Answer: It Depends

If you think your business doesn’t need to consider online marketing/advertising, think again. According to Adweek, more than 80% of consumers conduct some form of online research prior to making a purchase. (A study from Enquiro puts that number even higher, closer to 94% of business buyers.) More than 60% of those begin their online research using a search engine, like Google, Yahoo, MSN or Bing—and 61% read online product reviews before they buy products.

So…What’s the point? Making your business more visible on the internet is among the most effective strategies to drive traffic to your website, boost sales and grow your business. Once you’ve made the decision to promote your business online, you have more (and more difficult) decisions to make—specifically, you need to decide how you’ll spend what are likely limited marketing dollars.

Should you invest in PPC advertising or SEO?

PPC (Pay Per Click) marketing is an interesting compromise between SEO and typical advertising. It involves paying a search engine to feature your website when users search for certain, selected keywords. It requires SEO keyword research similar to what you do for SEO but involves less crafting and editing of your own content to use those keywords in a structured SEO process that relates your services to the consumer’s search query.

Then, as the name might suggest, you only have to pay the search engine for the number of users who clicked on your paid listing. The benefit of PPC is that you are always at the top of the search engine results for your chosen keywords. On the other hand, users often skip the ‘Ad’ marked options for the more relevant results just beneath them.

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization and means exactly that. When your website is properly optimized, you will appear in the search results of users who are looking for your service or who search for related topics. By embedding the right keywords into your website content, it can tell search engines who you are, what you offer, and the information you have to share.

This, in turn, helps the search engines suggest your services to prospective clients. The key is to know which keywords to use and how to use them for maximum results. Very specific keyword phrases, known as “long tail keywords” take this method a step further by refining the query to the exact product, color, size or description of what the customer is seeking. These consumers have already done some research and are often ready to buy when drawn in by a match to their detailed search query.

Is PPC or SEO a Better Option for Your Small Business?

The answer is, “it depends.” It depends on several factors, including the size of your marketing budget, the PPC cost-per-click for your industry and products, and how competitive organic search results are for your company.

Here are 4 things to consider when deciding whether your business should choose PPC or SEO:

1. Are You Able to Optimize Your Website on Your Own?

If you decide to optimize your website on your own, it doesn’t cost your business anything but your time. It’s important to note, however, that SEO can be complicated and very time consuming, involving everything from analyzing the right keywords to use in your content, correctly utilizing title tags and headings and continuously building authoritative links from other websites. Effectively optimizing your website is best done in partnership with SEO experts—and there is a cost for that. Walker-Stanley Communications can help! Contact us.

2. How Expensive Are Keywords for Your Business?

The cost for PPC campaigns varies widely depending on the competitiveness of your keywords related to your products and services. For example, because insurance and mortgages are expensive, the keywords in those industries are among the costliest in Google Adwords. Other high-cost keywords include “loans,” “attorneys,” “credit” and “lawyers.” Keywords related to less competitive products and local searches, on the other hand, could be cost-effective enough that PPC is the right option for your business.

3. How Competitive Are Your Business’s Organic Search Results?

If you want your business to get traction through SEO, you really need to show up on the first page of search results. That’s more difficult for some businesses than for others. To find out how competitive the search results are for your business, you can enter your keywords into a free, keyword research tool, like Google’s External Keyword Research Tool . You’ll see your estimated competition level, as well as the number of businesses bidding on your keywords and the average cost-per-click. In some cases, you’ll see that you’re up against quite a few industry giants which can make it very difficult to compete in organic searches. If this is the case, and if your keywords are relatively inexpensive, PPC might be the better option for your business.

4. What’s Your Timeline?

When deciding which service to invest in, the best advice we can give you is that SEO is the long game, while PPC is an efficient and affordable targeted advertising. The Hub Shout marketing trends survey found that 30% of total online marketing budgets are spent on SEO and 26% is spent on PPC, showing that while SEO is ahead, PPC is a comparably popular choice. Also, for reported revenue generation, 32% of agencies found SEO to be the most lucrative, while only 12% found PPC to made them more sales.

If you’re ready to improve conversions and know the search keywords from which those conversions will be made, PPC is a fantastic choice. This method is perfect for selling popular products with clear image and price listings or services people need in a hurry. SEO often starts slowly, but can snowball into hundreds of free conversions a day if done correctly.

It’s Not Always an “Either/Or” Choice

Of course, you don’t have to choose between PPC and SEO to market your business online. Depending on your marketing plan, often the best solution is to combine the two: investing in SEO for long term conversions and PPC for directly targeted sales. Many businesses are successful using this approach, leveraging the aspects of each which work best for their companies and their websites.

Marketing Can Be Complicated

Before you invest precious time and marketing dollars in online marketing campaigns, considering partnering with an experienced expert to help you navigate the process.

To learn more about the ways our online marketing, lead generation, website development and content marketing services can help you drive website traffic, boost sales and grow your business, contact us today.