At an SEO networking meeting I recently attended, the group was quite dismissive of PPC advertising. However, as expensive as it has become to buy clicks, it is a mistake to dismiss PPC advertising.
A decision on whether to use PPC advertising basically comes down to a question of whether or not it pays out to do so.
If PPC advertising generates a positive return on investment, it is typically an appropriate tactic. If PPC is not producing adequate returns, then it is usually isn't viable.
SEO Is For Every Site
Unlike PPC which is only effective for sites that can monetize traffic for more than the cost per click, SEO is a tactic that common sense suggests should be pursued by all websites, at least at a basic level.
Every organization should implement basic SEO tactics to ensure that their site ranks highly for a search on their brand name.
Customers, clients, and partners expect to be able to easily find an organizations website at the top of search engine results pages after entering a brand name in the search box.
Especially Now Deep-Page Traffic Is More Important
Further, changes to the Google algorithm have increased the importance of interior pages as a source of search engine traffic. Google has increased the weighting assigned to interior pages and decreased the weight assigned to home pages.
As illustrated by the landing page results for Koffler Sales and InstallationTools provided in the chart below, the percent of Google organic traffic from new visitors that is delivered to interior web pages has increased since 2010, with a corresponding decrease in home page traffic from new visitors.
Although both sites have experienced increases in new visitors finding them via organic search results, the percentage that are landing on the home page has declined by over 20% for Koffler Sales and by about 15% for InstallationTools.
Presumably, the engineers at Google have decided that linking deeper into sites provides users with enhanced efficiency. Thus, optimizing for search across an entire site has become an even more important factor in generating search engine traffic.
% New Visitors From Google Organic Searches to Home Page Vs. Interior Pages
(July 2010 to January 2012)
But There Is An Essential Difference Between SEO & PPC
An effective way to communicate the difference between PPC and SEO to a marketing veteran is to use an analogy to offline advertising versus public relations. While it is not a perfect analogy, it will resonate with traditional marketers.
With PPC advertising the publisher controls content, placement, geographical reach, and timing. However, buying clicks can be painfully expensive, particularly in a competitive category.
An SEO campaign can be cost efficient, but control of content, placement, and timing is determined by search engine algorithms. Much like public relations, the results that a campaign will achieve are unknown until after it has been launched. And in the case of an SEO campaign, the lead time required for productive results is hard to predict, particularly if promoting a new site.
Still, In Conclusion…
It is silly to argue about whether PPC or SEO is the better tactic. PPC is typically only appropriate for sites with a robust revenue model, while all sites can benefit from SEO to generate visitor traffic via better search engine rankings.
The effectiveness of PPC and SEO each varies from site to site. However, the effectiveness of PPC often can be maximized by calculating the dollar return on investment. Determining the appropriate level of effort for SEO is fuzzier to calculate and to a much greater extent is based on using common sense.