SEO v. PPC: What’s the Difference?

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SEO vs PPC

You want your website to rank on page one of the search engines… who doesn’t?!  But how do you do that?  Ranking on the search engines begins and ends with SEO and PPC. 

There are an estimated 6+ billion searches on Google every day. (Internet Live Stats)

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Why is garnering that coveted page one result so important?  Well, page one simply means more visibility which equates to more traffic to your website and in turn, more conversions – and that’s where the money is.  Now, there are two ways to rank on the search engines: SEO (organic) and PPC (paid).

0.78% of Google Searchers click on results from the 2nd page. (Backlinko)

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Simply put, SEO is the optimization of your website for search engine visibility.  SEO can be broken down into three areas:

  1. On-Site SEO
  2. Off-Site SEO
  3. Technical SEO

On-Site SEO

On-Site SEO is exactly what it says… it is SEO applied on-site, meaning on your website.  It covers things like heading tags, meta descriptions, keyword optimization, etc.  If you’re not familiar with SEO, those may seem a bit foreign to you, so we’ll briefly discuss what exactly those are.

Heading tags are how Google and the other search engines learn what your website is all about.  It tells them how to index your website.  If your heading tags are not optimized, the Google bots (and other search bots) may get confused on what your website is all about and improperly index you or downrank you as a result.  You see, Google is all about the user experience.  Your website needs to provide an optimal user experience when Google searchers click to your website.  If your website can be considered “confusing” or not optimal, Google may not want to show your website in the search results as much because it does not provide an optimal user experience.

Meta descriptions consist of 160 characters and provides a brief description of what the webpage is all about.  For SEO purposes, your meta descriptions should also contain your keywords that you’re trying to get that particular page to rank for (which we’ll get to shortly).  So, when you query Google for something and you see the search results pop up with the page title, the URL and that description there… that’s the meta description.

Keyword optimization is done by analyzing which keywords are being used by your target audience to find your website.  From there, you’ll also want to identify what’s called long tail keywords.  Long tail keywords are keywords that are more refined to your target audience, which also means less search traffic, but also, a lower competition score.  Think of it like this: If you’re a divorce lawyer, the term “divorce” is a very broad keyword and the competition (i.e. other websites also trying to rank for that keyword) is steep.  That steep competition consists of large companies with even larger budgets, so competing with them is almost futile.  However, optimizing for keywords that people are actually searching for and that have a low competition score can still drive a significant amount of traffic to your website.

Off-Site SEO

Off-site SEO is made up of SEO practices off of your website.  A large part of SEO is demonstrating to the search engines that your website is trustworthy and authoritative.  The way you accomplish that is through backlinks.  Now, if you’re producing quality content, such as blogs and infographics, other companies will naturally want to link to your website/content.  However, you also have the ability to go out there an acquire some quality links yourself.

When I say you have the ability to acquire links yourself, it’s important to note that you should avoid black hat SEO techniques, link farming, etc.  You can find opportunities through things such as guest blogging and local SEO.  Local SEO consists of getting your website/company listed in a directories that can help you rank higher in your local area.

Technical SEO

Here’s where it gets complicated.  There are certain items in your SEO that you may not be able to manage on your own, such as technical SEO.  Technical SEO consists of things like canonicalization, schema markup, and more.  If you’re not in the SEO industry and/or you’re not familiar with code, you may want to consider hiring a professional to help you with your technical SEO. 

What is PPC?

PPC stands for Pay Per Click and means that you’re paying for that coveted top spot on the search engines.  To break it down PPC literally means that you’re paying for each click on your URL/advertisement. 

Have you ever noticed that when you google something, the first two to three results are typically ads? You can identify them by the word “Ad” under the URL, next to the page name.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re using Google AdWords to have your website shown to potential customers for certain keywords.  You’ve built your ad and it’s officially live.  Each time someone clicks on your advertisement, you pay Google money.  Depending on the words that you’re targeting, that number can range from a couple of cents to big bucks.  This is where you’ll want to check the competition score for the keywords that you’d like your advertisements to run on.

What’s the Difference Between SEO and PPC?

In the very beginning of this article we mentioned that there are two ways to rank on the search engines: SEO (organic) and PPC (paid).  What we mean by this is that SEO and organic search engine rankings is done without paying the search engines.  You cannot pay Google to rank higher unless you’re running advertisements.

SEO takes time; It takes approximately four to six months to really start seeing improvements in your SEO and rankings once you start putting in the work.  Did you catch that last part?  SEO is hard work, but in the long haul it will save you time and money and position your company to drive more traffic and conversions without having to shell out big bucks for advertising each month.

PPC is a way to rank high on the search engines for your targeted keywords through paid channels such as Google AdWords.  By paying for these ads, you have the benefit of creating laser-targeted visibility to your target audience.  Looking for clients with certain characteristics or maybe in a particular geographic location?  PPC can do just that.

While they can both technically get you that coveted top position in Search results, PPC does not impact your SEO either negatively or positively.  That means, the money that you’re spending on advertising, once it runs out, you’re back to the bottom of the barrel if you haven’t been working on your SEO.

Should You Invest in SEO or PPC?

Why not both? 

SEO is something that should absolutely be made a priority as the long-term benefit outweighs any of the downsides.  However, while you’re working on building your way up to page one through SEO, some well placed Google Ads can help drive traffic, build brand awareness and convert customers.  Even after your SEO gets you to rank page one, you can still compliment those efforts with PPC.  This can help you maximize your company’s visibility and clicks.

While both SEO and PPC together can give you some amazing results, there are pros and cons to both so you’ll want to dig a bit deeper to determine which may be the better option for you company if you don’t have the budget to support both.  However, with that being said, you should not just skip SEO all together.  It is a critical part of any marketing strategy to really gain the competitive edge.

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General FAQs

What is better SEO or PPC?

SEO is great if you want to develop long term traffic, but it can take several months before you start seeing results. PPC, on the other hand, is pretty much instant but costs a lot more money. By using SEO for your main website and PPC for individual landing pages, you can get the best of both worlds.

What is the difference between SEO and local SEO?

Traditional SEO focuses on improving your site’s visibility on a national or global scale, local SEO allows you to capture local search territory to connect with searchers in your area.

What is SEO Visibility?

SEO visibility is a metric that tells you what percentage of all possible organic clicks (from SERPs) a website is getting for a given keyword. In other words, SEO visibility is not to be understood in terms of raw traffic numbers, but rather your position in the SERPs themselves in relation to your competitors.

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Jessica Ainsworth

Jessica Ainsworth, Founder of Pendragon Consulting, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of Maryland, is focused on helping businesses expand their reach into new pools of potential customers. She has a strong background in research and analytics and has turned that into a passion for marketing.

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