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SEO vs. PPC: What's the Difference?

account_circle Network Solutions Team
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Search engine optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) are both successful marketing strategies that drive traffic to websites. 

When you apply those strategies in thoughtful, deliberate ways, you see positive results. SEO and PPC can both help you reach your goals, whether they're to drive eyeballs, sales, signups, or something else entirely. 

But when does it make more business sense to invest in SEO vs. PPC and vice versa? If you've got questions about either strategy, we're here to answer them. 

This blog post's goal is to help you make better business decisions by understanding when to use SEO or PPC. More specifically, we're discussing:

  • SEO vs. PPC: What's the right traffic-driving strategy for your site?
  • What is SEO?
    • Pros and cons of SEO.
  • What is PPC?
    • Pros and cons of PPC. 
  • Tips for successful SEO and PPC campaigns.

Is SEO or PPC the better strategy for your site?

The most obvious difference between SEO and PPC is that the former is an organic search strategy, and the latter consists of paid campaigns meant to acquire traffic from various sources, like search, social media, and display. 

But let's first think about them as the tortoise and the hare. We've all heard the fable, have we not?

Moral lessons aside, the tortoise depicts the path of one who plods along slowly but thoughtfully to the finish line, and the hare depicts one who is quick-moving and hurries along toward the finish. 

Like the tortoise, your SEO strategy won't get you to the finish line overnight. If you're in a hurry to achieve your goal or are in some way time-bound, the hare, or PPC, is your best bet. 

Unlike in the fable, both SEO and PPC are winning strategies. So, let's explore how to make them successful for you. 

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What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It refers to the process of refining your site and content to increase the potential of them displaying higher up in organic search results. 

What are the pros and cons of SEO?

You don't need money to implement a good SEO strategy, but you do need time. 

If you're a start-up or small business and don't have a big marketing budget, you can still make your online presence known with a solid SEO strategy in place. 

SEO's impact isn't quickly felt. Instead, SEO is a deliberate process that, over time, pays off in qualified traffic to your site. What do we mean by that? Well, think of it this way...

When someone types "SEO vs. PPC: What's the Difference?" into an online search, it's because they're invested in learning more about the topic. So, when that person finds a relevant, high-ranking piece of content in the SERPs, they click on it, which takes them to the site where the content is hosted. They engage with the content: If it's good and answers their question, it draws them further into the marketing funnel by driving pageviews, sign-ups, sales, and other conversions.

High-ranking content is good content - relevant, helpful, and authoritative. It answers the searcher's question(s) and anticipates their next moves, providing guidance the whole way through. Good content doesn't shy away from including relevant CTAs (call-to-actions) so long as they're helpful to the audience.

SEO done right:

  • Increases your targeted traffic. 
    • Targeted traffic consists of people deliberately looking for content like yours to answer their questions and solve their needs. 
  • Gains the trust of your site visitors and customers. 
    •     When your content is helpful and authoritative. 
  • Is measurable.
    • You can view and track analytics such as page views, dwell time, bounce rate, and more, all of which help illuminate how someone interacts with your content. Analyzing content performance helps identify areas needing refinement and improvement.
  • Is sustainable. 
    • A good SEO strategy drives traffic indefinitely, unlike PPC, which only drives traffic so long as a campaign is live. 
  • Drives revenue. 
    • People want to do business with people and companies that are helpful, trustworthy, and authoritative in their industry. Content designed with SEO in mind displays all those qualities, giving your target audience all the more reason to choose you over your competitor. 
  • Isn't going to happen overnight. 
    • Or even in a month. It'll take time for search engines to crawl and index your site content. As their algorithms change, so will your approach to SEO. Staying on top of SEO best practices and putting in the effort to make necessary refinements will keep your content at the top of the SERPs where people are more likely to see it. 
  • Is time intensive. 
    • Practicing good SEO hygiene isn't laborious, but it does require thoughtfulness in planning and time dedicated to content creation, refinement, etc. If your attention is needed elsewhere, consider hiring a professional to help manage your SEO. 
  • Is comprehensive. 
    • Great SEO strategies account for on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO elements. 

Our teams are here to see your SEO efforts succeed. Contact us today to learn more!

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What is PPC?

PPC stands for Pay-per-click. It describes a type of digital advertising that's meant to get traffic to your site quickly. 

Unlike SEO, it's a paid marketing strategy that entails placing ads across strategic online locales, notably at the top and bottom of the SERPs, on social media, and display. Every time a user clicks on your ad, you pay a certain amount. The amount paid is known as the CPC (cost-per-click.) CPCs can vary widely, with many ranging from USD $1-$2, others costing pennies, and some even averaging north of $50. 

So long as we're discussing acronyms, CPM is another one to remember for your PPC campaigns. CPM stands for "cost per mil" and refers to the cost per 1,000 impressions of your ad. When you pay for CPM, you're paying for your ad to be shown, no matter if it's clicked. 

What are the pros and cons of PPC?

You can't run PPC campaigns without marketing dollars to fund them. However, if you have the budget to dedicate to this type of marketing, it can yield substantial results. 

PPC done right:

  • Is highly targeted. 
    • You can create highly refined audiences for your ads. For example, you can show your ads to prospects targeted by location, specific keywords, language, gender, age, device type, and more. 
  • Re-engages site visitors. 
    • Maybe someone visited your site but didn't convert because it wasn't the right time.  A retargeting PPC campaign allows you to focus on them — thereby advertising to those who you already know have an interest in your offerings and keeping you top of mind. 
  • Is cost-effective. 
    • PPC gives you the ability to stay on top of the SERPs before the organic results. The first 3 results on a page receive the lion's share of clicks... so a good PPC campaign can drive a substantial amount of traffic to a page. 
  • Is both quantifiable and refinable.
    • You can track the results of PPC campaigns to determine how your ads are performing and make adjustments as necessary. 
  •     Results are seen quickly. 
    • If you need to get the word out about something yesterday, PPC is for you. As soon as you launch an ad, it can start driving qualified traffic to your site. Unlike SEO, you can start seeing results in hours and days, not months and years. 

No time to learn all the various paid marketing platforms? Our teams have it covered. Let up help create, manage, and optimize your PPC campaigns. Click here to learn more.

Tips for Successful SEO and PPC Campaigns

  • Keyword research is vital. 
    • Keyword research drives content planning and creation for both SEO and PPC campaigns.
    • SEO and PPC keyword strategies can complement one another. 
      • Use PPC to test into keywords in the short term. Use that campaign performance data to identify high-value keywords and create content to support them as part of a longer-term, organic SEO strategy.
  • Know your audience. 
    • Content needs to be relevant, no matter if it's paid or organic. If it doesn't meet the reader where they are in their journey, answering their questions and drawing them further into your marketing funnel, it's not relevant. 
  • The right content for the right channel. 
    • You can't design an ad the same way you write a blog post. Be mindful not just of what your message says but how it's delivered. 
  • Create goals for your campaigns. 
    • Before investing time, money, and effort into your PPC and SEO strategies, make sure to concretize your goals. Creating S.M.A.R.T goals — i.e., specific, measurable, attainable, time-bound, and realistic — will help drive your strategy and illuminate the tactics needed to achieve success. 

PPC or SEO? Confidently choose what's best for your brand

Both PPC and SEO can get you discovered online and drive traffic to your site. But which is right for you?

SEO is budget-friendly and gains momentum over time. PPC requires a dedicated budget and can drive immediate results. Both drive brand recognition and build trust with your audience. 

Our experts can help plan, design, and implement the perfect SEO and PPC strategies for your business needs — which include content creation, updates, and more. Click here to learn more about our marketing services.