These days, it seems not a day goes by without somebody asking me if Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be used online, and why one may be better than the other.

Search Engine Optimization is the applied practice of moving your website to elevated positions in the search engines. PPC  is an advertising medium you pay for and another way you can get a premier, top page listing in less than 10 minutes. Yes, you could potentially present your product or services millions of people, depending on your budget and targeting options – that quickly.

Where do you start?

Ideally, you should use both. Think about the power and business opportunity of ‘owning’ the search engine display, where you are listed not only in the top natural results, but on the paid search side as well. Great for brand recognition too!

Let’s step back for a moment. As seen in a previous post, users of search tend to click more on natural search results than the paid listings. The acute awareness of what paid search is, exist among the user communities now, especially on Google.

The trust factor is higher in the SERPs and some users even find that paid ads are a nuisance. And, with Pay Per Click costs rising, and becoming very competitive and especially high priced during holiday seasons, no wonder many look to SEO as their online traffic solution.  Some even feel that relevancy is higher in the natural listings, swaying decisions to choose SEO as their starter option.

Business owners who focus on organic/natural results also know that, if done right, they are building a real business asset, by creating free traffic, and providing a more long term effect. Of course, search engine algorithms change often, and business owners need to stay on top of them.

The immediacy of paid search is a fantastic “results-driven” opportunity. You can create a brand new account, add some keywords, set the targeting, relevant ad text and landing pages and be up and running in 10 minutes. You can use tracking software to see results very quickly, even that same day.  For example, if you have an event you are pushing, you can run it for a limited time, and tell the system start and end dates, including what times during the day, if you wanted to.

Paid search helps you control your spending, so for small business it may be a good option. You may not have a professional SEO individual in-house, and it can get expensive to hire an outsider (if they are any good).

Recently, I set up a Google account for a business owner in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space. We did it over the phone in 10 minutes, and after credit card and verification emails were sent, the account was ready. This particular business wanted to learn how to run a campaign in-house using PPC. To most, it’s a much more approachable option than SEO.  I help with keyword research, and they write the ads, and they could launch within 5-10 days. Then, with analytics scripts and good landing page designs and conversion tactics, they can have a “web leads engine” developed rather quickly.  It worked for them, but they are/will be looking into SEO as well.

But, PPC has issues with click fraud, and it can get expensive if you don’t do the upfront keyword research correctly, and proper bid analysis and management, as well as applying known tactics for optimal quality scoring.

If you use PPC and SEO wisely, they both can make sense for your business. It depends on your industry, budget, timelines and your own dedication.

Oh, and the data you can capture from PPC campaigns, may help you to optimize your SEO programs, by watching keyword impressions, popularity and more. Always test!


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Entrepreneur Magazine says Jon Rognerud is one of the most sought-after Digital Marketing Experts. His clients extend from high-end brands and middle-tier businesses in both B2B and B2C. His SEO website optimization book, "The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website" from Entrepreneur Press is in bookstores now.