eView: SEO vs. PPC?
Those of us who work in the search marketing business often find ourselves engaged in a debate over which is more important: SEO or PPC. This debate is healthy and impassioned, but it can obscure the key issue that marketers should tackle both disciplines to realize their primary objective in SEM -- to dominate search engine results pages while taking steps to ensure that as many clickers on their paid or unpaid positions act on (or convert to) their offers.
Some marketers decide to pursue an SEO-only strategy for budgetary reasons. Organic search engine traffic is free; the costs associated with SEO are relatively affordable; and significant visibility gains often can be achieved by making a modest, upfront investment. The goal of SEO? To improve site architecture, make copy more search-engine friendly and establish high-quality backlinks used by the search engines to determine ranking authority.
Other marketers focus exclusively on PPC, because paid listings provide a far more controllable user experience; time-sensitive campaigns can be started up or paused in response to other marketing initiatives; and keyword prices are highly affordable compared to other media.
Additionally, relying on a PPC-only strategy insulates the marketer from the ranking changes that inevitably occur when search engines tweak their algorithms, providing a modicum of stability in a dynamic marketplace.
Unfortunately, marketers leave money on the table when they pursue either an SEO-only or PPC-only strategy, because they both are highly influential on searcher behavior.
For example, one of Didit's large clients with No. 1 organic rankings in all the major search engines recently asked us to perform a test in which its paid listings were shut down. This marketer wanted to see whether organic rankings alone could provide a better ROI. The results were shocking: Conversions declined by 60 percent (and the client immediately called us to reactivate the campaign before more damage was done).
Ideally both SEO and PPC should be thought of as integrated efforts that happen on parallel tracks, because they reinforce each other. For example, improving SEO helps one's PPC efforts, because users clicking from paid listings are more likely to convert if the landing pages they arrive at have been designed with usability and relevance in mind. Similarly, embarking on a PPC project often yields valuable knowledge about how users are searching for one's Web site, and this knowledge can be directed back into one's SEO efforts.
Mark Simon is vice president of industry relations at Didit, a Rockville Centre, N.Y.-based search engine marketing agency. Reach Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.