Is SEO Still Worth the Time, Effort and Money for Small Businesses?

Why most small businesses choose to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as opposed to paid advertising is because of the long term benefits associated with it.

However, when small businesses need to cut down the amount they are spending for PPC advertising, marketing is often the first area to see cuts.

SEO is the act of optimizing a website to be more search engine friendly. It involves a wide range of areas, from keyword optimization to link building, and takes quite some time to implement successfully. Google uses complex algorithms to rank websites, so SEO guidelines can – and do – change on a regular basis. This means that a website’s search engine ranking can vary when an algorithm update is released. However, those who optimize using white hat SEO techniques will see their site climb through the ranks without having to pay Google for the privilege.

PPC is the process of buying advertisements and sponsored links that will be visible in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). PPC varies depending on where the ads are purchased, but when you purchase PPC ads on a search engine like Google, you are able to bid on the keywords that appear in the Google search results. The higher the price you bid for a keyword, the more chance you have of it appearing on the first page. PPC enables businesses to get their message out to a large sector of the population in a very short space of time. However, it can get quite expensive to run on a long term basis.

Using SEO or PPC is not a guarantee for higher rankings but done properly it is certainly going to help.

SEO and PPC will vary on having immediate results depending on the amount of time and money you spend. They both can be effective for you depending on your current circumstances, your budget, and the type of business that you run.

Money talks

Speed is the key when you run a PPC campaign because you can advertise on the search engines under multiple keywords.

When running a PPC campaign, you can appear on the first page of the SERPs for a multitude of relevant keywords within minutes. However, each of these keywords will vary in price. Therefore, you may find that you are spending a few pennies per click on one campaign, and a few dollars per click on another. In terms of budget, this approach isn’t for the lighthearted.

When you compare this to organic SEO, you’ll see that there is a big difference. Although an organic SEO campaign will take longer to see results, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEMPO, estimates that 11% of advertising dollars are spent on organic search, versus 87% spent on PPC. That’s $1 billion spent on SEO as opposed to $10 billion spent on PPC. Considering how much more effective organic search can be, and how much cheaper it is to employ in a marketing campaign, it is almost always the better long term

Organic SEO for long term

Research has shown that organic results are 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than PPC results.

This is likely due to search engine users gradually learning the difference between organic and paid results, and recognizing that organic results are usually more useful to them. The location of the ads may also play a role in why organic results are more likely to be clicked. (Researchers have proven that people hardly notice ads to the right of a screen, and so are more likely to click on those at the top of the organic results.)

If we look at conversion rates though, PPC does seem to perform slightly better. Paid search results are 1.5x more likely to convert clickthroughs than organic search. However, this is probably because the landing page and the text has been heavily optimized by the advertiser.

When looking at both sets of figures though, it is clear that organic search results still account for the larger percentage of clicks. So, if you were purely trying to decide between organic and PPC, the logical choice would be organic.

It is best to mix PPC and SEO techniques because SEO can take some times for the results to appear on search engines.

When is PPC better?

If you just started a new company PPC can help build you brand image and awareness. PPC allows you to run your campaign on any given day. For example if you are running a restaurant and have a daily special on a certain day you can run your ad on just that day. You can also adjust and the amount of money you want to spend on that campaign.

PPC is also better for companies that sell products as opposed to services. If you are running a web design company or a content management agency, for example, an SEO campaign will be the better long term option. However, if you are a company selling satellite TV bundles, or new gadgets, a PPC strategy will make more sense.

Conclusion, Is SEO Worth It?

Although it takes longer to run an effective SEO campaign, organic search is still worth the time and effort. It’s a lot cheaper to invest in, it attracts more click-throughs than PPC, and organic search results are more trusted than PPC adverts. You won’t receive a top ranking overnight, but in the long term, your business will see many benefits.

Keep in mind that most businesses will benefit from combining PPC advertising with organic search. Each has their benefits, and both will help you to enjoy a larger web presence.