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Budgeting Search Marketing SEO Vs. PPC or both?

We’re often asked by prospective and new clients how they should best apply their online marketing budget between SEO and PPC?

PPC (Pay Per Click i.e Adwords etc) can be very exciting and is easy to get addicted to as you see instant results as soon as you turn on your campaign, but you pay for this traffic at a premium cost, where SEO takes at least a couple months to start driving as much traffic and requires patience and is an investment but once you’re ranking high organically you’re getting potentially 3x more traffic since 75% of people don’t’ even click on paid ads, and you’re not paying for click fraud or bad clicks you might get with your PPC ads either, and not paying more and more each year as your cost per click keeps rising, and your SEO rankings give you a big competitive advantage.

Should we stop our PPC campaign and start an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) campaign? Should we do both, or should we reduce PPC perhaps and start doing SEO and optimize our website? The answer depends on what your goals, budget, market are? Every site is different, some sites convert sales so well that they can afford to continue their PPC campaign where others it’s best to either try to optimize the PPC campaign or turn it off until the site is highly visibility with SEO efforts first then go back and do PPC, in general though in most cases SEO will give you the best ROI return for your budget and should be your priority, but if you need sales now and can’t invest in the SEO which can take a couple months at least to drive as much traffic as your current PPC campaign you might have to stick with PPC for now and slowly ramp up SEO as you have the budget for it, or increase your budget temporarily for several months doing both SEO and PPC at the same time.

  • Goals – Do you need sales immediately, or is the need for intimidate sales not as urgent and you can stand to gain less leads now in return for more leads later when the SEO campaign has driving more traffic? Then you might want to either turn off PPC and start SEO now, or reduce PPC and start SEO. Either way almost every site should be investing in SEO as those that don’t will be at a severe disadvantage in comparison to their competition that does, as I’ll explain in more detail later.
  • Budget- Are you limited by budget, or can you afford to maximize both your PPC and SEO at the same time?
  • Market- What are the costs per click for your key phrases? Maybe you’re in such a unique market that the cost per clicks are low enough that you can still run a PPC campaign and SEO at the same time even on a limited budget. Usually that’s not the case, almost always the PPC campaign costs a lot for the traffic you do get in comparison to the amount of quality traffic an SEO can drive for the same monthly budget.

SEO is an ongoing campaign activity as once you get ranking high if you’d stop working on the SEO  the site would start to drop back down in rankings with the competition also working hard to be ranking high they would catch up and pass your SEO efforts and you’d start to drop back down. How recent and how fast the SEO work is done also gives a short term boost, so if work stopped then that would also let the rankings start to slide back down again. Once you get ranking high you don’t want to ever let up and have the competition catch up with your SEO efforts, you want to maintain the advantage and let them pay top dollar for PPC with less organic rankings. Most people don’t even click on the PPC ads, so there’s a real competitive advantage in being visible organically. Also there’s hundreds of different keyword variations that you could optimize any site for and would take years to optimize all of them and then to maintain all of them ranking high would to be done.

SEO is the first priority with an online marketing campaign, PPC would be second, or if you have the budget you do both at the same time, but maybe reduce the PPC budget a bit. The return on SEO is much higher and as I said before gives you a strong advantage over competitors you rank above, your ROI is much higher with SEO. PPC is nice because you get instant results, but is very expensive and easy to get overly dependent on where SEO can take a couple months of work to get the site starting to make up for what the PPC was doing. Once your site is highly visible organically, then you can always go back and ramp up or even max out the PPC to take control of your market, leveraging the fact that you are very visibly organically and can afford the PPC since the SEO is helping with visibility and profits so much. So you can either stop PPC and start SEO, or do both for 2-4 months until the SEO can replace the PPC traffic and budget, or you can reduce the PPC budget down and start the SEO.

Here’s the three most common budget balancing scenarios with a search campaign budget

  1. SEO 100% – PPC 0% -temporarily stop PPC until SEO is helping drive up sales so you can afford to run both PPC and SEO at the same time
  2. SEO 100% – PPC 100%- If you have the budget then you do both PPC and SEO at the same time without reducing your current PPC campaign spend.
  3. PPC 10-90% reduction – SEO 100% – This option might be best for you, as there’s a good chance that whatever you’re currently spending in PPC we can save you a bunch of money by optimizing your Adwords account and get rid of the wasted clicks and help improve your click through rate and conversion rate, we might be able to save you 50% or more if the current PPC campaign is really inefficient and drive the same amount of traffic/leads as currently. As part of our SEO service we would help you optimize your PPC campaign.

PPC and SEO best of both worlds?

In most cases, you’ll want to do both PPC and SEO and integrate the two intelligently. GlowHat can help you get the most out of your PPC and help you start an effective SEO campaign and combine the two efficiently. if you’re limited by budget, you’ll want to reduce overlap and only use PPC for phrases you haven’t yet optimized or are workign their way up in SEO organic rankings, and then turning off that key phrase once it’s ranking organically.  Or you might just bid in PPC only on your best performing phrases and leave the lower converting phrases off and let the SEO help drive traffic on these lower converting but still useful phrases, many of which are typically informational type searches early in the visitors sales cycle. So a phrase like “car buying tips” might be good to work on in the SEO campaign where a phrase like, “Buy Accura MDX” might convert so well into a sales lead you want to leave that running in your PPC campaign.

If you’re not limited by budget and can maximize your PPC and start an SEO campaign, they can be integrated in a way to help maximize your market visibility, you might have more overlap where you’re still bidding on PPC terms you rank for organically with the SEO, but the advantage is you have 2x listing in the search results, one paid and one organic, the synergistic combination of the two can make you look like the market leader and the repetition help increase the odds of the searcher ending up on your site instead of the competition. Where you overlap the PPC and SEO is important as some phrases aren’t important enough or just don’t work when overlapped, others it works very well, each site and market it’s in is different so this takes testing and optimization to get right and is part of our normal PPC management workflow esp. for larger PPC campaigns where the client is a market leader and can afford to maximize and integrate both the PPC and SEO.

Conclusion

However you choose, just remember that PPC is more a cost where SEO is more of an  investment  and a strong competitive advantage, they both have good and bad points, one gives you instant results but is additive and expensive, the other requires patience while your rankings increase but in the long run is far more efficient and powerful, and can increase your profits so you can afford to do both and really take ownership of your particular market.

Stijn Amundsen is the Founder and Principle at GlowHat of Scottsdale Arizona. He enjoys sharing his passion for internet marketing and helping others reach their true potential in business and life. Stijn has been helping clients market high performance web sites for over 10 years, generating millions of dollars of business through high ROI strategies.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article Stijn, Would it not make sense to start with a PPC campaign to find out which keywords convert before spending a lot of time and money trying SEO to rank for keywords you don’t know that is going to work? Cheers

    • Hi Russell, yes it would, and that’s actually what we recommend to all our clients, that if they’re not currently doing PPC to at least run a short PPC campaign to help identify which key phrase targets make the most sense for them. Now if they already have a rich history in an older PPC campaign that has been producing half decent results we can dig through that and find what’s working or not. With the PPC info you can set some good targets then, vs. wasting your valuable time getting words ranking that won’t produce results.

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