When people think of promoting their website via search engines, the first thing they usually think of is search engine optimisation (SEO), rather than pay per click advertising (PPC). It is commonly and mistakenly believed that SEO is superior to PPC in that:
- SEO is considered to be the best long term bet
- SEO is considered to be more effective
- SEO is considered to be cheaper
The only sense in which SEO is superior to PPC is in that users are far more likely to click on an "organic" search engine listing than they are to click on a sponsored listing.
The basic problem with SEO however, is actually getting your site into the (first few pages of) organic listings for a sufficiently wide range of relevant and popular search phrases. Competition is unbelievably fierce and the costs are thus formidable - often many thousands of pounds have to be spent to be effective, and meaningful results cannot be guaranteed, despite what is often promised.
It is not wise to throw money at a PPC campaign wildly. You will simply end up in a bidding war with your competitors in which only the search engines win. PPC campaigns need to be managed carefully - you are paying for every click-through - so you should only bid on targeted keywords and your ad text should be written in such a way as to help exclude irrelevant click-throughs. This takes a lot of experience to achieve. Whilst the PPC providers do offer to help you set your campaign up, it is likely that they may encourage you to get as many click-throughs as possible, when that is not necessarily advantageous. It is only highly targeted click-throughs that you want. It is better to employ an experienced independent professional to do the work.
I do still provide search engine optimisation as a service but I usually recommend that the emphasis is on pay per click advertising. However, my PPC management service includes a measure of integrated search engine optimisation.
Here are some of the advantages of PPC over SEO:
It can take months, (occasionally even years) for a site to be indexed by search engines and often much longer before it is well-positioned for your desired search terms. With PPC, your ads appear almost instantly.
Search engines frequently change their algorithms such that well-performing sites can suddenly find themselves poorly positioned, or even no longer indexed at all! PPC is far more predictable.
Competition for the top spots in the organic listings is fierce and often unfair - cheating methods such as cloaking and scraping are often used to hijack the top positions. Whilst search engines do try to deal with this, they are not always successful and new tricks are always being created. With PPC, advertising campaigns are vetted so there is less scope for cheating and therefore fairer competition.
Performance over Time
With SEO you can never realistically guarantee high positioning for popular search phrases for any length of time. With PPC you can keep adding new search phrases to match your competition and thus maintain high positioning for quite a large number of search phrases so long as the bidding does not become too expensive. (Bear in mind that with PPC it is not really positioning that you are trying to achieve as click-throughs on targeted search terms. As you are paying for each click-through, high positionning is not always desirable).
Knowing Where You Stand
You know exactly where you stand with regard to the competition. With SEO you never really know exactly why another site is higher placed than you - there are simply too many factors to consider. You can therefore waste a lot of time (and money as good SEO is very expensive) trying to outdo another site for search engine positioning.
Wider Range of Search Terms
Pay Per Click Advertising systems enable you to advertise on a far wider range of search phrases than you could ever realistically optimise a website for.
You may never get seen at all in the search engine organic listings. At least with PPC your adverts will appear and will almost certainly be clicked on by at least some users.
Range of Visibility
When you optimise a site for search engine positioning, you only improve your visibility in the search engines themselves, nowhere else - unless of course you are using links from other sites as your SEO method, which is extremely time-consuming and therefore expensive. However, with PPC your ads can appear all over the web on relevant websites, as well as the search engines which provide the PPC systems. This is usually known as "Placement Targeting".
Control Over Display of Returns
When your listings show in search engine results they are often garbled showing bits of text. It is very difficult to control how search engines will display their results for your site unless you know how to write properly formed title and description tags (and even then your description tag is not always used). However with PPC you can write your ads exactly the way you want and bid on exactly what search terms you wish them to be associated with. You can also deploy picture ads and extended text ads in certain places.
Website Does Not Need to Be Changed
In order to optimise a site for search engines it is often necessary to compromise the way you write the text for the pages in order to produce an optimal keyword density. You do not have this problem to the same extent with PPC - you can leave your site more-or-less the way you want. Quality score for PPC keywords is not as hard to achieve with PPC, as optimal keyword density with SEO.
Predictable, Controllable Costs
The costs of optimising a website for the search engines can be formidable. For really effective optimisation for highly competitive search phrases you could be looking at a bill in the region of thousands - in some cases hundreds of thousands - of pounds. Low cost optimisation services can work well if the relevant search phrases are not highly competed for, but this is becoming increasingly rare. With PPC costs can be kept very low - you set the budget, and minimum budget levels are usually quite reasonable. Obviously over time competition will become equally fierce for search engine advertising placement so make use of the chance now!