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PPC vs. SEO – “What’s the difference between SEO and PPC? Which is better? Should I use SEO or PPC to market my website?”

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I get asked these basic fundamental SEO and PPC questions all the time. First it’s important to understand “What is SEO?” and “What is PPC?”

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. PPC stands for Pay Per Click advertising. Other references to PPC are CPC =Cost Per Click, and SEP = Search Engine Placement. SEM = Search Engine Marketing and refers to both SEO and PPC.

seo vs ppc search engine marketing

How are SEO and PPC different?

SEO involves optimizing the design, content, copy, Meta data and linking strategy within your own website to make it relevant and searchable for key words related to your business. It also involves getting relevant inbound reference links from related quality sites that are also indexed in Google to link back to your site.

What’s involved in SEO? In a nutshell to better understand what SEO is and how it works, watch this short SEO video.

Essentially by optimizing your site through SEO to get ranked organically on Google and other Search Engines you are investing in the value of your site to naturally show up on Google based on its own merit in relation to the key words people are searching for. It takes a lot of research, strategy and skills in Search Engine Marketing, site design, search engine copy writing and programming to ensure that you are fulfilling all the SEO requirements and maximizing your search potential within your site, as well as from an inbound linking perspective (that can involve online PR, Social Media Marketing, blogging and submitting to appropriate online directories).

With that said, it takes time to get a site ranked when you consider the competition that already exists for the key words you are going after. And with the internet constantly growing, efforts must continue on an ongoing basis in order to continue to climb, capture new key words, and maximize your ranking potential.

On the other hand, PPC is a little more straight forward and results can be achieved much faster. PPC involves bidding on relevant key words in order for your ad to be served on Google. These ads are increasingly looking less like ads and more like natural searches; however, you will notice them at the top of a search page with a light yellow background or on the right side of the search page.

The cost per click-through is determined by the position you are aiming to show up on the search page and how relevant the content on your site is in relation to the search term you are targeting. Therefore there is some element of SEO that you can and should do if you wish to decrease your cost per click-through (as SEO will ensure that key word content on your pages are relevant; thus helping to improve your quality score and reduce cost per click).

The main benefits of PPC are:
– Campaigns can get set up and started within days.
– Campaign results can be analysed as often as required, even daily if required.
– Changes to your PPC campaign can be made on the fly to improve results.
– You set a PPC budget. You will get an estimated amount of click throughs to your site based on that budget, and it’s up to your site to convert those leads.

So which is better, SEO or PPC? And how do you decide what’s best for your business and your website?”

To start off, I believe in both SEO and PPC because I have seen firsthand how they have both brought leads to websites (clients’ and my own) that convert to business and sales. However if you are in a position to optimize your website from the get-go with a strong SEO foundation and grow it from there my feeling is – Put the value into your site as I have never experienced a client saying they didn’t get leads from being optimized online. Also while you should be search engine optimizing your site on an ongoing basis, if you don’t continue to optimize and compete, your site may drop below others that are putting in more SEO effort; however, you will still have presence on Search Engines which ultimately can still drive traffic to your website.

Optimization may be slower to take off. Often if done properly you can start seeing results between 3-6 months. Sometimes even sooner. Sometimes later. But definitely a 1 year strategy is always recommended at minimum.

On the other hand, if you are in a business that has a fixed monthly marketing budget and need to receive immediate measurable results on a monthly basis, then PPC is the best instant gratification you can get, and modification to your PPC campaign can be made pretty quickly.
It should be noted that PPC has become much more intricate and complex over the years and campaigns that are not set up and managed properly by a Certified Google Specialist are almost guaranteed to lose you money.

However, if done strategically, PPC can bring your website immediate targeted traffic and campaigns generally improve with time based on analyzing results and implementing immediate modification to maximize what’s working. The down side is – if you stop your PPC campaign then your site will not be found any longer for those key words you are targeting and you instantly lose the benefit of that traffic.

In a nutshell – PPC is better for instant results and gratification. SEO is better for ongoing results and long term gratification. Optimally, it would be wise to do both SEO and PPC. SEO conversions are known to be higher than PPC conversions. According to the “Art of SEO – Mastering Search Engine Optimization” by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin and Jessie C. Stricchiola (2010), they report that 6/7 (85%) of searches click on natural organic results. The top 4 sponsored slots are equivalent to views being ranked between #7 – #10 on Google. And if you can attain #3 rank in natural search, it’s worth 2-3 times more than the top PPC result (for the same words). But ultimately since PPC is so immediate, measurable and trackable as long as you’re making a positive ROI, it’s up to you if you require the immediate gratification of PPC or the long term marketing gratification and value of SEO, or BOTH.

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