I often get asked about the relative merits of PPC (Pay Per Click advertising) versus traditional SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Many existing and potential clients have been asking me questions such as ‘which is better, PPC or SEO?’, ‘If your SEO is top notch, do you really need PPC as well?’, ‘If your PPC campaign is already working successfully, why bother with SEO?’ and ‘which should you prioritise first with a new business, PPC or SEO?’. Today I”ll try to look briefly at these questions and offer what I consider to be the right answers.

seo versus ppcWhich is better, PPC or SEO?
This is a tricky question to answer because there really is no concrete, black and white answer. The actual answer in terms of statistics such as sales and ROI will vary from one business to another, partly dependent on issues such as the nature of the business, the choice of keywords and the effectiveness of both the PPC and SEO implemented.

If you do your SEO correctly and effectively then you can achieve a first page listing in almost every case. The same is true with PPC, although in both cases there’s never any guarantee. The more niche your market the greater the chance there is that you’ll achieve a first page ranking, but even here there is a difference.

If your PPC campaign is already working successfully, why bother with SEO?
Because with effective SEO you may be slow to achieve that first page ranking, but once you’re there you’re likely to remain there providing that you maintain your SEO activities. However, with PPC your first page position is only assured for as long as you’re willing to pay for the sponsored listings.

Of course, if you’re finding that the number of sales coming through your PPC listings more than pays for the cost of the listings in the first place then you could argue that this cost is justifiable in the long term, but it is important to have a way of determining just how much traffic is coming through your SEO listings and how much is coming through your PPC adverts.

More than this, it’s important to determine just what proportion of each volume of traffic is actually resulting in sales. It may be that your PPC adverts are generating 90% of the traffic but only 10% of the sales, in which case you have to argue that it may be better to invest more in the SEO side of things and leave the PPC campaign for a while.

Which should you prioritise first with a new business, PPC or SEO?
There’s no doubt that SEO can provide very real long term benefits at relatively little cost. This is partly due to the fact that your investment in SEO is cumulative – everything you publish and distribute remains live and working hard every day, often for many years. PPC on the other hand can be expensive in the long term, and is only effective if you keep paying the fees. The moment you stop your campaign is over, your brand becomes invisible and your traffic is likely to shrink to nothing.

So for a new business which should you prioritise? The short answer is that you should start by initiating a solid PPC campaign. This gets your business noticed, generates traffic and delivers sales from the very first day. It’s the only truly effective way of getting your online brand seen within hours rather than weeks or months.

But once your PPC campaign is underway it’s then important to get started on the SEO campaign as soon as possible. As this builds up and develops you can ease back on the PPC listings, striking a balance which works for you. But judging where this balance lies will rely on you having a solid understanding of where your traffic is coming from, and what the conversion rates are for those people coming from your SEO listings compared with your PPC listings.

What’s your opinion? Should SEO be used over PPC, vice versa, or in tandem? Leave us a comment to let us know.