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Today we’re going to be talk about SEO vs PPC and what you should do first.
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We could do a very structured pros, cons, and advantages post — but I’m sure there are thousands out there. Instead, what I’d like to talk about today is some of the misconceptions people take into both services. I’ll clarify each and share some of the misconceptions so you can make a better decision.
SEO vs PPC Misconceptions
One of the largest misconceptions that we see on a consistent basis is that “PPC gets you quick results and SEO takes a long time“. These are misconceptions because they’re almost true, but they give you the wrong foundational starting point or wrong perspective going into either.
Let’s unpack that a little.
When it comes to pay per click, it’s not that you can’t get results incredibly fast, it’s that 95%, 99%, 100% of people don’t because what you need to determine is keyword and your brand fit.
For example, at Directive Consulting, when we first launched a PPC campaign for ourselves, we don’t know which keywords are going to convert the best. Depending on the volume of those keywords, we can’t turn those keywords off until we have statistically significant data. This means we need a certain amount of clicks — which depending on your budget, might take 3, 4, 5, 6 months to gather enough data to properly make a decision on whether certain keywords are profitable or not. Then, if you layer in your sales cycle or how long it takes someone from a form fill to closing a deal — this idea that PPC will work lightning fast is just incorrect.
For example, we know that if someone searches “agency,” that’s a better keyword modifier than “services.” We know that the person, individual, or company who is looking for an agency has a higher propensity to pay for our services than someone searching with the query “services“. “Services” queries are usually someone looking for a freelancer, such as Upwork, Fiverr, or something cheaper. They need a service, and they need it done cheap.
Someone looking for an agency is looking for a partner, understands that it might cost more, and usually has a larger budget. But you don’t know that when you go into this PPC experiment or this PPC campaign.
It’s really important that you go into it with your eyes wide open and recognize that PPC will get you clicks very fast. You can turn a PPC campaign on and get clicks lightning fast — but to think that those clicks are going to turn into opportunities, deals, and revenue in a way that makes sense on your financial statement, that takes time. I want to be clear there because it’s important that you go into PPC with the understanding that it takes time to make it an incredible, profitable channel for your business and that’s okay.
SEO, on the other hand, also takes time. The misconception going into SEO, is “this going to take a long time, it’s all about keywords and X, Y, or Z“. The reality of SEO is it can happen very quickly. It just depends on where you’re starting from.
If you’re a brand new website in a brand new business, it might even take 2 to 4 years. Not 6 months, not 3 months, not whoever is telling you how long it will take. Because you don’t have to beat Google. That’s this misconception is everybody thinks they have to be Google. You have to be all the other brands.
You have to have more people talking about your brand than everyone else who’s trying to rank for the same keywords you’re targeting. The reality is is that takes time. You need:
- people talking about you in the news
- your industry talking about you
- partners talking about you
You need all these people talking about you. When I say “talking about you,” I mean linking to you. In other words, you need to build your brand. It’s very difficult to rank without a brand. Furthermore, you need exceptional design. You need great content. You need all these things.
If you’re a publicly-traded company, a large, midmarket player, or you’re even an established small business — and you’ve already established a brand, have people talking about you, and have good content — then hiring the right SEO agency to come in and make the right recommendations and make the right changes can get results oftentimes even faster than PPC in the sense that they can take you from 5th to 3rd or from 3rd to 1. The massive amount of clickthrough rates you get from going to the 3rd position to the 1st can do exponentially more from a cost per opportunity standpoint than PPC could in the first 3 months.
It took us 4 years to rank number 1 for SEO agency. But was it worth it? Yes.
Every time we rank, every one of those clicks that turns into an opportunity is all hitting against the initial sunk cost that we invested in the SEO. That sunk cost is our time. It’s paying writers, it’s earning links, it’s doing outreach. All of those things are still costs. It’s not like SEO is free while paid costs money. The difference is paid search, you’re paying an agency fee or just Google, directly. SEO, you’re still paying an agency fee, paying writers, designers, and developers. There are still all these other costs associated with it.
SEO with PPC > SEO vs PPC
When you put those two together, now, that’s when you get something powerful. It shouldn’t be SEO versus PPC. It should be SEO with PPC.
If you can take your paid search, go into your search terms report, and find all the keywords that are generating the most opportunity, deals and revenue for your business, or turning into the most conversions, then you can take that exact data from the search term report, give that to your SEO team, and say, “We notice that people searching X convert far more than people searching Y, let’s change our title tags under each one.”
I would say if you’re trying to decide what to do first, here’s a great way to look at it.
This is What You Should Do First
First, you’re going to want to evaluate your overall budget. Do you have money to pay Google and an agency?
Remember, if you’re only paying Google $3000 to $5000 a month and then you want to pay an agency 15% to 10% to 30% of your ad spend, you’re getting $1000, $15000 a month, and then that agency probably wants to bill at what, $250 an hour, so you’re getting 4 hours a month of someone’s time, you’re probably not going to get the results, right?
There’s nothing worse, in my opinion than underpaying an agency because now you don’t know if AdWords doesn’t work or if you just hired the wrong vendor. That is not a position of power.
Does my budget fit better for SEO or PPC?
In my opinion, if you’re in-house, you want to hire the best agency you can. Even if you have a small budget, I would still pay an agency $3000 and have a $3000 Google budget instead of trying to pay Google $5000 and then the agency $1000. You first need to learn which terms are driving revenue profitably and an agency giving you 4 to 10 hours a month can’t do that.
If you’re just wanting to do SEO, let’s say you only have that $6000, you can get a lot of bang for your buck from an SEO firm at a $6000-price point. I wouldn’t drop below $3500 to $3000 when paying an SEO firm, because it’s going to be difficult for you to get the time and attention from people with actual expertise to do that.
If not, you’ve got a junior-level person spending 10 hours a month on your account, giving you boilerplate recommendations from a systematized process that’s not unique to your business. At the end of the day, you truly do get what you pay for. You need to ask yourself: “Does my budget fit better for SEO or PPC? For a $5000 budget or a $6000 budget, you’re going to get more from SEO than you will for PPC.”
Look at Your Internal Resources
We talked a little bit about the importance of budget when making a decision. The next is looking at your own internal resources for your team. You have to ask yourself, “Is my team where I’m currently at?” — The timeline is based on your team and what you can execute internally.
In other words, if you’ve got:
- great writers
- great brand
- authoritative website
- poor on-page targeting
- never really worked with a great SEO firm
Then, you could probably get results even faster from SEO than starting PPC for the first time.
If you got strong PPC results, but you’ve never done custom landing pages, you got great historical data, but you don’t have a writer, no developer and your link profile’s pretty poor, then the timeline for PPC is going to be a lot faster.
You see, it’s not that SEO takes longer than PPC or PPC takes longer than SEO, it’s that each is relevant to your own business, your own team and where you’re at. Really assess it and think, “Are we great on our content, our development, and our brand, or do we have a lot of historical data already, but we don’t like our performance?” Now, you can adjust your timeline for each.
How Involved Do You Want To Be?
Lastly, you have to ask yourself how involved do you want to be. If you’re working with us on SEO, there’s going to be more things we need from you than if you’re working with Directive Consulting on PPC.
For example here, when we do PPC, we have complete control of your landing pages using third-party software. We have complete control of AdWords and we have complete control of the budget. In other words, we just need your team to approve things.
When it comes to SEO, maybe you’re a large organization. We don’t have access to your CMS. Maybe you have your own content team and you want them to write everything. Maybe you need your developers to make all the changes, but they’re kind of busy working on the product.
You see, there’s different bottlenecks there, so you have to ask yourself: “Are we going to have more bottlenecks on paid than we are on organic?”
Once again, it all matters. It shouldn’t be SEO versus PPC, it should be SEO with PPC and “where should we start” or “do we want to do both?” That’s the decision you need to make based on your budget, your team, and your bottlenecks.
Hopefully this video kind of walks you through the realities of each, and helps you make a better decision based on your own situation. As always, please like, share, or subscribe to our channel and have a great day!