PPC vs SEO – the debate rages (because it costs so much!!)

Clicks on a Goog Search
Clicks on a Google Search

The heat map here shows the clicked search area of a typical google results page. What does it tell us?

The SEO Marketer

80 – 85% of all clicks on google come from natural listings. These cost nothing and your site gets 8 x the traffic than from paid search (PPC)

The PPC Marketer

The ability to carefully develop a PPC strategy that delivers profitable leads, within margin, with the ability to turn campaigns on and off due to seasonality is very strong. many business models rely entirely on PPC. Google has lots of research aimed at PPC because it is their only way of making money and projects like youtube cost about $500m per annum to run so they need the money! You can get up and running very quickly and compete with the big boys and it doesn’t take all year.

The Business Marketer

The heat map above shows that in fact in line with what you expect, and from your own research (how you google!), that PPc and SEO are both important. The key element is being in position 1 – 5 either via SEO or PPC. After that you really get a small share of the traffic. The bottom place on page 1 equates to about 3% of clicks. This therefore gives you probably less volume than the first three paid search positions. However getting to page 1 at the bottom on high traffic key words could have cost you a lot of money.

The online marketing industry, in its infancy and although ‘technical’ in many ways, there is a lot of common sense that should be employed. Traditional businesses, such as travel businesses, who are morphing into online businesses just want there to be a magic answer. They are currently spending oodles of cash, throwing whatever it takes to the agency that can say – ‘I can get you free relevant traffic!’. The point with all this is that everyone is forgetting the cost, and the make up of the marketing spend. The advice costs such enormous amounts that companies are currently signing up 1/3rd of their marketing budget to SEO agencies who have absolutely no industry knowledge, nor guarantee anything other than trying to get certain search terms onto the first page.

The Point

My point is really that the changing landscape online has just made the whole game a lot harder. Ill informed bosses are throwing money at agencies hoping they will deliver without understanding the sales funnel, their product, their budget or their alternatives. SEO is an important and vital part of the strategy and long term will yield great results.

However – let’s not forget that:

1. Consumers tend to research using natural listings and buy using all the listings. Let’s face it, if you want something and it stares you in the face at the top of the search results why click anywhere else?

2. Google continually make organic listings difficult by changing their algorythm. This is perportedly to make listings more relevant. However, it would just be strange if they hadn’t worked in the – ‘ if everyone succeeds at natural search we don’t have a business as our income drops off paid search’

3. The SEO guys would have it that paid search is’evil’ – ‘I never click on paid adverts’ they will say and that’s what customers think. Since when did we see adverts in magazines as evil? This just doesn’t stack and the PPC guys will argue that 1. some customers don’t know it is a paid advert and 2. paid adverts usually indicate a professional well managed business that can afford a campaign.

4. The only way to really tell is to measure results for SEO vs PPC and conversions on these. My guess is that the data is complicated to distinguish (and most companies just rely on their agencies to tell them the truth!! ha ha). If SEO was always the winner why else would brands appear at the top of SEO and paid search for a product – if it wasn’t for the fact that both work, both cost money and no one really knows what the answer is!

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