PPC vs. Organic SEO

August 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Search Marketing

Are you engaged in any active Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? What about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising? The fact is you should be working on both.

Both channels should work in conjunction with the other, sharing information between each to further enhance the overall sales return. That is what it is all about, getting the biggest bang for your buck at the lowest risk.

I can’t count the number of times I hear others say that PPC doesn’t work and costs too much. They tend to opt for SEO over PPC because they feel SEO will drive traffic at a less costly rate — but that is a mistake in judgment … more on that below.

PPC when run properly is a very valuable asset to all businesses. If you are losing money on pay per click you are likely not operating it correctly. SEO is also a very important component to business needs, but it should not be the only method you rely on for traffic generation either.

Consider the following example scenario.

You decide not to run any PPC advertising and in place of it put all your traffic generation eggs into the Organic SEO basket. Your efforts have you enjoying a nice ride at the top of the engines, your sales are high and life is good. You wake up one day and for some unknown reason your sales have not only dipped, but have come to an almost screeching halt. Doing some research you find out that the search engines unleashed some new update to their algorithms and with that update, your previous high flying rankings are now non-existent — and your sales are paying the price.

The risk is real. If you were running PPC in conjunction with Organic SEO this hit would not be as significant, and furthermore, you could quickly “buy” your way back into the search results and pick up pretty much where you left off until your natural rankings recover.

You shouldn’t wait to run PPC. As with SEO, many factors in pay per click rely on time and performance. For example, Quality Scores are affected by performance of ads / keywords and the more historical data you have the more opportunity you have to better those scores. Higher Quality Scores mean you can pay less for higher positions in the search engines — even when your competitor is bidding more than you for that same keyword.

Now if you are one of those who think you can wait for the organic SEO to fail and then at that time buy your way back into the engines with PPC, you’re slightly mistaken. Yes, you can have traffic up and running within a few hours at the most. But the price you will pay for that traffic is going to be higher and the learning curve of what works to convert and what doesn’t will still be something that can only be determined with time.

Here are some pros and cons regarding PPC and SEO:

Pros of PPC Advertising

  1. You have more control over paid search traffic.
  2. Targeting your ideal customer is easier.
  3. You can have quality traffic running to your site in just a few hours.
  4. Your traffic will continue to flow as long as your budget allows.
  5. Changes you make to your campaigns are active within hours and thus testing creative, landing pages, etc… is easier.
  6. Taking advantage of limited time opportunities to drive traffic (like holiday sales, back to school, etc…) is easier.

Cons of PPC Advertising

  1. Can get out of hand quickly and bust your budget if not setup and monitored properly.
  2. Can be a challenge to work with if not versed managing PPC campaigns to some degree.
  3. Depending on the type of system you use to set it up / run it, can be difficult with larger numbers of keywords, ads, and ad groups.

Pros of SEO:

  1. Can be more cost effective than PPC (but not always!)
  2. Can help you increase rankings for keywords that might otherwise be out of budget in the PPC channel.
  3. Indexed pages of your site stay in the search engines forever (providing they are not “dropped”).

Cons of SEO:

  1. Testing creative, landing pages, etc… is harder. Changes you make to your campaigns take time to work their way through the system (weeks, months, etc…) and by the time they are active, it’s likely too late to take advantage of any “would be” opportunities.
  2. Here today, gone the next. You could be #1 in Google (or any other engine) one day, and be non-existent the next.
  3. Traffic slows (or stops) as your search rankings drop and it can take time to recover those ranks.
  4. Harder to target and qualify your ideal customer.
  5. Time is your friend here (but that’s not always a good thing.) Things in the SEO world just take time.
  6. No guaranteed placement.

PPC and SEO are both effective means of delivering traffic to your website and arguments can be made for each as to their effectiveness. The fact is if you’re not running both, you’re limiting your potential for growth and increasing your risk. SEO should be seen as an ongoing marketing objective with “long term” results. PPC should also be an ongoing marketing objective with “short term” results. Combine them both, and the two traffic generation methods can work as a well oiled unit, delivering not only a continual flow of visitors to your site, but increased sales as well.

Got anymore insights? I’d love to hear them. Voice your opinion below.

8 of the Most Damaging Pay Per Click Mistakes

April 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Search Marketing

Pay per click advertising has the ability to not only increase traffic to your site, but also increase the knowledge you have of your market. It can very quickly put money in your pocket or very quickly take it out.

Opening up a paid search account, adding a method of payment, and letting traffic flow only takes a few minutes. After that, the most common problem is simply not knowing where to go from there.

Here are eight mistakes that most often turn what could be an otherwise successful campaign into a pure nightmare.

1. Using large non-targeted broad keyword lists.

Large lists of non targeted keywords generally attract non targeted visitors. Rather than focusing on these massive lists (sometimes referred to as keyword dumps) you should focus on smaller more targeted lists. In addition, refrain from using “broad match” keyword types without any offsetting negative keywords. The use of alternative match options will likely yield less traffic, but that traffic should be more qualified.

2. Paying too much attention to your CTR and not enough on your Conversion Rate.

CTR (or Click Through Rate) means nothing if that traffic does not produce actions (sales in the case of ecommerce sites). Focusing on CTR only as an indicator of paid search success will only end up costing you money in the end (thus the “pay per click” concept.) Instead pay more attention to your paid search Conversion Rate to get a better idea of whether you are moving in the right direction or not.

3. Not looking at your Value per Visitor in relation to your Avg. CPC.

Your Value per Visitor represents the amount of revenue you earn for each visitor that arrives at your website through a paid search click. Your Avg. CPC (Average Cost per Click) is the amount you spend on average to get one visitor to your site. Comparing the two tells you whether you are making money or not.

If your Avg. CPC is less than your Value per Visitor then you are making money. The further the two numbers are apart, the more money you are making. It goes without saying that if your Avg. CPC is more than your Value per Visitor then you are losing money.

4. Using only one Ad Group for multiple sets of non-related keywords.

Setting up only one Ad Group and loading it with multiple sets of non-related keywords does a number of bad things. It restricts your ability to more accurately target your visitors based on ad copy. It can cause your quality score to suffer. It costs you more money and also can cost you ad position. I’ll sum it up as follows: using one ad group will often result in non-targeted traffic at a higher cost with a lower ad position in the results. This is no way to succeed at paid search.

5. Using only one ad copy variation per ad group.

I see it often. Website owners running paid search and only using one ad to generate traffic. To be successful and find out what really converts, you should use at least two different variations of ad copy per ad group — and that’s only a gauge. Three to four different ad variations is even better.

Running different ads against each other across one ad group helps you learn what triggers your market to act and furthermore what triggers them to buy. It enables you to test what works and what doesn’t so you can zero in on higher conversion rates.

6. Not turning off Content Network at the start of a campaign.

Until you know what you are doing, one of the first things you should do to save yourself some money is to turn off the “Content Network” option (on by default).

Traffic from the content network typically converts at a much lower rate than traffic generated through the search network. There are ways to increase that content network conversion figure (combining placement targeting with proper landing pages is an example) but it takes a lot of time to get it right. The longer you leave the Content Network turned on, the more money you’ll likely spend and the lower your paid search conversion rate will go.

7. Not setting a Daily Budget.

If you don’t set a daily budget you’re opening yourself up to unexpected charges and possible wasted advertising dollars. The easiest way to set a budget is to come up with the amount you are willing to invest in advertising per month and then take that amount divided it by 30 or 31 (days in a month). Then allocated that daily advertising spend across the number of campaigns you have. This does not ensure the most “visible” campaign, but it will ensure you rarely exceed your budget.

8. Running all paid search traffic to a single landing page.

Driving all the traffic your paid search receives to a single landing page (i.e. the home page) is going to typically result in less than desirable conversion rates. The better method is to set the destination url at the individual keyword level to allow more control over where traffic is routed.