Tough topic. So much to consider in such a short space.
"Do both" is a good way to think, especially with testing keywords and phrases.
In online marketing you really have to pick your battles. Its often hard to figure out which SEM strategy is likely to work best. Ideally you should be implementing both strategies, but often times resource restrictions limit you to only one. If that's the case, then the FAQ below should help get you started.
What is SEO and PPC?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) optimizes your website for higher organic rankings on search engines (Google, Yahoo or Bing.) Pay-per-click (PPC) go through Google Adwords,Microsoft Adcenter or Yahoo Search Marketing platforms as banner/text ads.
How much effort is required?
For a typical SME a SEO strategy can be resource intensive task. PPC on the other hand is not as labor intensive (unless you are selling multiple products to B2C).
How quick are the results?
SEO listings can take a few months to fully mature whereas PPC takes a few days.
How granular can I target my audience?
SEO can be optimized for keywords, but you have little control on granular targeting such as geographic, demographic, time of day results. PPC gives you more control over such metrics. But you've to pay a premium for it.
How much does it cost?
SEO can be more expensive to setup (especially for an enterprise that has large web-content) but has lower maintenance/running costs than PPC. Typical SEO costs for a SEM can be 15,000 USD with 10% monthly running costs. PPC setup costs can be 5,000 USD with 50% to 200% monthly running costs.
What are the steps involved?
SEO can be a labor intensive project that involves your marketing team working with your web-team. Some of the project steps are:
PPC is not as labor intensive and can be managed by a small marketing team. Some of the PPC steps are:
SEO is a good overall lead-generation tool. It CAN NOT be used for a specific campaign. SEO takes longer to trickle through, but the investment pays off with a stronger brand. Visitors trust organic searches more than paid listings. And if they find your website in organic searches for the right keywords, then obviously they will trust your brand even more.
On the other hand PPC is great for specific campaigns that have set time. You CAN NOT build a brand using search advertising. It will just be too expensive and eventually break your bank. PPC advertising has a life span of your budget. Turn off the budget, you lose your ad traffic.
Depending on your budget, goals and your time-restrictions, one strategy can make more sense over another. Often most marketing campaigns involve building on both. I would suggest using PPC to kick start your online campaign, so that you can find low-hanging keywords that result in qualified traffic. Then optimizing your site content for those keywords to provide sustainable SEO traffic in the long run. To get you started, start reading on SEO marketing stratigies.
Learn more about the author, Zaki Usman.
Michael, yes the choice between the two is very difficult. SEO is great for qualified traffic, but it takes some time to build up. PPC is faster but expensive. The exact mix depends on budget, team constraints, and time expectations. Thanks for the feedback! Cheers. Zaki
Key to success in either SEO or PPC is to carefully think through your messaging and web site structure. While PPC is not as dependent upon this for success, it is critical for SEO. Doing SEO well so that you get good ranking requires professional writing, careful coding and attention to detail. Many web development companies don't understand this (although they frequently say they do) and it is expensive to have to go back and redevelop a site that is not ranking well (or at all) organically.
Robin, good comments on how to develop and maintain a good SEO oriented site. I think with PPC web copy is also very important as well as having strong call-to-actions.