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Inbound Marketing

SEO vs PPC: Which is Best for Website Traffic and Sales?

Which of the following statements do you think is a lie?

If you guessed the first one, you were correct.

We never conduct PPC campaigns to help clients build traffic.

While paid traffic campaigns may be effective at generating short bursts of activity, they are largely inefficient in the long-run. The moment you stop spending on paid advertisements, the traffic stops coming, and you're back at square one.

Though there are instances where we might recommend PPC campaigns (more on that in a moment), we generally promote organic search for a simple reason: The sooner you begin working on organic SEO, the sooner your efforts will snowball into an ongoing supply of cumulative traffic.

SEO vs PPC: Which is Best?

In some cases, paid traffic performs really well. Although it’s still getting more expensive every year, and bringing fewer returns for the same budget, it does have it’s place. Let’s look at some advantages of PPC traffic.

Advantages of PPC:

1. High Page Position

The most obvious advantage of conducting a PPC campaign is your ability to be seen at the top of SERPs. Internet searchers are typically shown four advertisements on a desktop and three advertisements on a mobile device. If you've constructed thoughtful Buyer Personas, and conducted in-depth marketing research, you should be able to write compelling enough copy to generate clickthroughs on ads.

2. Improved Message Control

One of the nicest benefits of PPC advertisements is the high level of control it affords businesses in structuring their messages. Phone numbers, locations, site links and bullet points (callouts) are just some of the tools you can play with for maximum impact.

Disadvantages of PPC:

1. It Gets Expensive

While PPC isn't inherently expensive, costs can quickly accrue. Especially, If you are targeting competitive markets in developed countries. In some instances, the cost per click is so high, advertisers spend knowing they will lose money on the transaction. In this case, lifetime customer value is the long play, and for many companies, not worth the risk.

2. Dealing With Bidding Wars

The cost of PPC advertising fluctuates based on demand. Once you begin running your ads, don't be surprised if a competitor takes notice and confronts you with a bidding war.

3. Easy to Replicate

If you're thinking, "But people can copy blog articles too," that's kinda true, but not really. While anyone can re-purpose an already-existing post, Google has strict rules about plagiarizing. Thus, even though your competitors can see what you're doing by subscribing to your blog newsletter, they still have to do a ton of work if they want to copy that strategy themselves. Conversely, PPC messages can easily be imitated.

The Best Uses for PPC Campaigns

1. Conduct Marketing Research

One of the best times to run a PPC campaign is when you want to test marketing assumptions. Conversion tracking coupled with analytics software can help you determine which keywords convert best, at what percentage and at what cost. You can then parlay your findings into an organic search campaign with a higher degree of confidence than simply starting from scratch.

2. Promote New Offers

Got a new offer you want to test? Try setting up a quick PPC campaign directing traffic to a landing page. Track your conversions against A/B testing for components like headlines, CTAs and color schemes. Again, this can be an easy and affordable way to get quick feedback that can inform long-term efforts.

3. Re-Marketing

With PPC, you can also attract previous visitors back to your site. For instance, Lean Labs has "pixels" on the visitors who read our previously mentioned popular article. If we were launching an offer related to that post's subject matter, we could build a PPC campaign specifically for those individuals. Higher relevancy equals higher conversions.

4. Increase Local Visibility

Want to quickly increase brand visibility within a targeted area? Running a PPC campaign may not be a bad idea. Say you're a new Italian restaurant that just opened across town. You may run a brief campaign to get noticed when nearby residents are searching for Italian food.

In summary, short-term success with PPC requires a constant attention to detail. Factors like quality scores, bids, positions and clickthrough rates should all be routinely monitored to ensure efficiency. If you want to do it yourself, Google provides free training for businesses in both Google Analytics and Google Adwords.

Advantages of SEO:

1. Greater Credibility

Unsurprisingly, many web surfers have trained themselves to bypass ads in favor of top organic search results. According to one study, 70-to-80% of users ignore paid ads and focus only on organic results. It isn't too surprising when you consider that people turn to search engines because they are looking for the most trustworthy answers to their questions.

2. More Cost-Efficient

Yes, organic search traffic generation is more cost-efficient than PPC. With that said, don't make the mistake of assuming SEO is free! What you aren't spending on advertisements, you will spend on content creation. However, once the snowball effect begins your customer acquisition costs will begin to decrease.

3. More Sustainable

Unlike paid search traffic, SEO traffic continues to come even after you are finished with a piece of content. That kind of dependability can be invaluable to businesses wanting to divert marketing funds to other areas.

4. Higher-Quality Leads

At this point, many studies show SEO delivers higher-quality leads than PPC. Achieving visibility in top SERPs signals an air of credibility that simply can't be bought. It suggests others trust your information enough to consume it, and thereby attracts more quality leads.

Disadvantages of SEO

1. Initially Slow to Build

Depending on your industry, beginning an organic search campaign takes awhile before you see exciting results. Obviously, the fewer competitors already executing SEO, the easier your efforts will be. Conversely, try to rank high in a field like marketing, and you will have your work cut out for you. However, that doesn't mean it's' impossible. Expect substantial results, with consistent effort, within 6 to 12 months.

2. Special Skills Needed

Becoming proficient in SEO is arguably more time-consuming than becoming proficient in PPC. That's because SEO is never just SEO; it's keyword research, editorial planning, blog writing, content funnel optimization and so much more.

Rarely, is it in a company's best interest to invest in SEO if they aren't going to run a complete inbound marketing campaign in conjunction with their efforts. If you don't have the in-house resources to take on an entire campaign, it's best to partner with an inbound agency who can act as an adjunct to your team.

Best Uses for Organic Traffic

1. Increased Return Over Time

The cool thing about SEO is the more you give, the more it gives back. Consistently publish targeted blog content at a minimum of twice per week, follow SEO best practices, and you will most likely see results a few months down the road. The longer you do it, and the more internal linking you achieve, the more authority Google will begin to give your site. Translation: You continually achieve bigger results for the same amount of work or less.

2. Increase Visibility to Cold Traffic

Most consumers turn to search engines during the beginning stage of the Buyer's Journey. They are asking specific questions as related to a particular problem they are trying to solve or desire they want to fulfill. Organic search methods coupled with TOFU (Top of Funnel) content is fantastic for nurturing these early-stage leads.

3. Enhance Your Competitive Advantage

The bright side to the time-intensive nature of organic search? Not all companies will be motivated enough to pursue its delayed results. Put in the work to build your organic search presence now, and you will have a huge lead when the competition finally realizes they should be concentrating on SEO too!

Increase Organic Traffic Now

As you can see, SEO wins when it comes to delivering long-term, cost-effective results. Save the PPC campaigns for building local brand recognition, testing marketing assumptions and promoting new offers to returning visitors.

Guide to Increase Organic Website Traffic - Download

Written by Ashley Gwilliam / October 11, 2017

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam