Which is better, SEO or PPC

Often people ask what is better; pay per click advertising or search engine optimisation, aka SEO. I am therefore going to go through the two and explain the main differences and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

For those who don’t know, pay per click advertising is where an advertiser only pays when their ad is clicked on, whereas SEO is the optimisation of your site so that it appears at the top of the organic search rankings.

Google AdWords is the most popular pay per click platform with over 80% market share and is divided into two sections; the search network and the display network. To keep things simple, I am going to compare SEO with the Google AdWords search network.

Often, pay per click and SEO costs are very similar. Many people think pay per click campaigns are expensive given that you often pay several pounds per click whereas SEO doesn’t cost anything per click and therefore assume SEO to be cheaper. However, if you were to calculate the cost of SEO and divide this by the number of clicks that you receive, you will find the costs are quite similar to PPC costs. The main difference between the costs of SEO compared with AdWords is when the investment required and when the results begin to show.

Google AdWords is relatively scalable. You are able to set a daily budget for a campaign and the maximum bid for each keyword. You can begin with a low budget and as your campaign begins to deliver returns, you are able to increase your spend. The key part is to prevent wasted clicks.

SEO is less scalable. Your return on investment will not show until you are on page 1 and the real gains will come when you are in the top 3 positions in Google. SEO tends to be all or nothing. You will receive a small number of clicks until you rank well and then the number of clicks will significantly increase. For this reason, you will have to invest quite a bit of money until returns on your investment begin to show. Once at the top of Google, you will soon start to make considerable returns.

The best online campaigns incorporate both PPC and SEO. The pay per click campaign generates traffic in the short term and demonstrates the potential of online quickly and easily whilst delivering reasonable returns. The SEO campaign shows larger returns in the long term but demands a considerable investment in the short term.

Running both SEO and PPC campaigns increases the likelihood that a user will click on your ad opposed to your competitors. The majority of users click on the ads seen above the fold and therefore if you have a natural search listing and an AdWords ad above the fold, you have double the chances of the user clicking on your ad rather than a competitors.

Often companies start with a small Google AdWords campaign and slowly increase their ad spend. When the AdWords campaign is showing good profits, they add an SEO campaign to increase search traffic further but to make the online campaign more efficient.