SEO v PPC: Which is better for small business

Over 60% of website traffic now comes in through search engines, primarily Google. Of this, about 51% is organic (SEO) and 10% is through pay per click (PPC).

Those figures may seem to immediately answer the question, “Is SEO or PPC better for small business?” But we’ll need to look a bit closer to uncover the truth about SEO v PPC.

SEO v PPC: What Do They Do for Small Business?

Pay per click (PPC) is a form of online advertising in which you only pay for the ad when someone clicks it. These clicks deliver ad traffic, which you can clearly distinguish from other traffic in Google Analytics.

Compare this to other common small business advertising formats like television, radio or written publications. In these, your business pays based on the size of the advertising medium’s audience. It’s easy to see that PPC is better for small business in this regard. You only pay for what you get.

It’s simple and straightforward.

For a small business, PPC delivers traffic fast. The small business then converts this traffic to leads and/or immediate revenues. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a system of optimising visibility in the organic search results. Being on page 1 in searches that your customers use to find websites like yours is a highly prized achievement for any small business.

Why? Over 75% of search traffic goes to a first page result, which PPC ads and SEO’d websites share. Organic traffic accounts for approximately 40% of the overall revenue generated online.

If a website isn’t on page one, then it’s virtually invisible in search engines.

As part of this search positioning, SEO puts a strong focus on user experience (UX). Google considers UX when ranking websites. So you can’t SEO your website without it. Creating a fast, user-friendly and mobile-responsive site for a small business is a huge piece of SEO.

For small business, SEO delivers a better website experience to customers. And, over time, it increases visibility in the organic search results to drive traffic to your website that you then convert to generate revenues.

SEO v PPC: What’s Involved?

Let’s look at the basic elements of each of these investments as we continue to uncover whether SEO or PPC is better for a small business.

PPC Basics

PPC involves things like:

  • Keyword research – Find out what phrases your target customer uses to find businesses like yours. It’s incredibly important that the keyword phrases align with customer intent.
  • Creating ad copy – Create ads that earn clicks to your website.  The ads you create should also align with intent based on the keywords to perform well.
  • Making landing pages – You pay for the click even if a person leaves your website immediately. So you must make sure they land on a page that will reel them in and convert. In addition to what’s on this landing page, it must be fast, user-friendly and mobile-responsive. If it isn’t, those who click will leave.
  • Establishing bidding strategies – The cost you pay for a click is determined by an “auction system.” But it’s completely automated and happens in milliseconds millions of times a day. If multiple businesses are bidding on the same keywords, then the cost to win the auction goes up. The most popular words are often the highest intent words so more people are bidding on them. Through research and analytics, you’ll balance getting results with the cost of different keywords to maximise your ROI. 
  • Testing and optimising – Test everything… ad copy, images (for display ads), landing pages, calls to action, keyword strategies. Determine which combinations earn the highest click-through-rate (CTR) and the highest conversion rate.

This optimisation stage is critical because Google has something called a Quality Score. If your ads perform poorly, then Google will slowly increase the amount that you pay for each bid, making it harder and more costly to win the auctions.

A poor Quality Score can cost you as much as 400% more while having an exceptional Quality Score will send PPC costs plummeting over time.

SEO Basics

In addition to creating a user-friendly website, SEO involves things like:

  • Keyword research – Just like PPC, you’ll research what phrases your target customers use to find websites like yours. 
  • Competitor analysis – While PPC also requires competitor analysis, SEO analysis goes deeper. Utilise a combination of manual and automated tools to determine what the competition is doing. What’s working for them? What are their weaknesses? How you can leverage this knowledge to overtake them?
  • Creating content – Research topics and create helpful content for your target customers. Some of this content will be product/service pages. But also people to find you while they’re researching problems and solutions. Delivering helpful content around these will make you appear in many more searches.
  • Networking with others – No business gets very far on its own.  Google considers how “connected” your website is. They rank authoritative and trustworthy sites higher in search results because this creates a better experience for searchers. Generating high-quality links to your site is a top way to get more connected.
  • Localising your website – If you’re a local small business, you don’t have to compete with the whole country for visibility. Google gives preference to local businesses in their local area. You’ll leverage this to dominate local searches. 
  • Generating initial traffic – Search engine optimisation generates organic traffic over time, but for a website to rise in the ranks, Google needs to have enough website data to judge that site. This means driving initial traffic to the website through PPC, social media, email, influencer marketing or other means.
SEO v PPC Which is better for small business - Agile Marketing Australia

SEO v PPC: What’s the ROI?

PPC ROI is very easy to measure because you can clearly see clicks turning into sales. But three very important factors determine just how high that ROI can go.

  1. Conversion Rate – You need a fast and user-friendly website with landing pages that have a high conversion rate.
  2. Retention Rate – Paying per click for every website visitor indefinitely would be very costly for a small business, especially given the fact that you also pay for clicks that don’t convert.  And what happens if you’ve only invested in PPC and you stop advertising? The traffic flow stops. You need a broader strategy to retain customers and keep people who’ve clicked in the past coming back through other means (email, social media, search, etc.).
  3. Building Trust with Strangers – People don’t “buy now” if they don’t trust you. And, in the online world where you can’t look a person in the eyes, simply being a business isn’t enough to build trust. You build instant trust online with “social proof.” This comes in the form of online reviews, social media presence and high search engine visibility.

With SEO, your ROI is measured over a longer period and through multiple channels. Your SEO ROI can be measured in:

  • Traffic Generated – And keep in mind, SEO isn’t SEO if it doesn’t attract target customers. So most of this traffic should be potential buyers.
  • PPC Performance – PPC ads perform best when a site is fast, user-friendly and mobile-optimised. The same goes for social media posts. If people click a link, they spend more time on your site when it’s optimised.
  • Lower Advertising Costs – Over time, you’ll need PPC less. Your site becomes more visible in searches and your Quality Score goes up because your ads perform better, saving you more money on your campaigns.
  • Higher Customer Retention and Loyalty – Greater visibility means customers see you more often when they search. This strengthens their trust and loyalty. It keeps them coming back to the name they know. It costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. So this is important to the sustainability and growth of any small business.  

All of this contributes to increased revenues, lower overall marketing costs, and higher profits regardless of what other digital marketing methods you choose to use. In other words, SEO is about sustainability and building an infrastructure on which all marketing methods thrive.

SEO v PPC: Which Is Best for Small Business?

PPC generates traffic fast while it takes time to increase website traffic through SEO.

SEO needs a boost through initial traffic generation, which can be obtained through PPC. PPC needs SEO to increase its conversion rate and keep people coming back to the site.

The ROI on PPC is easy to measure and seen in a short time while SEO pays you back over a longer period and in many ways, including improving your PPC ROI.

The answer is clear. PPC and SEO can work independently. But they work much more effectively as a team. So if you’re considering which is better for small business, know that you’ll get the highest ROI on either when you leverage the power of both.


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