SEO and PPC – Where to Focus Your Efforts
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
If you have a website then you may have been advised to spend money on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) (or both). Whilst this can seem like an obvious ‘no brainer’, the truth is that these tasks aren’t always the best things to invest in. Before you make any decisions on where to spend your marketing budget, make sure you’ve carefully considered all the factors.
I’ve seen it dozens of times: a company gets a new website and then they’re told immediately that they must invest in SEO. Or they’re told that if they want to get more sales, they should look at PPC Advertising. But how much exploration of the company was done before these statements were made, I wonder? There is no such thing as one size fits all in marketing, and the only good advice is advice based on the objective understanding of your individual business.
If you want success in marketing then you need to spend in the places where you’ll get the biggest return. That’s it. It’s not any more complicated. It’s not the case that all businesses must spend on SEO and PPC, it’s about how and whether it will work for you.
What is SEO and PPC?
Let’s start at the beginning. If you’re not familiar with these terms then here’s a mini definition:
SEO - this is how you naturally work up the listings in search engines. It’s about building your website in the right way, and then you slowly become higher up the list when people are searching for the keywords that relate to you. So if you sell shoes and someone searches for shoes, you might appear on page 5 of a search engine in month one, and then, after considered SEO work, you’ll slowly move up to page 1, and be top of the listings. As you don’t pay for where you appear, we call it organic search.
PPC – this is where you pay to feature in searches for certain keywords, making your adverts more prominent so people will be more likely to click on them. You bid for where you appear in the rankings in an auction, and you only pay when someone clicks on your advert, be it a digital ad or a sponsored link on a Google search. The more you bid, the better your position is likely to be, which will, in turn, give you a better chance of people visiting your website.
Be it free or paid, the principle is the same. It’s about beating other businesses and getting to the top of searches, so that when people are looking for the item you sell, you appear first.
That Sounds Great!
You might now be thinking why wouldn’t you spend money on that? What business wouldn’t want to be at the top of search engine results? But it’s not about whether you want it or not, it’s about whether it’s worth spending the money on it. The simple question that you have to answer – and you must fundamentally understand – is how do your customers find you?
Search engines are amazing and they have changed the world as we know it. But we don’t actually rely on them for every little thing in our lives. When you choose which toothpaste to use, or washing powder or shampoo, do you Google it first? Or do you instead use what you’ve always used? You might try that new product you’ve read about in a magazine or you saw on the telly. Perhaps it was on special offer in the supermarket, or your friends were raving about it. There are dozens of reasons as to why we buy things, so understanding how your customers find you is vital if you want to assess how important being number one for the keyword “toothpaste” or “shampoo” is. If it’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever just randomly search shampoo, see what’s top of the list and buy that, then you need to seriously consider how much effort is required to compete for the keyword shampoo. You could spend all that money working on boosting yourself up the rankings, only for it to have very little impact on sales.
There are plenty of products that people do search for. If you sell technology or entertainment, for example, people may research that. Perhaps hospitality, or products that are complex, difficult to use or rare would probably require a more considered digital approach. But never just assume that’s the case. Make sure you find out for sure.
For many small businesses, relationships are the key to sales conversions. For all the suppliers you have, did you Google them to find them, or did you ask other people for recommendations? Or perhaps you’ve supported those in your networking group by using their services? Whether it’s a marketing agency, accountant, solicitor, printer, stationery supplier or virtual assistant, would you explore the first ten companies that appeared in a Google search or would you approach someone you know and trust?
That’s not to say that nobody would Google “accountant” and find a company that way. We are all totally different as people. The point is that you research the general trends of your customers and you focus your efforts there. If 80% of your potential customers are likely to go with people they know and trust, then don’t spend masses of marketing budget on SEO. Spend it on the areas that will help you build relationships. At least at first.
If you’ve done your analysis and you’ve found that a large proportion of your potential clients are likely to search for your products or services online, then you can be confident that SEO and/or PPC is right for you. But you still need to spend wisely.
PPC will give you more immediate results. If you need that, then it’s probably worth looking into Google Ads or the equivalent. However, it might be wise to run PPC for just a limited time, while you work on SEO in the background and you gain some data on how people are finding you. If you manage your SEO well enough and people start finding you more through organic searches, then it might be time to pull back on your PPC. Google Analytics will help you track this.
When it comes to PPC, also think about what products you push. If you have a major product or service that few people are interested in but you get the most of your revenue from, is that better to promote than the smaller service that is more popular but you make just pennies from? What will your return on investment be for each campaign and how will that work as part of your larger marketing plan? Can you lure in clients with one service but then upsell to them at a later date? There is so much to consider.
I'm not suggesting for one minute that SEO doesn't matter. For every business, it's never a bad thing to be found easily. But if you only have a limited budget, it's important to spend it on the areas that will have the greatest impact. I see far too many businesses waste time, money and effort on tasks that just aren't going to give them the results they require, and it breaks my heart. It really does. No matter who you are, take some time to know your audience and know your business, and then optimise the channels where your customers are. That will give you your best chance of marketing success.
If you want to find out more about SEO, please see my blog Basic Tips for SEO.