That is the Question

What is better, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC)? And where should you focus your time, energy and resources? Every business needs to get the most out of its efforts and marketing budget but what is going to work best for you?

The simple answer to this question is far from simple. It would be sort of like asking which automobile is better, a car or a pickup? The arguments can ensue, and they will, because both have their benefits and both are effective forms of transportation. However, each of them has their own unique strengths and many drivers have their own personal preference. In the same respect, the answer to this question may greatly depend on you and your business.

Let’s line them up and compare the strengths of both strategies.

Advantages of SEO

It’s Free! – When your online presence is outperforming your competitors’ online, search engines will place links to your website higher and you never have to pay them a dime. Years ago, when the best marketing strategy for a local business was the Yellow Pages, simply being more relevant to a customer was never going to make you easier to find, only a larger ad would. However, in the Internet age, relevance and trust is more important than the alphabetical order names in your business category.

Trusted – People trust organic search results more than they trust paid advertisements. (Some studies have shown that users will click organic links 94 percent of the time.)

Long-Term Strategy – Well performing SEO strategies will continue to be effective long after the work is complete (and your PPC budget has expired). Although it may take months, and in some circumstances years, to have a significant impact on ranking for particular keywords, the results from achieving a high rank of a popular search term can be astounding.

A strong SEO performance can truly change the life of a business.

Advantages of Paid Search

More Search Terms – Internet users don’t all think the same and they certainly don’t all use the same search terms when looking up a product or service. So a problem with SEO is that websites can only be optimized for a handful of keywords. This is really where PPC programs like Google AdWords, Microsoft’s Bing and others really flex their muscles. Paid search platforms allow advertisers to choose countless variations of the same or similar products allowing them to cast a wider net.

Prequalified Traffic – Pay-per-click platforms, like Google AdWords, allow a great deal of control for marketers. This control helps to pre-qualify visitors to your website and saves you money by filtering out unqualified visitors.

Precise Control – The control advertisers have with PPC platforms is far more precise than SEO. SEO frequently uses strategies that help to promote or display a particular page or content, but they don’t have any control over what the search engine shows the visitor. On the other hand, PPC managers can choose which words or phrases trigger one of their ads, what the ad says when it is displayed, and to what page the site will send visitors. A well-strategized PPC campaign can produce incredibly qualified traffic for any budget.

Geographic Targeting –Would it be helpful if you could target people in a particular region, state, city or zip code? Or how about anyone within 20 miles of your storefront? Location targeting allows businesses to maximize their marketing dollars by focusing on people that are close enough to buy from them.

Real-Time Updates – If your business has an event to promote, AdWords gives you the ability to create or update advertisements in real time, so you can begin promoting your event immediately. Using paid advertising online is also a great way to promote seasonal or sale pricing. Having a slow sales week? Adjust your budget, increase geographic targeting or add more keywords. Everything within a PPC campaign can be updated quickly.

In conclusion, no matter what approach you take for your business, each method can produce incredible results. In my opinion, every business should have a healthy balance of both. You will thank yourself in the long-run when your business is growing steadily and you maximize your marketing efforts.

Steve Buck

Steve Buck is the president and co-founder of Viera-based Black Tie Digital Marketing,