Organizations of all sizes are realizing the importance of online marketing, especially through search engines. Nowadays, people are more likely to end up on your website via a search engine than going directly to it. In fact, according to Jupiter Research, a Forrester Research company, 81% of users find their desired destination through a search engine.
This research makes it clear that it's very important for your brand to have a strong presence in the search engines, ensuring that you're in front of your target audience. However, there's still a big decision to make - whether to use SEO (Search Engine Optimization, or naturally ranking high in the organic results) or PPC (Pay-Per-Click ads, the Sponsored Links and purchased ads on a Google search) to get in front of your target?
Done correctly, both can get you on the front page of the search engines for targeted terms and in front of your desired audience. However, each has its respective benefits and costs. SEOmoz, a great SEO resource, recently published an article by the team at Enquisite quantifying the effectiveness of SEO vs. PPC.
The article details that organic results are 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than paid search results! That's a large disparity and is likely attributed to searchers gradually learning the difference between organic and sponsored results, and recognizing that organic results are typically the more respected resource. Also, researchers have used heat maps to show that searchers' eyes focus on the top organic results, with people barely noticing the ads to the right.
However, PPC holds a slight edge in conversion rates, as paid search results are 1.5x more likely to convert click thrus from the search engine. The SEOmoz article attributes, to the fact that the paid search result's "text and landing page is custom optimized by the advertiser."
So, looking at both of these numbers, it can be concluded that "the opportunity from organic search is 5.66x that of paid search."
So, given the flat out choice of ranking high organically or having great PPC ads - the overwhelmingly logical choice is organic. However, we all know it's not that easy or else those "Rank #1 in Google TOMORROW" robo calls would be much more effective. True SEO takes time, not get rich quick schemes.
PPC's true strengths are its speed and expansiveness. With a PPC campaign, you can be on the first page for a multitude of targeted terms within a day. However, the terms can cost anywhere from pennies to many dollars per click; also, for a PPC campaign to be done correctly, it's usually best to hire a firm that can manage it full time. This can mean that PPC campaigns can get very expensive, very quickly - especially when done correctly.
SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, estimates that 87% of search engine dollars are spent on PPC vs. 11% spent on SEO efforts. That's more than $10 billion spent on PPC vs. just $1 billion spent on SEO. That means the strategy that's over 5x more effective, SEO, is only receiving 1/8 the media spend in the market! It's hard to justify the expense of a PPC campaign, knowing that SEO is more successful and the overall better longterm value.
Don't get me wrong, there are certainly times to use PPC - when you're first launching your company, it's a great way to get your name out there and build brand awareness. For a limited time offer or special event, PPC is an effective way to get exposure that SEO wouldn't have time to contribute to.
Also, PPC is more effective for products than it is for service companies; for example, we focus SEO efforts on terms such as Raleigh web design and Content Management Software; however, we do not engage in PPC advertising for these terms, because they're usually a waste of money for a services firm like ours. Yet we have an electronic payments client that runs a PPC campaign focused around its specific product offerings, and this strategy makes sense for their market.
However, when it comes to the long term lifeline of your internet marketing, the result is clear - SEO offers the better value in search marketing. You won't rank #1 overnight, but SEO is more affordable and the longterm benefits have been proven. All of these facts demonstrate that your company should spend more of its time and resources focusing on SEO vs. PPC.
What are other people's experiences in this realm? Anyone think that PPC is the more value-driven choice than SEO? Let us know your thoughts!