SEO or PPC? This is a marketing question that every business owner asks at some point in time. The dilemma here is because SEO is more sustainable but often takes a long time to show results. PPC on the other hand can get you customers right off the bat. But this strategy requires you to keep spending money for every new customer. If you stop advertising, you stop seeing new customers.
If you are just starting out, your marketing budget can be pretty tight. Do you invest all of this in SEO and keep your fingers crossed until you see results? Or do you spend on PPC today and pray for your advertising costs to not eat into your already wafer-thin margins? We asked several industry experts to chime in with their perspective. Here are some valuable opinions.
Know your industry
The answer to the question 'SEO or PPC' depends on what your website does, your marketing budget and the competition in the space. If you are in a very niche industry with an established authority, your chances of succeeding with SEO are pretty high and so you may not really need PPC.
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On the other hand, if you are entering an already mature market, then it is a good idea to distribute your budget between SEO and PPC. According to Tom Vaughton, the director of search marketing at Varn Media, this is because PPC advertising helps in driving business to your website quickly. In a mature market, pay-per-click advertising is also good way to understand the best performing keywords. This can help in strategizing for SEO later.
Understand your brand and audience
Not all websites and businesses can work well on both SEO and PPC. For example, if you have an innovative product or service that people are not searching for then SEO is out of question, since there really isn't anybody looking for the keywords you rank for. On a similar note, if your product has really low margins, then PPC may not be a choice since you tend to lose more money than you can make. Dario Zadro, web strategist and owner at Chicago based ZadroWeb, suggests marketers to ask themselves the following questions: Does your website receive any traffic already? Does your website support an authoritative content strategy to target your visitors? Do you have an innovative product or service? He says when businesses understand their brand and audience; they can create effective content strategies that are crucial to SEO. However, while the return on investment can be pretty easily measured in the case of PPC, it is not easy with SEO. This is especially true in the initial stages of your business, since the returns from search optimization are visible only over the long term.
Start SEO right out of the gate
Bootstrapped startups that want to gain traction often feel the urge to put off their SEO plans while they bring customers through PPC. But according to Bill Sebald, the owner of Philadelphia-based Greenlane SEO, this is a lost opportunity. He points out that Google adopts a “wait and see” approach when it comes to new websites since many upcoming websites may often end up getting abandoned or turn spammy. He recommends businesses to start off on SEO right out of the gate, “Make sure in development the site is technically flawless, and the topics and relevance are robust. Get people (and websites) talking about you, which in turn will generate links and appeal to other Google signals,” Sebald says. PPC, he says, should be the focus between the time the site launches and when natural traffic starts to grow.
When in doubt, use PPC
Often startups are not sure about the keywords to target or the ROI from various marketing channels. According to Jonathan Bentz, the marketing manager at Pennsylvania-based Netrepid, when one is unsure, it is a good idea to start with PPC. He recommends starting with a small budget of around $500 and a bunch of “broad keywords” allowing the campaign to run with little tweaking or testing. This way, you will be able to identify the top-performing keywords and messages that can be used to optimize the site for SEO. Bentz, however, points out that in the case of services or B2B, the cost per clicks could be extremely high. In such cases, it is better to focus on SEO instead.
Don't forget remarketing
No matter how good your pages are from an SEO and PPC perspective, not all of your targeted customers buy from you the very first time. Depending on your niche, you may need several rounds of marketing communication to get customers to open their wallets. Other times, you may need to target customers periodically depending on the life cycle of your product.
For instance, if you offer car servicing, it is a good idea to reach out to customers every six months when it is time for servicing. One way to remarket is through email marketing. Anther way is to use PPC for retargeting. Bryan Phelps, the CEO of Utah-based Big Leap, points out that with all the moving parts going towards running a business, entrepreneurs often forget the need to set up tracking codes and remarketing campaigns. These are absolutely essential to bring your audience back to your website and thereby help in improving conversions.
So how do you put these words of advice into action? This short six-step process should help get you started.
1. Run a short PPC campaign to identify keywords that convert and to validate your business.
2. Use the keyword data to develop an on-site search optimization strategy right from launch.
3. Use a portion of your monthly marketing budget to invest in off-site SEO
4. Launch a comprehensive PPC campaign to start attracting customers from launch date until natural traffic moves up.
5. As your site moves up the organic rankings, tweak your budget allocation to reduce PPC spend and increase the spending on SEO and other organic marketing strategies.
6. Remarket to past visitors to improve conversion and trigger repeat purchase.
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