“Search Engine Optimization” vs. “Pay Per Click” – Which Route Makes the Most Sense for Your Business or Your Client’s?

Previously we’ve talked about SEO copywriting and PPC ads and the opportunity each presents for both new and seasoned copywriters.

Today we’re going to give you an overview of the pros and cons of both, so you can decide which strategy makes the most sense for your business, as well as your client’s.

In case you missed the previous articles, we talked about the two options for making websites appear more often on a search engine’s results page…

One strategy is to run a pay-per-click (PPC) ad, where you pay for your ad and website to appear on a relevant search. [Note: If you’re unfamiliar with PPC ads, go to Google and do a search for the phrase “running shoes” (for example). Just under the blue bar, you’ll see two headings labeled “sponsored links.” And directly underneath them, you’ll find the PPC ads.]

Another strategy is search engine optimization (SEO), where you write web pages a certain way to prove to the search engines that the website is relevant, and therefore should deserve to be listed on the results page for free.

But now that you know the difference between these strategies, how can you determine which one makes the most sense for you or your client?

To help you weigh your options, I’ve broken down the pros and cons of both SEO copywriting and PPC ads.

SEO Copywriting

The Pros

  • People trust organic results more – Survey after survey has shown that people trust organic results more than they trust sponsored listings.
  • Organic results are more effective – According to a study by oneupweb.com, users are six times more likely to click on the first few organic results than they are to click on a paid link.
  • Viewers tend to view organic results as being more useful – Organic search engine results are seen as being non-biased and hence more useful to the searcher.
  • Organic results produce more sales – Jupiter Research found that six out of seven sales result from an organic search.
  • SEO results last a long time – Optimize your web pages for search engines, and (with a bit of maintenance) your ranking can last for a long time. PPC ads last only as long as you pay for them.
  • Cost remains stable and predictable – From the start, you know how much your SEO campaign costs. PPC ads are based on clicks, so they’re less predictable.
  • Less expensive in the long run – It will cost you (or your client) more up front, but later on the traffic is virtually free. With PPC ads, of course, every time someone clicks on your ad it costs money.
  • Higher return on investment (ROI) – A Jupiter Research study found that companies who run both SEO and PPC campaigns show a significantly higher ROI from organic results.

The Cons

  • Results are not immediate – It could take three months or more to see results.
  • The actual process can be time-consuming – In addition to results taking three months or more, the actual process of tweaking and optimizing a site can take time and patience.
  • Usually requires a contract – If you’re working within a smaller budget, you might not want to get locked into a contract.
  • Competition can be fierce – Each one of your competitors is gunning for the first 10 spots on the first search engine results page. So depending upon the popularity of the keyphrases you use, it can be very difficult to achieve the results you (or your client) are hoping for.
  • Results can change quickly – You could be ranked in the top 10 one day and slip down to number 15 the next, because the search engine finds what it considers to be more relevant results.

PPC ads

The Pros

  • The results are instantaneous – Once your ad starts to run, you could see an almost immediate increase in the number of visitors to your site.
  • Changes are instantaneous – You’re not locked into a particular keyphrase or ad. You can quickly make changes on the fly and see the new results in a matter of minutes.
  • Easy to fine tune – Because the results are so measurable, it’s easy to fine tune an ad to maximize its effectiveness.
  • SEO keyphrase research – A PPC ad campaign is a great way to determine which keyphrase will work best in your SEO campaign.
  • Less expensive in the short term – If you (or your client) have a small budget, PPC ads might make more sense.
  • Great for seasonal clients – PPC ads are ideal if your business is seasonal and you only run ads during certain months of the year.
  • Promoting landing pages – Often landing pages are used for short-term promotions, making PPC ads a great way to drive traffic to them.
  • The concept of PPC ads is easy to understand – Most people don’t understand how SEO works, but everyone can easily grasp the concepts of paying each time someone clicks on an ad.
  • No contract is required – If you change your mind, you can end your PPC campaign immediately.

The Cons

  • Ads that appear on the right side of the page are viewed less – Eyetrack III research found that “ads in the top and left portions of a homepage received the most eye fixations. Right side ads didn’t do as well.” Now, of course, not all PPC ads appear at the right-hand side of the page, but most do.
  • Users are less likely to click – According to a 2005 article by SEO pioneer Paul J. Bruemmer, only 30% of users click on paid listings.
  • Paid ads get less traffic – Marketing research studies have shown that sponsored listings get less traffic and lower click-through and conversion rates than organic listings.
  • Click fraud – There are three basic forms of click fraud: 1) Online robots, or “bots,” are programmed to click on advertisers’ links that are displayed on websites or listed in search results. 2) Low-cost workers from China, India and other countries are hired to click on text links and other ads. 3) A company has its employees click on their competition’s ads to deplete their marketing budgets and skew search results. Google and other PPC providers do their best to identify and not charge for fraudulent clicks, but no system is foolproof.
  • People don’t trust the paid search results as much – A 2003 eMarketer study found that only 14% of searchers trusted paid listings, and 29% went so far as to say they found them annoying.
  • The price per click is on the rise – Some keywords and phrases are expensive to buy. Top keyphrases can cost more than $3.00 per click. One survey found that 57% of respondents felt they were paying too much for their chosen keywords and keyphrases.

You can use this breakdown to determine which strategy is best for you or your client.

However, if you’re looking to build credibility, you may actually want to implement both strategies. Studies have shown that companies showing up both in the PPC ads and the organic searches have increased credibility among searchers.

Now that you understand how to drive traffic to a website using PPC and SEO strategies, you have just made a few more very lucrative copywriting opportunities available to you.

Later today we’ll look at how to effectively turn that traffic into leads, and ultimately into sales!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: July 22, 2008

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