SEO and PPC: Which Is Better?

In this post I’d like to take a look at the two main forms of search marketing; organic search engine optimisation and paid search listings (pay-per-click). First of all, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Below is an image of the search results page for the query “Digital Marketing Manchester”.

What’s most striking is the amount of space ‘above the fold’ provided for each type of Ad. It’s quite clear that the paid adverts take pride of position. This is because that’s where Google makes it’s money, but Google’s war on free clicks is another discussion for another time.

Quite often we’re asked ‘which is better, SEO or PPC?’ and ‘which is more cost-effective?’. In truth the answer to this depends on a number of factors, but is primarily driven by two things; budget and level of competition. I’d like to look over the strengths and weaknesses of each channel, and hopefully offer some guidance on which might be best for you.

But first, let’s ease it in gently with an infographic on search marketing in 2011 :

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO is the art of making search engines love your website, by optimising your content and making the site relevant to the right searches, then developing the popularity of your page or site by gathering links from other websites.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Google Pay-Per-Click is where the money is for Google, and it’s a feature that’s in constant development with Remarketing, Product listings, Text adds, and Adsense comprising the core services.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

So which should you choose?

What would I suggest? Combine forces!

In my opinion, organic SEO and PPC fulfil two different roles. Whilst on the surface it would seem that they both achieve the same thing in a different way, you’re going to get the most out of your search marketing by carefully using them together to mitigate each other’s weaknesses.

Where organic competition is so high that achieving a top 5 placement isn’t realistic with your budget, PPC adverts will allow you to capture these searchers without breaking the bank on organic SEO.

Running thousands of PPC adverts for all your long tail search terms won’t scale well; the time and budget needed to manage your campaign will increase exponentially. It’s far better to create SEO content that targets these keywords and use your organic techniques to improve the ranking potential of that piece of content.

Whilst a well run organic campaign shouldn’t be subject to algorithm updates, we can never predict exactly what ‘the big G’ has planned for us. If, for any reason, you’re impacted by algorithm updates you can use paid adverts to fill the gaps whilst you get your house in order.