SEO vs PPC
Back in 1997 when I started getting web sites to the top of the search engines it wasn’t even called “Search Engine Optimization”. In fact, there wasn’t a name for what I did much less a multi-billion dollar industry. I realized back then that search engines were the only place to find what you were looking for on the web. They were a phone book of sorts with about 4 billion listings that you could sort through in less than 1 second with the push of a search button.
Now the search engine game is very different yet very much the same. You have the media bombarding you about pay per click, sponsored listings, featured listings, ppc, cpa and don’t hear very much about natural search engine optimization anymore. You don’t know if there even is such a thing because most companies that perform search engine optimization of web sites are small and can’t compete with the large advertising budgets of the major search engines like Google and Overture. But the deeper you dig the more you realize the algorithms haven’t changed that much and getting to the top can be made simple. This leads us to two questions.
1. Does search engine optimization work anymore?
2. What kind of traffic can I expect to see from both methods?
We’ll start with the first question.
Does search engine optimization work anymore?
The answer is a resounding, ABSOLUTELY! Natural search engine placement and optimization is not dead at all. In fact, the industry is growing at a tremendous rate. The competitiveness over arguably the most competitive word on Google “search engine optimization” has drastically increased. As of the writing of this article there are over 1,620,000 results when you type in search engine optimization compared to only 560,000 two months ago.
Okay you say, that makes sense but give me more proof.
GlobalPromoter.com does no advertising other than natural search engine optimization and natural search engine placement in the major search engines. We spend $0 on pay per click campaigns or any other method of advertising yet our traffic rivals that of our competitors and we average an incredible amount of account signups on a daily basis. Our visitors / purchasers ratio is in upwards of 4.5% which is incredible in any industry. Why do we have such a high purchase/click ratio? Because people are looking for us, we’re not looking for them. When a user goes to Google and types in “search engine optimization tools” and finds us on the first page, they know we know what we’re doing and are compelled to click if only out of awe.
The secret of the search engines is the ability to be found not the other way around. That’s why the natural search engine listings in Google outperform the Adwords listings. Users know that sites listed in the Sponsored matches section or on the right side of the results means a business or individual is paying every time someone clicks on their site. That equates to advertising which is no different than radio, television, newspaper or magazines. That’s a company “pushing” their product onto the consumer.
But, when a user finds a site in the web matches section, they have more confidence. This site didn’t pay to get there, they are there because Google or Yahoo or AOL’s algorithm said their site is the most appropriate for my search based on the entire site’s content. This is “Pull” demand. Meaning, the user is looking for us instead of us looking for them. If you can get on the Pull side of advertising then you’ll experience much higher purchase / click rates on every visitor to your web site.
On to question 2.
What kind of traffic can I expect to see from both methods?
This question needs to be answered in two parts. First let’s look at the ppc method.
PPC search engine listings will give you as much traffic as there is demand for a given keyword or keyword phrase. Meaning, if there are 500,000 searches a month and your listing is appealing you can expect to receive approximately 2 – 5% of those searches. Let’s say you get an incredibly high click thru rate of 5%. That means you have .05 * 500,000 = 25,000 visitors at your disposal. But if a keyword has 500,000 searches in a month then that means it’s fairly competitive and it could easily be $1.00 to be in the top 3 positions for that keyword. So if you are paying $1.00/visitor and you had 25,000 visitors, then you paid $25,000 for the traffic one keyword would generate for your site.
I think you can see how risky and expensive ppc can be. Unless you know you can convert visitors into sales and your profit margin on the items you’re selling is incrdibly high, then Caveat Emptor (buyer be ware).
On the flip side, when your site shows up in the natural rankings you don’t pay a single cent for any of the traffic it generates. This means you have more money for developing your site, tweaking marketing tactics, making your product better, etc…
As far as the old argument that you won’t get as much traffic from natural placements vs ppc listings, that’s a myth. Several of our customers receive over 50,000 visitors a month on average from natural placements in the major search engines. In fact, when we optimize a client’s web site, one of their goals is to decreaes the amount of money they are currently spending on ppc advertising. After the completion of the optimization plan 75% of our clients completely abandon their ppc programs. This leads us to a general comparison of ppc vs. natural rankings.
Advantages of Search Engine Optimization
1. Up front fixed cost vs. fluctuating costs that can skyrocket with ppc advertising.
2. Long term listings and rankings with natural placement vs. Showing up only as long as your bank account has money.
3. Natural rankings have higher click thru ratios than ppc listings because natural rankings are pull demand vs. push demand.
I’m going to close this article with an analogy. Most of you have been camping before and remember at least one cold night when you couldn’t get a fire started. So you went and got some lighter fluid and squirted it on the dry oak or whatever wood you used. Then you threw a match into the fire and began to warm up next to the fire.
The lighter fluid is akin to ppc advertising. When the lighter fluid is squirted on the fire the flames shoot high and bright and then vanish. Just like ppc advertising it’s short term because as soon as the money is gone so is your exposure. Whereas natural rankings are like the solid oak used in the fire. The oak will burn for hours and hours and keep you warm much longer than just lighter fluid alone. Like the oak, natural search engine optimization campaigns last in excess of 6 months in stead of one day. And if you learn the secrets to good web site optimization you can stoke the fire and make it last even longer with no added cost. Of course it takes a little longer to get the oak branches to light up but once you get them going they will last for a long time.
Many people see the solution to their search engine marketing campaign in pay per clicks because they’re easily set up and effective almost immediately. However, those that understand the principle of laying a solid foundation and building upon it can understand the long term benefits of natural search engine placement. It may take longer to get the same results but it will cost much less in the long run.
Jason Dowdell is the founder and CEO of http://www.GlobalPromoter.com, a search engine optimization and marketing firm specializing in educating and empowering customer websites. Jason is also the founder of TurboPromoter.com, a web-based seo/sem project management suite comprised of professional seo tools, in-depth tutorials and an integrated help system.