This is a discussion that has been going on for years because SEO is excellent for the long term, and PPC is great for instant gratification. Both have their strengths, but both have weaknesses that might deter you from using one or the other in the beginning. Many variables come into play when determining whether SEO or PPC is better to target first, so I’ll be writing this from the eyes of a startup business that has some income but aren’t behemoths within their niche.
Yes, I could write this as if I were a multi-million Rand corporation that can throw money around, but that’s not realistic for the majority of us, and this is why I will be writing it from the eyes of a business owner who might not be able to do everything right in the beginning.
If you aren’t fully aware of what SEO is, it’s Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the act of optimizing your website on page and off page to boost your rankings within the search engines to obtain that sweet targeted traffic from highly searched keywords.
Below I’ll be going over a few good and bad points of SEO to give you a better idea of what you should start with.
If you’re doing SEO properly, you will notice that your rankings for targeted keywords are starting to increase. This means your website will be visible more often when someone searches for keywords related to your business.
Increasing your rankings within Google is what SEO is all about. If you don’t have top rankings, then you won’t be found online unless you’re paying for ads, which is why SEO vs. PPC is such a big discussion/controversy.
When you’ve been doing SEO for long enough, you will notice that your traffic is starting to increase. This is due to your increased rankings, and now you’re getting traffic that is super targeted. People who want to land on page 1, where you will now be after proper SEO, are paying for clicks whereas you’re getting the traffic for free after doing months of appropriate SEO.
You don’t pay for organic traffic from the search engines since they have deemed you worthy of the top listings. You don’t pay the search engines a single penny for these results because you did all the hard work to get there, but you’ll need to keep up the work if you want to stay there.
When you’ve been doing SEO for long enough, you will notice that your traffic is starting to increase.
Websites that land on page 1 will always be seen as more of an authority in a strangers eye. This is because people searching will see Google as an authority that only shows then authority websites, and that’s going to be you if you did all of your SEO just right!
More authority + targeted traffic = Winning!
It Can Hurt
If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could be hurting your website and any chance you had on page 1 within Google. You might hear “You need to build 1,000,000 backlinks now!” so you’ll go pay a freelancer R300 to build links, but that’s just going to hurt your website, and now you’ve obtained a penalty for bad backlinks aimed at your pages.
It’s challenging to get out of something like this because you can’t log into every website or profile your backlink is on, so they will stay there and hurt forever. You could always use the disavow tool that Google has for anyone to use, but instead, you should focus on good backlinks and not hurt your rankings in the first place.
SEO Takes Time
If you’re the instant gratification type, SEO will always annoy you, and this is because some keywords could take years to rank on page 1. That’s just page 1, not #1 on page 1, so getting to that top spot might take another year or two if your keywords are challenging.
People invest countless hours each week doing their SEO, and they have no intentions of rankings for the next 6+ months. This is a long game type of marketing and will take a decent amount of patience.
You Might Need to Outsource it
If you’re unaware of how to do any of your SEO, on page or off page, you may need to outsource it to a credible source. Anyone worth their weight is going to charge a premium, which is out of the price range of most startups, so you’ll likely have to settle for someone just starting and needing to get some positive reviews under their belt for cheap work. You can usually find someone that knows what they’re doing, but you’ll likely have to sift through a mountain of freelancers before you do, so you’ll still need to be patient when outsourcing.
Pay Per Click is a way to get your website in front of people right away, no matter how difficult your keyword is, and they will click on your ads. If you have the budget to pay for all of your main keywords, land on the #1 spot for your ads, and keep it going, then you’ll have a successful business in a short amount of time.
Instant Traffic Generation
It doesn’t matter if you’re advertising on ads.microsoft.com (yahoo/bing) or ads.google.com (adwords) you’ll be paying for each click, but it’s instant traffic as soon as your ads are approved. In my experience, it’s quicker to get an ad approved on Yahoo/Bing than it is on Adwords, but the traffic quality on Adwords is much better. If you can split test both platforms, I would highly recommend it.
Great ROI Potential
If you’ve done all of your split testing and have the absolute best ads for your audience, along with a high quality score, you will be on your way to a high ROI. Your website will need to seal the deal and capture the sale, but your ads are what will bring them in, so be sure you’re optimized to get those clicks!
Some people have claimed of profiting R100 for every R10 spent on PPC campaigns. There have also been services claiming that they’re making R500 for every R10 spent, but those are businesses selling a PPC management service, so I don’t trust those numbers.
If you can get the right campaign running, not waste money on wrong clicks, and target the best audiences, then you’ll have a great campaign running that has a slim chance of failing.
Ease of Editing
Unlike SEO, it’s rather easy to edit a PPC campaign, and you won’t get any penalty for screwing up. You could target a utterly wrong area, demographic, or have horrible ads up and you won’t get penalized at all. You will have to edit them quickly to have the best ROI, but I’m sure you’d start with a good ad that has potential instead of wasting money on something that will never convert.
When you edit an ad it will go back into moderation, but that’s normal because the PPC platform you’re on will want to make sure you’re not changing the URL or text too much, and after that, it’s just a short waiting game and split testing to be done.
You Can Lose Money
If you don’t know what you’re doing, using negative keywords, split testing, or monitoring your ad performance, you could be losing much more money than you’re making. I’ve set up campaigns that I thought were home runs then forgot to monitor them for a week and came back to see a bunch of garbage and lost money because I forgot to do one or two little things.
If you’re not monitoring your campaigns, you will lose money, but luckily both Bing Ads and AdWords had a friendly little app that allows you to log in no matter where you are to watch your ads performance. You can’t edit much, but at least you can check on your ads!
You Can Get Banned
If your website breaks any of the PPC platforms terms of service, you can get your website banned from their services. You might even get your entire account suspended, which is extremely difficult to come back from, so be sure you’re not breaking any rules before setting up your ads.
You May Need Help
PPC management is a big business, and you may need to enlist their help if you don’t know what you’re doing. The downside of this is they can be expensive, and that’s not something a startup wants to hear, so I would recommend trying it out on your own before enlisting any help.
In the end
It’s difficult to say which is better to start with when it comes to SEO vs. PPC because they both have pros and cons with the same weight. SEO takes time, but it’s free whereas PPC is instant and costs money. Doing both, in the beginning, is ideal, but not everyone can afford that, so I would recommend starting with SEO if you have a small budget and do both if you have enough to spend on PPC while doing your SEO.
Have you done SEO or PPC, and what have worked for you? Leave your comments and questions in the comments section below.