Here’s a nice little article our founder, Scott (who has literally been doing this “search engine” stuff since last century before Google even existed), wrote a while back. It’s just as applicable today as it was then because it’s about the very basics of SEO and PPC.
“SEO v. PPC: How do you decide which?” – by Scott Smigler
There are two main ways to derive traffic from the search engines pay per click marketing (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO).
Pay Per Click marketing allows you to bring targeted clicks to your website for a per-click fee.
You are only charged if a user searches for a keyword you are bidding on and clicks on your website. You can even limit your pay per click ads to people of a certain geographic location. Normally search engines will classify PPC listings that appear on their search pages as “sponsored listings,” which either appear at the very top of search result pages, or down the right side of the page (see examples). The time it takes to be posted as a sponsored result is very short. While pay per click marketing gets you to the top of the search engines very quickly at a per-click fee, proper search engine optimization allows you to achieve high listings as well, however there is no per click cost.
Search engine optimization involves the improvement of your website in order to make it more search engine friendly.
The search engines “spider” the content on your website and save the results in a database. Depending on the relevancy of your site to the search being performed by a user, they display your listing among many others for the user to choose from. Achieving high placement in these rankings is very important, and can bring a lot of targeted traffic to your website over the long-term. Search engine optimization results, however, are not immediate. It can take months to see the results of your work, and years to achieve the most desirable rankings based on certain factors. The good news is that once you have gained high placement the number of leads you generate should far outweigh the cost (assuming you are able to maintain your placement).
There are pros and cons to pay per click marketing (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO). LaserClick normally suggests pursuing both marketing venues aggressively; however it is important to understand the implications of each opportunity.
First let’s look at the advantages of PPC and the disadvantages of SEO.
Pay-Per-Click marketing is highly effective when managed properly because the search term positioning, per click fee and ad copy can be controlled in real-time. LaserClick uses ROI software to measure every keyword in the PPC campaign in order to ensure that all aspects of the campaign are profitable. When problems are identified, solutions can be implemented quickly. Moreover, when positive trends emerge, the PPC campaign can be quickly adjusted to take advantage of advantageous circumstances.
Search engine optimization does not allow for such benefits because it takes months to make changes to your SEO listings, which reduces the benefit of day-to-day ROI monitoring. SEO requires a larger upfront cost, and the final results cannot be guaranteed. PPC requires minimal upfront cost, and results can be managed and measured on a day-to-day basis.
Search engine optimization does have a significant upside as well. The most obvious upside to SEO is that you do not pay a per-click fee. You can receive large amounts of targeted visitors without paying a higher incremental cost. While SEO may require a larger financial and time commitment in the beginning, if your site is optimized properly, your rankings will improve over time as costs go down. Your rankings will be more consistent.
In PPC marketing, the more traffic you receive the more costs you have. Once you stop your pay per click campaign your listings will be taken off the search engines and there is very little residual benefit. ROI is measured in a very finite time period, where as SEO allows for positive returns for many years if the initiatives are continually managed.
PPC and SEO may appear to be very similar and in some ways competitive marketing opportunities, but in reality they are not.
PPC marketing can be very low risk because you are always in control of every dollar you spend, and you only pay for results. The results can be very big; however they will only be seen while you continue to invest in your per-click fees. SEO can carry more risk because it requires significant time and effort before results can be observed, however once results are achieved they should be sustainable, and produce a long-term return. PPC marketing efforts get you in places that SEO cannot get you, and vice versa. They both should be viewed as separate but complementary opportunities that need to produce positive ROI in order to be continued. After all, the more high quality (profitable) leads you can generate from your website, the better.