Should You Use SEO or PPC Marketing?
In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir explain the difference between SEO and PPC and why one is head's above the other when it comes to search results.
When you're using Google to reach your ideal prospects, the big question is: “What’s the best way to get in front of those prospects and get them to contact you?”
There are two main ways a local business can reach prospects on Google, and it’s important to understand what they are and the difference between them. The two strategies are search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
- Local SEO is concerned with getting your website ranked highly in the map and organic search listings on Google for keywords related to your business. You cannot pay for placement in the organic results. Google has an algorithm that determines where each page on your site ranks for various keywords and, with local SEO, you’re essentially trying to game the algorithm to get your site ranked higher than your competitors’ sites for the best keywords related to your business.
- PPC is paid advertising on Google. PPC ads are displayed above the organic search results as well as down the right side of the search results.
The main thing to understand is how prominently PPC ads are displayed at the top of a Google search results page. Usually the top three results for a local search are ads. (This is one thing that will very likely not change about how the search engine results page looks because Google makes most of its money from these ads.) Under that are the maps listings, and then the organic search results follow. It's important to understand that most people will click on the results at the top of the page, which, no surprise, are exactly where the ads that make Google money are positioned.
If you were to look at the “above the fold” results (the “above the fold” results are those you see when you first land on the page before you scroll down) of any Google search, you'd notice that the majority of the pixels are taken up by paid ads. There is often no room for any organic results. People are lazy online and they won't scroll unless they have to. If they find what they’re looking for above the fold, they won’t go any further. Because of this, one of the main advantages PPC has over SEO is its prime positioning on the search results pages.
With PPC, you can launch a campaign and, almost immediately, your ads will start appearing on page one of Google. SEO, by comparison, is a long-term investment. You have to wait at least three to six months to typically start seeing any type of results, and in a competitive market, it could take over a year.
What this means is, you can hire an SEO firm for $1,000 or $2,000 a month, depending on how aggressive you want to be, retain them for six months or 12 months, yet still have no guarantee that you'll be on page one or get any leads from it. Even if you do get on page one, after a year or two of paying an SEO firm, Google may change its algorithm -- and you could lose it all overnight (we’ve seen that happen many times).
If you’re planning to be in business for the long term, are patient, and hire a good SEO firm, then SEO may be a very good long-term investment and generate a good ROI over time.
SEO is a constant cat-and-mouse game between Google and those who do SEO for a living. It’s getting harder and harder to get results, and we know a number of SEO firms that are starting to offer other services like web design or social media marketing, while others are deciding to fold up shop rather than continue to play games with Google.
You may be getting three to four solicitations a day from SEO firms telling you how poorly your website is ranking, how your horrible website isn't getting you as many leads as it could be, and how they have the magic solution to get you to the top of page one on Google (we get their emails, too!). The majority of these firms outsource their SEO to cheap overseas labor and mark up the costs 100 percent or more. Please don't respond to their offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Another advantage of PPC is that it will give you clear, measurable results. You’ll know exactly how much you spent on clicks and how many leads and how much revenue you generated in return.
You can't get clear, measurable results like that with SEO. Google doesn’t share a lot of SEO data with website owners, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately measure how many leads you are getting from organic traffic. In fact, one thing to watch out for is that a lot of the organic/SEO traffic you get to your site may be from branded traffic (i.e., people searching specifically for your company name). So it may look like you’re getting lots of great quality leads from organic traffic, but these are people who already know who you are and would have contacted you anyway. Be sure to keep this in mind when you're trying to evaluate the results from any SEO work you do.
Why PPC will be a top source of leads for a long time
PPC is never going away. Google is a publicly traded company with a responsibility to their shareholders to increase profits, and they're constantly rolling out new things that get more people to click on ads. Recently they rolled out new improvements, such as callout extensions, that make their ads take up more space on the page.
Google doesn’t make money on SEO. They make money on Google AdWords (the name of their PPC program). They're constantly rolling out new products for advertisers, and we found that they love local business advertisers. Why? Because your business is very relevant to searchers. If someone is searching for an injury lawyer in Dallas, Google wants people to find an injury lawyer in Dallas -- they want relevant search results.
From our experience, the fastest, most reliable, and most profitable way to generate an ROI on Google comes from running PPC ads. You just have to make sure you’re approaching PPC the right way for your local business.