October 26, 2021

Understanding the Difference Between SEO and PPC

Even if you offer the best products or services, if people don’t know about your business, you could struggle. Many businesses both big and small struggle with this very problem, often turning to organic search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing strategies to get their products and ideas in front of potential customers. Both of these strategies are at the center of any successful digital marketing campaign, however one might be worth prioritizing based on your industry, size, budget, and goals.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two strategies, along with stats, tips, and tricks to help you decide which to incorporate into your search marketing strategy.

Understanding SEO

At its core, search engine optimization is about improving your website’s visibility across search engines by organically climbing the ranks of search results. Just as you might turn to Google or Bing to look up marketing information or even where to order lunch, so too does your average consumer. By investing in a proven, white-hat SEO strategy, you increase the likelihood of those consumers finding your website when they search specific keywords, especially if those keywords match the products and services your business provides.

Here’s an example. As a full-service agency with fashion digital marketing experience, we want to attract companies in this industry looking for our services. To do so, we’d target keywords related to those kinds of searches. We’d also create landing pages on our website detailing our expertise in the field, and we’d supplement that content with case studies from past client success stories. Over time, we’d see increased traffic and new potential revenue from clients looking for the types of services we provide. Likewise, we’d be leveraging insights from organic search statistics, the most recent of which state that:

  • In 2021, Google accounted for just over 92% of all global desktop search traffic, with Bing at 2.6%, and Yahoo a little under 2%
  • Of the billions of searches happening in a given day, 15% of those are new to Google
  • Google processes over 63,000 search queries per second
  • Google accounts for 93.42% of all mobile searches and 92% of desktop searches
  • 53% of all website traffic comes from organic searches
  • 65% of consumers search on their phone when in the mood to make a purchase
  • 95% of searchers never crawl past the first page of search results

In truth, most SEO strategies center around Google because it commands 92.47% of the total search market share. As such, businesses have to be mindful of Google’s ranking factors, technical SEO requirements, link-building best practices, content creation, and others if they wish to remain one step ahead of the competition.

Benefits of Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  1. SEO Can Be Affordable: Compared to paid search, organic search comes with very little upfront costs. However, many businesses choose to supplement their SEO strategies by paying freelancers, agencies, or purchasing SEO tools for more sustainable results. The key factor to organic search is time, as well-optimized content will rank and drive traffic to your business’ website on its own. Likewise, customers’ clicks remain free as opposed to a PPC campaign where you pay for each click, even if a customer doesn’t make a purchase.
  2. Funnel Stage Targeting: It’s important to remember that not everyone in your target audience is going to be at the same stage of the buying process at a given moment. While some might be just getting to know your brand at the top, others might be at the bottom already pulling out their wallets. SEO gives you the opportunity to craft different types of content (such as blogs, guides, case studies, and product pages) to meet different segments of your audience at just the right moment.
  3. SEO Offers More Stable Traffic Volume: Organic rankings in Google remain for as long as you keep optimizing your website and its content. In other words, there’s no on/off switch when it comes to SEO. PPC marketing, on the other hand, is tied to your marketing budget, meaning your website stops appearing in paid search results once that budget dries up. Adding to this, data suggests that users overwhelmingly prefer to click on organic search listings, meaning your business should consider the following:
  • Between 70-80% of users prefer organic search results to paid ads
  • 75% of all clicks go to one of the top three search results
  • The #1 Google organic listing in a SERP generates 26.9% of all click-throughs
  1. SEO Helps Build Brand Authority: One of the biggest ranking factors for Google is the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of your website, otherwise known as a site’s E-A-T Score. By appearing consistently on search results for keywords related to your products and services, you establish yourself as the expert on that topic or subject. In turn, Google recognizes your status, keeping you one step ahead of the competition in overall search rankings.
  2. SEO Offers Omni-channel Marketing Support: A connected approach to online marketing always works best. For example, if your social marketing campaign supports your organic search initiatives, you’re already setting yourself up for success. Organic search makes this possible. Common supporting marketing channels including social, paid, email, and video.For example, let’s say your marketing team launched a series of helpful blog posts. This kind of content can easily be repurposed, often working well for social media posts and snippets. Your next Facebook or Instagram post could share an interesting statistic or quote pulled directly from one of your articles, with the post tailored towards getting users to click into that article to learn more. This in turn helps your organic search campaign, as it sends signals to Google that people find your content relevant.

Things to Consider About SEO

  1. Search Engine Algorithm Changes: Search engines change their algorithms from time to time, and Google is no exception. With ten updates since the start of 2021 alone, businesses have to stay on top of these changes to protect their hard-earned search engine rankings.
  2. SEO Requires Regular Website Optimization: While it’s tempting to put together a killer website and assume your work is done after ranking for keywords, the fact remains that websites require constant optimization, especially with regards to SEO. This optimization might include touch-ups to old links, refreshing older articles, or editing existing landing pages with fresh content.
  3. SEO Results Take Time: As mentioned above, Google has many ranking factors, and all of them are tied to establishing your website or domain as a trusted resource of information over time. As such, it can sometimes take between 3-6 months to see results from an SEO campaign.
  4. SEO Requires Skill and Expertise to Master: SEO isn’t the easiest to master, and high-level SEO typically requires excellent writing skills and a deep understanding of how Google and other search engines operate. At the end of the day, it’s a time-consuming process. While some businesses might choose to tackle these strategies on their own, others might opt to hire search marketing experts to help them with their technical SEO, content, and link-building strategies.

Understanding PPC

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a search marketing strategy in which advertisers pay a publisher (like Google or Facebook) each time someone clicks their ad. It’s a model designed to drive highly targeted visitors to your website, as the consumers clicking on these ads are already interested and ready to make a purchase.

As such, PPC focuses on bidding on search keywords relevant to your business’s target markets. This can lead to potential improvements in lead generation or product sales, as the data on customer behavior is measurable and actionable.

Benefits of Paid Search

  1. PPC Results Are Quicker: Whereas SEO results can take several months to show results, PPC ads can show results in as little as a few hours. This gives you almost immediate search engine visibility for your ad campaigns.
  2. PPC Ads Appear Above Organic Search: Speaking of visibility, one of the best things about PPC ads is that they naturally appear above organic search results. With 75% of Google search results ending on the first page, page position is a considerable factor when it comes to driving ROI-positive traffic to your website.
  3. PPC Ads Are Highly Targeted: Another benefit to PPC ads is that you get to choose who you wish to target, including attributes such as age, geographical area, interest, or even marital status.
  4. PPC Ads Allow Quick A/B Tests: PPC campaigns also offer the ability to run simultaneous testing on two different sets of ads. Ad elements such as ad copy can occasionally be the difference between an ad failing to convert and an ad that does well. Testing allows you to gather data and better understand what appeals to your target audience and what doesn’t.

Important Paid Search Considerations

  1. PPC Ads Can Get Expensive: There’s no way around the fact that PPC campaigns have an associated cost, and that cost can add up rather quickly, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry. Your business needs to ensure its ad spend strategy is properly mapped out, so you can maintain your budget throughout the campaign.
  2. PPC Ads Can Offer Lower Profit Margins: Along with the associated costs of PPC campaigns, businesses also have to factor in their customer acquisition costs (CAC), or the total sales and marketing cost required to earn a new customer over time. This leads to PPC ads offering lower profit margins, as customer acquisition costs can continue to rise if there aren’t any increases in product or service prices to offset them.
  3. PPC Ads Offer Lower Click-Through-Rates (CTR): While PPC ads offer quicker results, that comes with lower click-through rates (CTR). In fact, over 90% of searchers won’t click on a paid ad, however the 10% that do could make up a considerable amount of your sales.

SEO vs. PPC: How to Choose?

At the end of the day, trying to choose between SEO and PPC is like trying to choose between a fork and a spoon. One works better than the other in certain situations, just as SEO and PPC each bring something different to the table.

SEO is perfect when:

  • You have a low marketing budget
  • You’re looking to build brand authority
  • You’re hoping to maximize your long-term ROI
  • You’re looking to reach people at different stages of the sales funnel.

PPC will give better results when:

  • You need quick results
  • You have a novel or first-of-its-kind product
  • The offer you’re promoting is time-sensitive, like a Black Friday or Holiday sale
  • You need to direct your audience to a sales-related landing page.

Ultimately, the best course of action is to use both strategies. Your business stands to see a far greater return on its investment by combining SEO and PPC marketing strategies. You can use retargeting ads to reel back in visitors who might have left your website at checkout. You can give your organic content a quick boost with paid ads on social media. Both paid and organic campaigns should work in tandem to help you maximize results.

Best of all, your PPC campaigns will grant you access to a host of valuable, actionable insights, with keyword search volumes, competitor analysis, and your highest-converting CTAs being among them. Armed with these insights, you’d be better equipped to craft SEO strategies that place your business firmly in front of your most valued audience.

VELOX Can Help You Maximize Your SEO and PPC Results with Proven Digital Marketing Strategies

While SEO and PPC both offer definitive advantages, figuring out how to leverage those advantages can feel a bit daunting, especially when you have other priorities. VELOX Media helps medium-sized businesses and enterprise clients achieve world-class results with our proven digital marketing strategies. As a Google Premier Partner ranking among the top 3% of digital marketing agencies in the world, we’ve helped a variety of clients across multiple industries optimize their SEO and PPC strategies and capture valuable new customers in the process.

Chat with us today to learn how our search marketing experts can help your business generate new revenue growth and climb the ranks of SERPs.

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