No matter what type of website you’re running, whether it be a online e-commerce store, nonprofit, or just a blog – you know the key to success is traffic. You know if you want your website to be worth anything you need to be driving new unique traffic to your site each and every day. Beyond web activities along, there are many methods you can utilize to achieve traffic, such as: print advertising, word of mouth, highway billboards, radio, etc. Most website traffic efforts however are launched online and usually takes the form of two main strategies: PPC and SEO. Let’s take a brief look at both of these strategies, and compare their similarities and differences.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”- a web traffic growth strategy where the owner or manager of a website makes tweaks and “optimizations” on their own website content – as well as takes actions to influence others’ web content, toward the ultimate goal of appearing with increased frequency, more visibly, and in higher ranking positions within Google, and other internet search engines. As the search results search engines return are prompted by the words and phrases (AKA “keywords”) that people type into the search bar, specific keywords are targeted by professional SEO strategists as their goals; with an eventual aspiration of having their website return as the “top” or number one search result in the search engine, for a given keyword search query. It’s important to note, SEO only contributes to the “natural” search results that are returned for a keyword query. In Google for example, these are the site listings that appear underneath they tope colored advertisement box at the top of the search result screen. A few of the different individual SEO strategies professionals utilize, for example, are link building, offsite, and onsite content creation, and HTML optimization. Some of the main characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of SEO are:
1. Unless you employ someone else, SEO is technically “free” to execute (it only costs the time you take to work on it)
2. When you target less competitive keywords, or “niche keywords”, you can get top search results with much less competition than Google Adwords PPC for example
3. SEO typically takes some “ramp up” time before search engines notice the efforts across the web
4. When practiced alongside other marketing efforts, SEO can be harder to attribute unique value to – as it is less trackable, and less in your control
5. If you do have a budget, want the value of SEO activities, but don’t want to execute on them yourself – you can pay to employ an “SEO Agency” to work on these activities for you.
PPC (Pay Per Click)
PPC is an acronym that stands for “Pay Per Click” – a traffic driving method where advertisements, taking the form of links to a target website, are strategically placed across the internet by other websites, AKA “publishers.” These ad links can appear as images, text, video clips, or really any other form that can be linked from. A wide variety of platforms and products are used to track these links and the traffic that moves through them to the targeted landing pages, recorded as “clicks.” Advertising prices are usually based on a predetermined price that the landing website owner, who purchases the link ad placements (AKA the “advertiser”) is charged per click for traffic sent to their website from the links. This is why it’s called “Pay Per Click.” The most common and successful advertising platform for PPC is “Google Adwords.” These PPC ads appear as the search results within the tope colored box at the very top of the search results screen after you request a search in Google. Some of the main characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of PPC are:
1. Results can be generated very quickly – PPC campaigns can be launched instantly if you have money waiting to spend
2. With PPC, it’s easy to control budgets – daily, weekly, and monthly spending caps are easily set and modified; even divisible by hundreds of unique campaigns
3. If you want to optimize your success with PPC, you can utilize the expertise of others by employing a PPC agency to manage your paid search efforts for you
4. Testing elements with A/B methods are easy, and quick to show performance results – with all traffic tracking elements easily within your transparent control
It’s true, both PPC and SEO drive traffic to your site, if executed properly. These strategies can even be run at the same time if you know what you’re doing – however – they have some major elemental differences that do affect their value to your success, depending on these factors:
1. SEO is absolutely perfect for someone who is low on cash, and has a lot of time on their hands. If you are sitting in your parent’s house trying to launch your startup site with zero dollars, you bet SEO is going to by the top strategy you’ll want to use to drive traffic to your site. PPC on the other hand has no way of not spending money to get results.
2. PPC will generate data results instantly, even if they’re not the desired results you want. There’s no period of being left “in the dark” on what’s working and what’s not. If you setup a website today, and have a budget – you can setup and launch a PPC campaign that same night. There’s just no way to get this kind of speed with SEO; as it takes weeks or even a month to see the results of the activities you’ve been implementing on your site, and across the web. Search engines need to crawl the web, and the newer your site, the slower it is to get crawled. The results of the crawl will yield you the SEO rankings; and ultimately the higher traffic.
3. Unique and targeted website pages that are designed toward their sources are called “landing pages.” These landing pages are going to differ among PPC and SEO greatly. While it is totally fine for a PPC landing page to be like an ad, with sales type language – that same type of page simply won’t work well for SEO (unless search keywords are “coupons” or “sale offer” etc.)
If you execute them properly, both SEO and PPC can get you excellent gains in your traffic. Contrarily, if you execute these strategies poorly, SEO can be a big time waster, and PPC can be a big money and time waster! The key is to do the research on the smaller detailed success strategies of both these methods to ensure you get the success you ultimately need!