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The Differences Between SEO and PPC

The main difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) is that traffic coming from SEO (organic) is free while traffic generated from PPC is not free (as the name implies you have to pay a cost per click).  This is also the reason why you may sometimes see the terms organic search engine listings and paid search engine listings (or Paid Search Advertising – PSA).

Both SEO and PPC are part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which is one of the tools you can use as part of your overall Internet Marketing campaign.

I will try to explain the other major differences between the two by using the following parameters: position in search results, cost, traffic potential, conversion and ease of use.

Organic Traffic vs. Paid Search Advertising

Organic results can only appear in the middle of the page. Whether your listing will appear in the top positions or first pages this depends on how optimized your web site is both in terms of on-site and off-site SEO.

SEO: You can get first page positions if your web site is optimized for search engines

PPC: You can get your ad on the first page by paying a higher cost per click (CPC)

Cost

I have mentioned above that SEO traffic is free and PPC is paid and while this is absolutely true, you should understand that it needs a lot of effort and hard work to get free traffic from search engines. The competition is high for almost every keyword you can search and you really need to have a high quality web site and a great SEO plan to get one of the top 5 positions. There are no shortcuts despite what some “SEO” companies are trying to sell you.  If you are not familiar how search engines work or don’t know anything about SEO then the best way to get search engine traffic is to hire a SEO expert to do the work you.

On the other hand, Pay Per Click cost depends on a number of other factors. If we take for example the cost per click of advertising with the most popular PPC system, Google Adwords, then it depends on the popularity of the keyword, on the number of advertisers who want to use the particular keyword, the number of related web sites that have ad positions for the particular keyword and many more. If it sounds a bit complicated then it probably is despite the efforts made by Google to make the whole system easier to use.

The good news with PPC is that you only pay for the clicks your ad receives and not for the views. In addition, you can determine in advance your daily budget and pay no more than that and you can calculate an estimate of what is the average cost per click for the keywords you want to target. As you can see from the screenshot below the Google Keyword tool (which is part of Google Adwords) gives you an estimate for the CPC (cost per click) for each keyword.

Cost Per Click – Google Keyword Tool

SEO: Cost of SEO is indirect. You cannot pay to get to the first page but you may have to pay for SEO services if you cannot do SEO yourself.

PPC:  You pay only when people click on your ad.  You can use the Google keyword tool to calculate how much you can pay.

Traffic potential

Which method can bring more traffic to your web site, SEO or PPC? SEO (organic traffic) is more than PPC traffic so if you can manage to rank your web site for the keywords you want, you will get much more traffic than paying for those keywords. This is because when you are in one of the top 5 positions (according to statistics the majority of search traffic visits one of the top 5 web sites) you can expect to have a continuous flow of traffic 24×7 without having to pay anything (the actual volume of traffic depends on how popular a keyword is).

So, if you compare traffic and cost of first page positions for SEO traffic and PPC traffic, organic traffic is better. There are some studies suggesting that PPC ads get more clicks than organic but this also translates to a bigger cost.

If on the other hand it is very difficult to get first page positions for a keyword then paying for traffic may be your only option since second and third page positions will probably bring 0 or very little traffic.

SEO: Organic traffic is continuous as long as you are ranking in one of the top positions.

PPC: PPC ads can get more clicks but this means that you pay more.

Conversion

Which visitor is more likely to convert (i.e. make a purchase, register to a newsletter and in general response to call for action), someone coming from PPC Ads or from organic search? If your ads are highly targeted and optimized then a visitor from PPC is more likely to convert than a visitor coming from search.

The reason is that a web page can rank for different keywords (other than those initially intended) so the search visitor may not be looking exactly for the content (or product) presented in the particular page. On the other hand if you run a successful PPC campaign then you will only get clicks from visitors who are interested 100% in your content or products.

SEO: SEO traffic is better than other forms of traffic (i.e. social media) but in terms of conversion is not as good as PPC traffic.

PPC: Highly optimized keywords will generate more conversions but will cost more

Ease of use

Neither SEO nor PPC is easy to do if you don’t have the necessary knowledge and experience.  SEO is a process that takes a lot of time and effort. It may take months or even years to rank for specific terms or not rank at all!

On the hand, in order to get some good results with PPC and Adwords you either have to take a course or hire a PPC expert to help you or you will lose a few hundred dollars before you understand how it works.
The bottom line: PPC first and then SEO

The bottom line is that you need to use both PPC and SEO as part of your Internet Marketing campaign. PPC can bring you faster results so you can run a PPC campaign and test which keywords convert better and then try with SEO to rank for those keywords.

Use PPC when you have a high converting product and use SEO when you have a limited budget to spend on advertising.

SEO may take time but the results are (under some conditions) long lasting while with PPC when you stop paying for clicks, traffic will also stop.

The Major PPC Mistakes & How To Fix Them

These top mistakes are the difference between high-performing accounts and ones that fail. If you’re not happy with your PPC results, consider this as a checklist to revamp your account. And if you’re making any of these super-common errors, it’s time to fix them.

Mistake #1: Infrequent Logins

The number-one reason most businesses fail at AdWords is they don’t sign in enough. PPC managers say they are doing work in their accounts, but when I look at the change history of the average AdWords account, the numbers tell a different story. In fact, only 1% of small businesses sign in to AdWords on a weekly basis.

If you want AdWords to work for you, you have to commit to regularly logging in and actually working on your account. After all, it’s not going to manage itself.

The good news is AdWords doesn’t have to take over your life. Since most advertisers do so little by way of account optimization, just logging in and working on it for 30 minutes each week (not all day, not every day) can make a big difference.

Mistake #2: Not Optimizing for Quality Score

Quality Score is often seen as a black box –- you can never know exactly how Google calculates it or exactly what your dynamic, behind-the-scenes Quality Score is for any given Google search. This has led many advertisers to erroneously conclude that Quality Score doesn’t matter as a metric.

They’re dead wrong.

Average Quality Score is an extremely good predictor of overall account success, as it directly affects your rankings and cost per click (CPC). Lower CPCs translate into lower costs per conversion, so optimizing for Quality Score is essentially the same as optimizing for costs.

The savings can be pretty powerful:

ppc-quality-score

Unfortunately, though, the typical small business has an average Quality Score of 5, which offers no discount at all.

Mistake #3: Ignoring Mobile Traffic

AdWords advertisers have ignored the mobile space for far too long. It used to be really complicated to run your AdWords ads on mobile, because Google recommended creating entirely separate mobile campaigns. Now, with Enhanced Campaigns, it’s much, much easier.

However, most PPC managers still make the mistake of thinking that mobile traffic is less valuable than desktop. We’ve found a couple of things to be true:

Mobile users are quicker to convert. They often want something NOW, so you need to adjust your ads (messaging, call-to-action, extensions, etc.) accordingly to secure the conversion.

For some businesses, mobile traffic is actually more valuable. We’ve seen some companies getting higher conversion rates from mobile clicks, at a lower cost per click. Test out those audiences and don’t assume mobile isn’t right for you.

Fewer than one in five AdWords accounts has set up mobile-preferred ads. Make sure you’re the one that does it right.

Mistake #4: Lousy Keyword Targeting

While SEOs are flipping out about the “not provided” crisis, as an AdWords advertiser, you still have keyword data to spare. But most AdWords accounts suffer from poor keyword targeting. Some of the problems I see include:

Overly broad keyword choices — Long-tail keywords are more cost-effective, especially in competitive niches, but too many advertisers focus on broad head terms.

Overly broad match types — One in four small businesses only use the default broad match keyword type. This match type is great for Google, since it maximizes the number of clicks, but it’s not so good for you, since those clicks are less likely to be relevant to your offering.

Too few negative keywords — Negative keywords help filter out unwanted, irrelevant clicks, so they’re a key cost containment measure. However, 20% of AdWords accounts don’t use any negative keywords at all.

These targeting mistakes are part of the reason that the typical SMB wastes a fourth of their annual paid search spend.

Mistake #5: Blowing Off the Landing Page Experience

The landing page is where you seal the deal in PPC. You can get everything else right in your AdWords campaigns, but if you’re not building solid landing pages, you’re not going to turn those clicks into conversions.

And guess what? It should come as no surprise at this point that many advertisers don’t realize how important landing pages are:

More than one in four AdWords accounts send all of their PPC traffic to the same landing page.

Roughly one in five small businesses send all of their PPC clicks to the homepage.

Sending all traffic to one landing page or, worse, your homepage is a terrible idea. You need a targeted, dedicated landing page that serves one purpose only: getting the visitor to complete the desired action, which should be closely tied to the keyword and ad that got them to your site in the first place.

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