Author, Alain Parcan, director of marketing for Market Hardware, Inc., and NALP consultant, contributed this article.
One of the most common questions we get while speaking at industry tradeshows or providing educational Webinars is, “which strategy is right for me?” Businesses are constantly focused on finding the right marketing plan when it comes to generating more business from the Web, and it usually comes down to two main choices: Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) or Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Now, imagine you call a remodeler after a big storm damages your house. What would he tell you if you asked, “I don’t have much money, what should I fix – the hole in my kid’s ceiling or the damaged roof over the master bedroom?” Since we are talking about Web marketing, I get to give you a slightly better answer than “you need to do both.”
The Bottom Line: Both PPC and SEO programs drive more traffic to your Website, which work to increase your sales in different ways. Here are the differences.
You can get immediate, guaranteed results from Paid Search.
Paid Search, also known as PPC, refers to online advertising that can guarantee page one placement on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It is a fast and measurable way to generate inbound leads from web-savvy consumers. Don’t underestimate the ‘measurable’ part either. Google makes it possible to track specific paid search spend so you know what type of return you’re getting, even down to specific keyword performance. Modern day paid search has moved more toward a strategy known as “Retargeting,” which is a separate topic altogether.
You can get results that last long-term with lower costs from Search Engine Optimization tactics.
Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, refers to the process of managing your website’s content and organization, both onsite and offsite, to improve its ranking in the “organic” search results. Done right, SEO can provide landscaping businesses long-term rewards on the same search engines as PPC, but at a lower overall price.
So, which is better?
Individually, both PPC and SEO will improve your business exposure in your market area, therefore increasing the amount of leads it generates. But if your budget is tight, I do have a suggestion about which to do first: a locally targeted SEO campaign.
While PPC advertising can provide quicker results, Search Engine Optimization delivers a better long term return-on-investment. It is a smart and rational Web marketing move, especially when targeting a smaller area. Doing so provides a greater likelihood of success, and leaves open the future option of expanding the target area or setting aside funds for a Paid Search campaign.
Keep in mind: When you stop a PPC campaign, your ads will completely disappear. When you stop an SEO campaign, you can maintain top results until your competitors invest more to rank above your listings.
Now, most Web marketing pros will tell you the most effective Web marketing plan utilizes not just SEO or PPC, but a combination of these two strategies, with a touch of Social Media management and a Responsive Website.
In other words, the pros recommend you use a well-balanced strategy that targets audiences in different areas. But I am willing to disagree with that advice in some cases. If you are really watching your budget and need to generate business with the most effective marketing spend possible, SEO will get you there.
However, if you are in a position to be more strategic and want your marketing to be healthier in the long term, SEO and PPC (with a splash of Retargeting) work well together. Tracking for SEO is different from PPC, but the long term results can be far more valuable. That said, you do lower your cost-per-lead over time if you do both. Talk to an expert who can provide a well-balanced strategy based on your budget and local service area.