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SEO vs. PPC: Which Is Best for You?

Written by Chandler Austin | Thu,May 24, 2012 @ 03:00 PM

How best to boost traffic to your website? The two basic options are pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or search engine optimization (SEO). PPC involves using an advertising program like Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Marketing to display ads in the sponsored results section of each search engine's results page. You pay a fee when viewers click on those ads. Alternatively, SEO is a means of building traffic by getting your site ranked high in natural search results. SEO best practices can take time to work, but provide free (other than your time investment), targeted traffic.

Deciding between the two approaches depends on your needs and budget. For fast traffic, consider PPC, if you also have the budget for it. If you have time, but little money, you'll need to implement an SEO program. From Entrepreneur.com, here are three questions to consider when deciding between PPC and SEO.

"How large is your website advertising budget?"
Start by setting a daily spending limit. IF you have no money for advertising, stick with free SEO. Otherwise, even with a small budget, consider investing in PPC. PPC offers:
  • Faster Testing - Websites should focus on achieving conversion. Improving conversion rates requires active testing of variables, and testing requires traffic.
  • Protection from SEO Algorithm Updates - Search engines regularly change/update their algorithms, which can lead to a formerly optimized site to drop in the rankings. PPC is immune to those changes.
Google Analytics can show you whether your conversions from PPC has a positive or negative ROI.

"How high are the average CPCs in your industry?"
Cost-per-click (CPC) is the fee that PPC platforms charge for a single keyword click, set by bidding. CPC can vary a great deal between industries. For high priced, highly competitive keywords, SEO is probably the best choice.

"How competitive are the SERPs in your niche?"
Search engine results pages (SERPs) can also be highly competitive. To estimate the level of competition, enter your keywords into the Google External Keyword Research Tool. In competitive industries, the results for your target keywords may be dominated by authority websites. Displacing them may be impossible without a significant investment of time and money, so it may make more sense to pay for traffic via PPC.

Keep in mind that PPC vs. SEO may not be an "either-or" choice. Find an optimal mix of the two for the best results.

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