Free SEO Traffic vs Pay Per Click (PPC)

An effective website will be optimized for PPC traffic as well as free organic traffic via SEO.

First a word of caution: You will see claims about getting your website to the top of the search engines. And, as if by magic, your website becomes a big money making machine. In reality, it's not so simple.

Let me explain.

There are 2 ways to become listed by search engines. One is paid (PPC) and one is free (SEO). To get a number one position in the paid portion of the listings, all you need to do is out-bid all your competition and you are number one. This can be quite costly.

Without too much work, your website can be number 1 in free "organic" listings too. All one needs to do is make use of a keyword phrase that is so obscure that hardly anybody uses the phrase to search. With no competition, you can have your website be number 1. But, what's the point if it doesn't result in traffic to your website?

And that's not the whole story. In either case, suppose your website appears for a keyword phrase that has very little to do with what you are trying to sell. The fact that you are number 1 for that search phrase is meaningless!

The reality for both cases is that you are competing against others for search traffic to your website. The better you compete, the more effective your website becomes, and the higher your Search Engine Marketing ROI becomes.

Let's talk more about the difference of both these approaches to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and how to take advantage of their differences.

We'll also look at the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches. For the most part, the disadvantages are eliminated with good understanding and experience.

Pay Per Click (PPC) for Search

Paid ads, usually referred to as PPC ads, generally appear at the very top, and along the right side of search results. A higher position on the page is achieved via a combination of competitive bidding, effectiveness of the ad, and relevancy to the website. All of these factors are associated with keyword phrases that people use to search.

    Advantages of PPC:
  • Can be started up quickly
  • Complete control of daily budget
  • Traffic can be directed to a specific page
  • Traffic can be highly targeted
    Disadvantages of PPC:
  • Can be expensive without proper optimization and tracking
  • Is complex and can be technically challenging
  • Each Search Engine is different and requires unique knowledge
  • Requires at least some monthly maintenance
  • Results may change due to Search Engine algorithm changes or competition

PPC campaigns can be started up relatively quickly, resulting in traffic to your website as quickly as within one day of setting it up.

Being able to get traffic quickly, allows testing and optimization to begin immediately. This is quite valuable, especially when you use a strategy that takes advantage of this benefit.

Here's what we like to do to.

We make use of good PPC analysis tools and put together a "best guess" test PPC campaign with a good set of keywords that test various aspects of your market. This could be a rather broad test using several different test ads. Initial bids that would seem reasonable for your products or services are used.

Then we let it run with a reasonably small budget. Over a couple of weeks or so, the data received is way more valuable than the budget spent, and gives better additional insight than any analysis tools can provide. What to do next becomes clear based on what's learned during testing. Guesswork is eliminated right up front. Money, time and effort can be directed to what will provide the most return.

Armed with good test data, putting effort into new or better landing pages, additional keyword research, keyword organization, more targeted ads and PPC bidding optimization will all be directed where it counts the most.

And one more benefit; good PPC test results will also help direct best efforts for SEO.

For more information on PPC see our article: "Paid Traffic and PPC (Pay Per Click)".

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is used to attract free traffic from search engines. These search results are referred to as "organic" or "natural" search listings. They appear straight down the page of search results. The higher on the page your listing is found, the higher proportion of visitors that see that page will visit your website.

    Advantages of SEO
  • Results in free traffic to your website
  • Requires no maintainence
    Disadvantages of SEO
  • Takes weeks or months to see good results
  • Results may change due to Search engine algorithm changes or competition
  • May require many additional website pages
  • Traffic is not easily routed to specific pages
  • Traffic may not be highly targeted
  • Good inbound links from other websites are needed

Often when SEO is done, all the pages of your website are optimized for keywords. That helps, but doesn't usually result in a good amount of traffic. It takes more than that.

But once PPC traffic is established to your website, SEO results will be more effective. Here's why.

The PPC campaigns provide first hand information about keywords that work for your website. Good keyword and SEO tools are also critical to any optimization work, but when this is used in conjunction with PPC data, there are additional benefits. One advantage is that PPC results help gain specific knowledge about what keywords actually convert better to leads and sales. This information helps direct where to spend time on SEO, so you know that you will not only have free organic traffic, but you will have more free organic traffic that actually results in leads and sales.

Good SEO takes time and effort to implement and is best done over months. Making use of PPC data helps assure the most effective results at the end of the day!

For more detail on SEO see our article: "Free Traffic and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)".