SEO v. PPC
The primary way websites get traffic these days are through search engines like Google. There are two types of listings on search engines: natural (or "organic") listings (those that come up based solely on the relevance of your website to what the user searched for, and those that vendors pay to have placed on the page.
The process of trying to get your site to come up naturally is called search engine optimization, or SEO. The process of paying for placement on the site (usually on a 'per click' basis) is typically called pay per click.
There is more to it than this, but let's just start with a basic comparison:
Natural Search Engine Placement
Pay Per Click Placement
|These are the listings on the left side of the screen (on Google).||These are the little ads in blue boxes on the right side of Google's listings (they also include the top two links on the left side, also in blue boxes).|
|Can take 3-8 months to kick in and get listed with the search engines.||Can be set up almost instantly (though the proper research can take a few days to do to make the campaign effective.)|
|There are no guarantees that you'll ever get significant traffic. On the other hand, if you do, you can get a windfall! A top listing in Google is almost guaranteed success.||Because you pay for each person who comes to your website, you are guaranteed to get some traffic. How much requires doing some fuzzy math, but we can specify a maximum "price per click" that you're willing to pay for a visitor. If that price is $1, and you have a monthly budget of $100, then you can be sure that you'll at least get 100 visitors. (Though you will probably get more because PPC works a bit like an auction system in which the visitor goes to the highest bidder and you only bid as much as you need to in order to beat the next highest bid, regardless of your maximum bid amount.)|
|It's basically free! (By free, we mean there is no recurring service fee or cost per visitor. But it takes time/money to build a site that is properly search engine optimized. The big advantage here is that if you do get good rankings, you can get a ton of traffic without any additional cost. Whereas with PPC, more traffic means you have to spend more (or reduce your price per click, which nets less qualified visitors).||Your cost will be based on the number of visitors you want to buy. You can define maximum prices per visitor as well as daily limits to keep your budget in check.|
|Natural placement is a given--it's just a matter of how high up in the rankings that you get. But you WILL eventually get listed in the search engines. It's not like this is an option that you turn on or off. Just by being online, the search engines will find you.||This is a paid service that requires a monthly budget. You can turn it on or off at any time.|
|Requires ongoing maintenance (in particular, updating your content) to maintain your position.||Requires somewhat less maintenance, but you still need to keep an eye on your traffic patterns and results and tweak the campaign as necessary to get the most out of it.|
|Natural listings are very volatile. You can be on top today and tomorrow you can be 20 pages back. There is no way to control this for sure because the algorithms that Google uses to determine rankings are closely guarded secrets. And as they are a private, unregulated company, they have no legal obligation to list you in any particular order.||PPC is much less volatile because you can always adjust your settings to keep traffic coming to your site. Unlike natural positioning, you can buy your way to the top of the PPC list. The worst site in the world can get the top position if you're willing to pay for it.|
|People give more credence to the natural listings because they (usually) know that natural listings are just that: natural. In other words, they come up based on what Google feels is the most relevant sites based on the search terms.||People (usually) know that the ads on the right are paid placement and that like any other form of marketing, the people putting them there have a bias.|
|Taoti builds all of our sites with search engine optimization in mind. It's not something we charge extra for (that would be like a contractor charging you extra for a house that had level floors and plumb walls). That said, 80% of SEO comes down to your content. And if you are providing your own content, then what you write and how you write it can have a huge impact on your ability to get ranked well with the search engines. Taoti does offer advice, input, and consulting on how best to write content for our clients (with no additional charge.)||If you really want to, you can set up and manage your own PPC campaign. Just go to google.com (or the search engine of your choice) and set up an account. But realize that there is more to PPC than just turning on an account. The keywords you target, the ads you write, the amounts you bid, the limits you set--these are all very critical variables that if not done properly, will result in a lot of wasted money. Our clients usually prefer to have us setup and manage their PPC campaigns, in which case we do all of this work for them. We continue to monitor the results and tweak things on a monthly basis based on the results. We take between 1/4 and 1/3 of the monthly budget for our services, but our clients will tell you that even after our fees, they get more traffic and better traffic for the same monthly budget. We have a $300/mo minimum budget for us to manage your campaign (though $500/mo is a preferred budget to start with so the results are more tangible and meaningful. Budgets go from $300/mo to several thousand per month.)|
PPC vs. SEO Summary:
The best strategy is to pursue both of these forms of marketing at the same time so that your eggs aren't all in one basket. Again, the SEO efforts are included with all our builds anyway, so that part is covered. But we highly recommend at least a modest PPC campaign to drive some immediate traffic to your site upon launch--especially for new sites or sites that don't already have a healthy traffic pattern. You can read more about each of these methods of marketing here (note: these are rather long winded articles): SEO | PPC.
Important note: We get a lot of people who come to us asking how to increase traffic to their site when in fact what they should really be focusing on is increasing the conversion power of their site. All the traffic in the world doesn't help you if no one is engaging you from your site. Remember, there are two core objectives to most website projects: to get visitors to the site and to get those visitors to engage in one way or another. If you fail to do either one, it really doesn't matter how well you do the other one. Our consultants will chat with you about your site (if you already have one) to determine if you need more traffic or if you actually need more work converting users instead.
Of course, there is more to marketing than SEO and PPC. There are other things that can be done both online and offline to drive traffic to your site. Check out the related links above for more specifics. When you're ready to hear what we can do specifically to help market your business, drop us a line and we'll be happy to go over a few ideas with you and rough out a reasonable budget and appropriate expectations.