEO presence.
Scale back on PPC if you’ve been relying on it as a crutch. If you’ve been getting the majority of your traffic from PPC and very little from SEO, you need to put the squeeze on yourself to get your SEO into gear. You never know what might happen to kill your PPC effectiveness, so dialing back before it becomes a critical issue is a good idea.
Invest heavily in SEO if you want consistent long-term results. The ideal SEO growth curve, panned out over the course of a year or two, is a steadily increasing slope. You will have natural peaks and valleys, of course, but the end result is ongoing growth. SEO is the way you achieve that growth.
Likewise, invest heavily in SEO if you intent to grow your site and sell it down the road. SEO is the way to build a valuable site; PPC is of short-term relevance and value. Essentially, SEO stays with the site when you sell it; PPC is research and information you can take with you when you leave.
If you’re searching specifically for one narrow demographic of traffic, and you need that demographic quickly, PPC is your solution. Facebook PPC is great for this, with the depth of demographic targeting you can access through the audience network.
Additionally, if you have a time-sensitive deal or your site is only relevant certain times of year, such as with a holiday-themed site, organic SEO isn’t going to do you much good. Focusing on PPC will get you the traffic you need for the month or weeks it’s relevant, and you can let it fall dormant in the off season.
If your goal is to build an authority site over time, but you’re starting from scratch right now, you’re going to want about a 50/50 split, or perhaps something more 60/40 towards PPC. The PPC gives you an influx of basic traffic, while the SEO has time to work its magic. Over time, you can decrease your PPC investment and increase your SEO work to compensate.
In concrete terms what does this all mean? How much, monetarily, should you be spending? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you. One niche will have very different PPC costs compared to another, and different SEO companies charge wildly varying rates depending on a wide array of factors. You’ll simply need to do your research.
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