SEO vs PPC Marketing for Small Business: Which is better?

SEO or SEM, which one should you choose for small business?

In this article, I’ll be giving a short introduction to SEO and PPC marketing to help you decide which advertising you should be using. However, I’ll tell you right now that you need to use both.

In general, PPC marketing is useful when you want to see immediate results, while SEO is part of your long-term strategy.

Note: Google Adwords has changed their name to Google Ads.

PPC Marketing: What is it and what will it do for my website?

PPC marketing (Pay Per Click marketing), also known as CPC (Cost Per Click), are the advertisements you see on the search engine results page and on websites across the web.

With this kind of advertising, you only pay when someone clicks an advertisement. This sets it apart from traditional advertising such as newspaper, television and radio ads where you pay a set price per ad. Because of this, PPC marketing can be very useful for small businesses.

Example of PPC - SEM ads. Ads are listed first, then organic listings

Impressions -

how many times people see your ad.

With traditional advertising, like the kind you see in the local newspaper, you're essentially paying for impressions. You pay for people to view your ad, even if they don’t make any contact with your business or make a purchase. This makes tracking how well the ad performs a bit more difficult than digital marketing.

With digital marketing, every action is tracked with precision. Every view, every click, and every conversion is accounted for.

There’s also another drawback to traditional marketing. You pay to target everybody. It relies on putting your ad out there, and hoping it catches the eye of someone that might be interested in your business.

Please note:

While I highlight the benefits of PPC over traditional marketing in this article, this does not mean I’m against traditional marketing. There are plenty of situations that call for the use of traditional marketing, and it can be a highly effective strategy for your business. It all depends on the circumstances. As the old saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it!”

While this might not sound so bad, consider this. PPC marketing is refined and helps to drive what's called targeted traffic to your website. (Targeted Traffic: People coming to your business who have already shown interest in your types of products/services.)

In fact, PPC software is designed to only show your ads to people who have shown interest in similar products/services. Better yet, you don’t pay for impressions at all. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad and visits your website. This makes PPC advertising more cost-effective than traditional marketing.

Another benefit of PPC is dynamic advertisements. Instead of just showing one ad to everyone, dynamic ads allow you to show different ads to different people, depending on what they searched for. This allows the ad to be much more relevant to the person who sees it, increasing the chance of a sale. Here’s how Google describes their dynamic ads -

“When someone searches on Google with terms closely related to your website, your Dynamic Search Ad may show. When your ad shows, your headline and landing page are automatically generated based on the particular search terms that the user entered. In other words, your headlines are dynamically added to be of greater relevance for each individual search.” - Google AdWords Help

While PPC does have some pretty fantastic benefits, there is a drawback. It costs money and while it guarantees traffic, it doesn't guarantee sales. If people don’t like your product/service, it doesn't matter how much you spend on PPC, they won’t buy.

However, going into business is always risky, and requires an entrepreneurial attitude towards risk and commitment. Spending money on PPC is no more or less risky than any other business decision.

Probably the biggest drawback of PPC is that it can be a bit difficult to master. This isn’t good for the small business owner who prefers to do it themselves.

While this can work to a limited extent, and you may see a return on investment, an unoptimized PPC account can be wasteful. If you don’t constantly tweak, tune, test and optimize, you’ll find yourself paying for a lot of clicks, with low conversion rate.

If you’re not looking to hire a PPC account manager, or don't want to try and figure out the full Adwords, my advice would be to check out AdWords Express. It a simplified version of AdWords that allows you to quickly get PPC ads running for your business. Click here to read my article about AdWords Express.

So in conclusion, why does your business need PPC advertising?

  • Drive targeted traffic to your website and business
  • More cost-effective than traditional marketing
  • Ads that are refined for the person viewing your ad

So What Does SEO Advertising do for You?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the process used to increase your website's visibility on the organic search rankings. The organic search rankings are the websites that are listed below the PPC advertisements.

Example of organic listings. Normal text, site links and rich snippets

By far the important thing to know about SEO is that the customer comes first, not the search engine. Listed below is Google's Basic Webmaster Guidelines.

Webmaster Guidelines

Basic principles

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don't deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Although PPC ads are listed first, being listed high in the organic search ranking provides significant benefits. While most people respond well to PPC ads that are relevant to their search, others scroll right past them.

A 2012 study by Google found that 66% of ad clicks happen because there were no organic results related to their search. (In other words, they only clicked the ads because they didn't find what they were looking for in the organic search listings.) Because people trust the organic results more, listing high in the organic search can boost your credibility.

Another benefit of being listed high up on the search rankings is that studies have found that 9 out of 10 people don’t go past the first page. Even worse, while the top organic result will get around 33% of the traffic, the last result drops all the way down to around 2%.

Wikipedia - Search engine results page

When people do a search, they’re usually looking for a solution to a problem. If it’s quick and easy for the person to find a business with a solution to their problem, they’re much more likely to convert.

Because of this, SEO advertising typically has a higher conversion rate than PPC. This is especially good for local businesses, considering many are service based, and the competition isn’t as thick.

SEO is usually the default advertising strategy for small businesses. The reason behind it is simple. If you're not paying someone to advertise for you, it costs you nothing but your time.

Unlike PPC, you pay nothing for clicks. Not a bad deal, right? I would always advise DIY SEO for small businesses that can’t afford to hire a professional. (Just be sure you follow Google's Webmaster Guidelines!)

However, while you can learn how to do SEO yourself, you're going to have to spend a lot of time learning how to do it correctly. You’ll also find it hard to compete with large companies who already have a well-established web presence.

Furthermore, even when implemented correctly, it doesn't have the same immediate results as PPC. It still takes months, and even years, to build your online presence and SEO to the point where it really packs a punch.

Search Engine Algorithm -

The calculations a search engine uses to list and rank pages. Engineers constantly change these calculations in an attempt to improve relevance.

You also have to deal with constant algorithm changes that can throw off your website's rankings. Because of this uncertainty, websites that rely too heavily on SEO can be thrown into disarray after an algorithm change. This is why it’s considered a good business practice to eventually stop relying on SEO advertising.

While SEO tends to be less stable than PPC, and you won’t see an instant increase in traffic, it's still very worthwhile. Less stability doesn't mean you won't see a steady flow of traffic, it just means the flow of traffic fluctuates.

While this might make it seem like doing SEO is a hassle, let's review the benefits -

  • SEO boosts your credibility
  • The first result gets 33% of the traffic, and you don’t have to pay for the click
  • 9 out of 10 people don’t go past the first page

Should you focus on PPC or SEO advertising?

For the new small business owner, I hope this article provided a good intro to the benefits of SEO and PPC. However, the question still remains. Which one should your business focus on? The answer is neither. You should never focus on just one form of advertising. Your marketing effort should be diverse, just like a stock portfolio. (Never put all your eggs in one basket.)

Every website can benefit from SEO and PPC, and should use them to gain the competitive advantage, but don’t forget to diversify.

An example of a well rounded small business digital marketing effort looks something like this -

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Content Marketing
  • Sticking your URL to physical products
  • E-Mail Newsletters
  • YouTube Videos

If you can't afford to hire a professional to do the work, here are some helpful links from Google to get you started!

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