Is SEO The New PPC?

By David Levy, Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships

This is a question that I’ve been asking myself lately.

With economic conditions the way they are, marketers are increasingly looking for more bang for their buck. I’ve been screaming this for quite some time, but SEO might just be the best bet on long-term revenue growth (vs. cost) for your site.

Of course, marketers love the quick results that PPC offers. Who can blame them? Combine that with the fact that you’ve got so much control over every aspect of your program, and you’ve got the most successful advertising medium of all time.

But, if marketers can afford to take a longer-term view of their site and their marketing dollars, then SEO can prove itself to be quite the ROI driver. Remember, with paid search you’ve got three cost pieces – media, management/resources, and often times technology. With SEO, the only cost is for resources put against your project.

Of course, it’s the media dollars that provide the immediate results, but over time, it’s hard to argue with traffic that doesn’t require a direct cost for each click.

A well-planned SEO program puts your site in position to enjoy “free” traffic for months or even years beyond the up-front heavy lifting of on-page site optimization and technical structure. Of course, you always need to stay on top of emerging trends and keep up with ongoing site maintenance, but this is generally a fraction of PPC media cost. Layer in the fact that eye tracking studies have shown a Click-Through-Rate (CTR) north of 50% (compared to a CTR associated with a solid PPC campaign of 2%) for top natural search placement, and all of a sudden the “free” traffic looks even better.

This is not to say that PPC has no place in the marketing mix. It absolutely does. You can bid on millions of long tail keywords with your PPC program, and SEO generally only allows you to rank for a fraction of that number. And, of course, then there’s the brand term issue and the fact that study after study shows the benefits of having placement in both listings. But, I’ll have to save these for another time.

Bottom line is the two must certainly be leveraged in unison.

But, before you make the assumption that PPC should be the default answer to your incremental revenue woes, consider your time horizon, necessary ROI and budget. The right solution might just be to place a larger focus on the “free” traffic…after all, who doesn’t like free?


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