Key to growing any online business is exposure in search engine results. Many people nowadays use a search engine as their first port of call in looking for a restaurant recommendation, a new product, or an answer to a question. 80% of any traffic generated for a website comes from search engines! In order to match your business with those queries, and land visitors to your page, you need visibility on search engine results pages (SERP).
There are two prominent strategies that you can employ to improve the ranking of your website in a SERP; search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine pay-per-click advertising (PPC).
Both of these methods have their own strengths and limitations. Knowing how, and when, to use each of them can significantly increase the traffic generated for your website. Increased traffic is likely to lead to more content engagement, event bookings and product sales. This post will outline the basics of SEO and PPC and compare the two.
Search engine optimization is the practice of landing organic visitors to your page. Meaning, the visitor hasn’t clicked on an advert to reach your website, they have followed a link from a SERP. On Google, for example, organic results are those listed under the first few results that are labelled as ‘Ads’.
SEO needs to ensure that a website has some features to help it secure a high ranking in a SERP. Some examples of these features include crawl accessibility (a bot’s ability to follow links through your pages); engaging content that can answer the user’s query; keywords that attract searchers; and a great user experience with fast load speeds and an easy to use user interface.
It is important to note, that Google advises websites should not be built with search engines in mind. You need to build them with a great online experience as the main focus of design. Trying to trick a search engine by including pages with little content, hiding text and links, and making doorway pages – pages that rank well for a specific search, could lead to being de-indexed or penalised by the search engine provider.
You may conclude that developing an effective SEO programme is a complex matter. For most business owners, mastering SEO would take too much time. There are many consultants and agencies out there that can help you. It takes time to improve your ranking in a search engine. And it can be difficult to compete against well-established online outfits.
Google advises websites should not be built with search engines in mind, but with a great online experience as the main focus of design.
Pay-per-click advertising does not lend itself to website design in the same way. Although having a high quality website is still important – it is more about deciding when you would like your website to appear on a SERP through advertising. The most common form of PPC is Google Ads. You can pay to have a link to your website appear in the top few spaces on a SERP – reserved for ads – when you make a certain search. It operates on a pay-per-click model: you only pay a fee if someone clicks on your link.
Advertisers identify key words they want to bid on, state how much they are willing to spend, and create grouping of keywords to pair with ads. When a search is conducted, Google runs mini ‘auctions’ between a pool of ads. This pool is determined by Google to be relevant to the search query and is informed by the most relevant keywords from the advertiser’s account.
Google ranks the ads based on the maximum bid the advertiser is willing to pay and a ‘quality score’. The quality score is an indicator of how relevant and useful the ad is to the user. A formula, that uses a combination of the two metrics, ranks the ads which are then displayed accordingly.
PPC campaigns can play a crucial role in matching websites to visitors at a specific time – perhaps the launch of a new product – or for a specific audience in a certain location. As well as search engines, social media sites can offer PPC. Facebook does this really well as it allows you to create very bespoke ads based on a specific demographic such as age, gender, location and even marital status.
PPC campaigns can play a crucial role in matching websites to visitors at a specific time - perhaps the launch of a new product - or for a specific audience in a certain location.
SEO vs PPC
Both strategies have the same endgame: drive up traffic to your website. Both are important parts to increasing online exposure, and it is not necessarily a case of choosing one or the other; the two approaches can be complementary and used in tandem.
Results from SEO can take a long time to come to fruition, but when your website is ranked at the top of a SERP it can lead to sustained traffic – without having to pay for ads. In addition to this, your website can become an established ‘go-to’ for a particular search query if it consistently ranks well, and therefore make your page an ‘authority site’ within that niche. Finally, if you ever plan to sell your website, having a high volume of traffic from a strong SERP position can help increase its value.
In contrast to SEO, PPC campaigns can be implemented with almost immediate results. You can tailor them to very specific audiences based on key demographics, and use only when certain keywords are searched for. This bespoke approach works well with short-term marketing goals like drawing attention to a product launch or a new campaign, and allows you to dominate a search category for a while.
The drawback of PPC, however, is that click through rates for ads are comparatively very low against SEO links. Of all US searches only 2.8% of people clicked on paid advertisements; SEO gets around 20% more traffic than PPC. Although PPC campaigns can be a quick and easy way to increase your online visibility, in the long run you will want your website to be able to compete for organic results as it saves on advertising costs and also makes sure you do not miss out on that large pool of visitors who avoid ads.
What does this mean for your business?
Each strategy can suit different businesses more appropriately at different times. If you are setting up an ecommerce business, and are looking to sell macbooks, for example, then you are going to struggle to compete with the likes of Apple, Amazon and other established online retailers for a space on the SERPs. It would take a long, sustained SEO strategy to become a high-ranking search result. A well-targeted PPC campaign that coincides with the launch of your business may be more appropriate in this situation.
On the other hand, if your business is quite niche, it may not be too hard to use SEO effectively. You can establish your site as a ‘go-to’ for a specific search category. If your website can be built with user intent in mind – that is to say it is able to provide answers to a particular search query and it does not have much competition within the same category, SEO can help you generate sustained, high quality traffic in a shorter time frame than if your website was broader in its purpose.
Overall, you should use both strategies to achieve different targets. Ultimately an ecommerce business relies on hitting KPIs like sales, bookings and page and video views. You cannot achieve this without traffic from search engine visitors. By combining well-timed PPC campaigns with a long-term SEO strategy, your website can establish itself as a key player in certain search results.
Do you have any questions about how to choose the best strategy for your business? Get in touch with our team!
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the method of optimising the pages on your website so a search engine, such as Google, will display your content for certain keywords.
Why is SEO important?
There is no point in having a website with no traffic, you need to optimise your website content accordingly so Google sees you as a credible source of information and ranks your pages in search results, resulting in more traffic to your website.
How much does SEO cost?
Hiring an experienced, competent SEO agency will set you back about ~$500 / month. Larger projects can have a minimum budget of $2,500.
What is PPC?
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the process of paying a fee each time an ad is clicked. As opposed to organic search results, its a way of buying visits.
Why is PPC important?
As SEO is a lengthy process to get your website to rank, PPC can help you get some traffic while SEO is being worked on. Very new companies will struggle to appear in Googles search results, with little to no clicks without any advertising.
How much does PPC cost?
At first, PPC may seem very expensive. What many fail to realise is that PPC is an investment into your brand, and far more worthwhile than just a one-off purchase. On average you can expect one click to cost you $1-2 for appearing on Google search results.