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SEO or PPC — Where should your focus be?

July 18, 2017

SEO and PPC are two acronyms that get thrown around a lot in the digital marketing world. And while they're quite different, they have the same purpose: to drive a person to your website at the exact moment they’re looking for someone like you.

 

The difference between SEO and PPC is that the latter is a digital ad while the former is a method of content creation.

 

In a perfect world, you’d focus your energies on both SEO and PPC because each has their merits. But before we get into those, let’s start with a quick summary of the two.

 

Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

PPC ads appear on the first page of a Google/Bing search results page, and on the side of a Facebook feed.

 

When looking to run PPC ads on Google, Bing, Amazon or other search engines, you are bidding on ““keywords” and “key phrases”. Keywords and key phrases are words or groups of words that a user would type into the Google/Bing search bar to find your company.

 

For example, if someone in Halifax was looking for pool toys, they might type in “Pool toys in Halifax.” This is an example of a key phrase (otherwise known as a long-tail keyword). An example of a keyword or “short-tail keyword” would be if they typed in “pools”, which would return hundreds of thousands of search results that might not be relevant to the searcher.

 

If you sold pool toys in Halifax, you’d pick several long- and short-tailed keywords that specifically target your prospective customers and submit a bid, which is how much you’d be prepared to pay if someone clicks your ad (hence Pay Per Click). If you have the highest bid, your ad will appear to the people who key in that phrase and you’d pay whatever you bid for every click your ad gets.

 

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter (along with other Social media platforms) very slightly, in that instead of bidding on keywords, you’re bidding primarily on the target audience (i.e. your prospective clients).

 

No matter where you’re placing your ads, understanding your target audience and prospective clients is the FIRST STEP in building a successful advertising campaign.

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In a search engine search, when a searcher types in their query (typically a keyword or key phrase), the search engine bots (digital scanners) search through their catalogue, and return the results in an order that they think are most relevant for the searcher. These pages are presented under the Ads and are considered “organic search results”.

 

SEO is a writing technique that makes it easier for a search engine to find your website on its own. It’s about integrating the words that people would use to find you within your web copy and your website’s meta data (the tags and page titles that only the search engine bots see).

 

Having powerful “SEO” can influence how you’re ranked (how close to the top you are placed) in the search results for keywords and phrases that your customers might use. For instance, if your prospective customer searches for “Pool toys in Halifax”, but your web copy only uses keywords such as “pools” you are unlikely to rank in a high position. However, if the web copy uses phrases like “Pool toys in Halifax”, and that’s exactly what’s searched, you’ll likely to be close to the top of the organic search results.

 

It can be very difficult to have a higher search result ranking because it is completely organic. There are many factors that predict your ranking. Google has over 200 variables in their algorithm that they use to calculate your position/ranking on a search result.

 

Over time, search engines have vastly improved their bots to spot what they call “quality content” and penalize sites with non-quality content by removing them from search results.

 

Examples of non-quality content include:

- Fewer visits a site gets and less time spent on them tells a search engine the content lacks value and is less worthy of being offered as an option.

 

-Untouched content: If a website isn’t updated regularly (either with new blog posts or adjusting page layout/content) search bots tend to see them as forgotten and dated sites.

 

 

It’s all about the writing!

For both PPC ads and SEO content, clear communication is the key to success. The writing has to be simple, compelling and attention-grabbing. It has to entice users to read and keep reading all the way down to the call-to-action, which is what you want them to do (sign up, buy now, etc.).

 

In this way, PPC and SEO are no different than any other form of marketing. Deliver a message that will resonate with the right people in the right way. But unlike traditional media where you can’t know what the reader, listener or viewer is thinking the moment your ad appears, you do in the PPC and SEO world because they’ve told you by what they searched for in the first place.

 

This is the huge advantage of digital marketing: every lead is a hot lead. All you have to do is close it by answering their search queries.

 

So where should your focus be?

Our recommendations differ depending on our clients’ goals, however we generally start by looking at the website and its search engine friendliness.

 

For our clients who are new to the online space, we often recommend focusing primarily on PPC ads because their sites haven't been around long enough to gain credibility with the search engine bots. This allows for them to convert sales in the short-term.

 

While their campaigns are running, we  turn our effort to their SEO for for long-term credibility and future sales.

 

Firstly (and most importantly), writing with SEO in mind leads to clearer messaging. This helps ensure the money you spend getting people to your website is money well spent because they don't show up, get confused and leave. That’s the worst because you’ve paid to get them there and have nothing to show for your spend.

 

Secondly, the more effective your SEO efforts are, the less reliant you’ll be on PPC ads. You can eventually slow down your campaign or suspend it altogether because your site is appearing near the top of every search anyway.

 

In short…

PPC costs money. SEO costs time.

Before you make a decision, consider your company’s short and long-term goals. What do you want to see in 6 months, 12 months, 3 years, and 5 years down the road? Is your focus on brand awareness or sales/revenue?

Consider your audience and their buying experience. How well do you know your current audience and future clients? How does your website look? Is your messaging clear and is the user experience seamless?

 

Be coming Search Engine Optimized and running pay-per-clicks can be worth the time and efforts, if you do it right, but it’s also not a “set it an forget it” task – it takes consistent work and regular reviews.

 

If you have any questions or want to share your own SEO or PPC success, we’d love to hear it!

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