Every business today needs to run an online marketing campaign. Even if you do not have an online store, online marketing can help increase visibility, draw interest, and easily be worth the time and money you invest in a campaign.
But stepping into this developing field can be intimidating, especially with unscrupulous consultants and businesses who promise the moon with their perfect online marketing strategies. In fact, there are two main approaches to online marketing. Your business can either directly pay for traffic with a Pay Per Click (PPC) strategy, or you can attempt to generate organic content through a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Different businesses should use different approaches, and you should consider using a combination of both strategies. But by understanding what the differences are, you can develop an online marketing strategy which works best for you.
Free vs. Paid
The simplest way to understand the difference between PPC and SEO is type anything into Google Search. You will notice links to websites labelled as ads at the top and bottom of the page. These links are caused by PPC, while the other links in the middle pages are caused by SEO.
SEO may sound more attractive by virtue of it being free compared to PPC, but the catch is that it requires a great deal more work. Proper SEO optimization is a topic in and of itself, though Google itself has a solid starter’s guide for understanding the ins and outs of this approach. You must build a quality website and build quality content to even hope to get your website at the top of organic Google searches. Even if you do so, it can take months at the very least for a SEO strategy to reap rewards.
PPC can produce results much faster, as your advertised links can pop up on the first page of a Google Search right away. You can use Google AdWords to easily figure out your ROI and only have to pay when a link is clicked. The problem is that your links will only appear when users search for certain terms. While you can dictate what keywords will trigger your links, note that competition can be intense. If you run a cat food business and try to use “cat” as a keyword, you will be competing against every other business trying to use the same keyword with a PPC model. You can use the Google Keyword Planner to figure out the level of competition surrounding keywords.
When to Use Each
As noted above, you should not consider yourself bound to one approach or the other but should figure which approach will work for your business’s circumstances. If you want your online marketing strategy to bear immediate results, you should use PPC. If you can afford to wait while building something more sustainable, you should use an SEO agency to help you with search engine optimization.
That said, businesses which are entirely new to online marketing should start with PPC for a few reasons. First, both PPC and SEO require data and analytics to fully function. With both strategies, you must figure out which keywords and links work most effectively. Because PPC gets results faster, you can thus gather data more quickly and refine your strategy. Eventually, you can use this data to build a SEO approach.
Second is the fact that your business likely has more established competitors who already have a strong SEO presence, and usurping them naturally will be challenging. Paying for clicks can be more effective at attracting traffic.
If you are the more established business, or have found a truly unique niche that people are not searching or clicking for, then you can take the long route to SEO which will result in better, organic clicks and searches. Above all else, think about how much you can afford to spend on an online marketing strategy and evaluate your business and competition before deciding which strategy will work best for you.