Ron McCoy February 24th, 2013
Sometimes prospective new clients that contact us wonder aloud, “What’s best for our organization, organic SEO or pay-per-click (e.g., Google AdWords)?” In almost every case our answer is both. Although sometimes one is a better fit for a client’s immediate needs. In those instances rather than an all-or-nothing selection of one or the other, it’s more a matter of in what proportion to apply each.
The question of SEO or PPC has certainly been written about before. Still part of the reason I write blogs is to refine my own thinking on topics, which evolves over time, given the benefit of experience.
Here’s a five point checklist to help webmasters and marketers determine which of these two categories of internet promotion might be the best fit for them, or more realistically in what proportion to emphasize each:
Criteria in Favor of SEO (organic) Internet Promotion
1. You have quality content, either on-the-shelf or have the ability to create it.
To succeed organically websites must be good, preferably great. High value sites have quality content, typically lots of it. Why else would they be valuable but for their content? So if you’re fortunate enough to have a stockpile of off-line content in the waiting, or if not that then the ability to create high quality content, then a fundamental condition for pursuing a successful SEO campaign has been met.
2. A long-term outlook is present.
SEO success typically occurs over an extended period of time. The results and benefits are cumulative, they build over time as sites evolve and grow. So a successful site’s metrics will also improve over time. SEO success doesn’t happen in a day, but if there’s a serious intent to effectively market an organization’s online presence then what happens today and over a series of “todays-to-come” directly contribute to the success.
3. You have a commitment to lead your business category.
For organizations that are intent on leading in their business category, however the category’s defined, SEO is almost certainly a part of the equation. A dominating PPC presence alone is an incomplete achievement by itself (in my opinion). Companies that have a strong organic presence are usually rightly regarded as leaders in their fields.
4. Clear goals and metrics to evaluate success and effectiveness are defined.
Since SEO success occurs over time there should be metrics in place to evaluate your progress. Is success measured in terms of keyword ranking, site engagement, conversion, profitability, or a combination of all of these? SEO metrics have evolved since the early days of SEO. Decide on the metrics that matter to you and monitor them to confirm you’re on the right track, or as an indication that a change of tactics is in order.
5. You’re prepared to pursue a diversity of online promotional activities.
SEO success generally implies a simultaneous pursuit of a variety of online methods and tactics. Local search, social media, in addition to your organization’s website, all contribute to an online presence. Search engines look to numerous signals to determine the importance of a given website. So participation in a variety of complementary online pursuits is now considered an essential part of SEO and the discipline of internet marketing.
Criteria in Favor of Pay-per-Click Internet Promotion
1. You have the skills to set-up and manage a campaign (or can hire it).
Some find the Google AdWords interface to be too complex for casual users. Others can develop at least a basic facility to use it within a relatively short period of time. Experience does matter, and provides some insurance against making costly mistakes. Costly mistakes come both in the form of lost opportunity, as well as higher than necessary advertising costs due to inefficiently managed campaigns.
2. Your promotional goals are mainly immediate.
One of the strongest appeals of PPC campaigns is that results begin almost immediately. A campaign that’s set up and activated today will usually begin displaying ads within a few minutes, or hours at the most. So if it’s an immediate boost that’s needed then PPC might be the ticket.
3. Your campaign is for a specific term or period only.
This advantage is related to the preceding point #2 but adds the need for a definite end to a campaign. PPC allows near immediate activation as well as deactivation. So for promotional campaigns that must coincide with a specific term then a pay-per-click campaign is probably a better choice.
4. The competition on keywords in your business area is low.
Sometimes there are bargains in a pay-per-click campaign if the keywords associated with your business interests are not heavily competed on. This might tend to happen in market segments/niches that don’t traditionally rely on internet marketing. There are fewer of these around than there used to be, but if you’re fortunate enough to be in one then there’s a good case to take advantage of PPC bargains (e.g., cheap clicks) while they last.
5. You want to test market a company, concept or product.
A new business or product concept might benefit by an immediate burst of exposure via a pay-per-click campaign. Campaign preparation can be extensive or as little as creating a landing page. Thus a test marketing campaign via PPC can be fairly low budget. If test campaign implications are favorable then additional investment is easier to justify. And if results are unfavorable then lessons are learned and for usually minimal cost.