What’s Better: PPC or SEO?

    December 28, 2009
    Chris Crum

At SES Chicago, there was an interesting session in which a group of search marketing professionals debated the issue of which is better between PPC and SEO. Participants included Dave Naylor, Chirstine Churchill, Michael Gray, and Karen Weber, and Rand Fishkin.

Does PPC have more benefits than SEO? Comment here.

Churchill pointed to a study from Engine Ready on conversion rates by source of traffic (PPC vs organic). The study found:

– Conversion rates: PPC just barely beat SEO
– Average Order Value: Paid won
– Average time on site: Paid won

She gave the following as advantages of PPC:

Christine Churchill– Gives immediate online presence
– Have a new site? Have ads in an hour
– Start getting ROI sooner
– No ramp up time
– Great for seasonal items or time sensitive promotions
– Great for testing
– Easily test effectiveness of new marketing message or site design change
– Quickly gather feedback
– Regulate traffic volume
– Sales pipeline empty? Use PPC to push traffic
– Overloaded? Pause campaigns or cut back spend
– Have limited sales season? Saturate market while demand is high

"PPC is very agile. It’s also has targeting advantages," said Churchill.

For targeting, she says PPC provides opportunity for high visibility in multiple channels (search engines, content sites, mobile phones), expands results beyond search results, and gives you control over placement on SERPs and better control over landing page/message.

It’s often easier to sell PPC to management because the concept is similar to traditional advertising, and provides for direct accountability. It’s easy to track measures of success. It’s an effective way to drive qualified traffic to your site, and it allows you to expand your opportunities.

Karen Weber Weber says the top five reasons why "PPC rules," are: speed, flexibility, it’s unlimited, it’s goal-driven, and it’s controllable. You can quickly manipulate keywords to those that drive conversions, you can quickly change bid prices, and you can quickly get in and out of the market. You can turn your campaign on and off, and change ad copy, keywords, etc. You can target a much wider range of keywords, adhere to a budget, and have an immediate impact on sales.

Fishkin pointed out that PPC gets 10% of clicks, but 90% of spend. He said SEO is more challenging and less controllable, but the spend is there and the fact that people click organic results.

Gray said he believes that PPC could make SEO better, but Google is banning people now, so it makes things more challenging. Naylor said he believes SEO is more "open." Weber and Fishkin both said they would outsource PPC over SEO.

Michael Gray Gray said it’s important to get in the top during the early part of the research phase, especially since Google is personalizing results for everyone now. Churchill noted that Google’s personalization is a better argument for PPC. Like iEntry CEO Rich Ord recently noted, the addition of personalized results could "make people less reliant on organic search results for their traffic and in turn increase their use of Adwords."

Another point was brought up as we recently discussed – that the search engines are pushing organic listings down with mixed media (blended, universal) results.

Certainly there are many advantages to both PPC and SEO, and they can compliment one another. Actually, a recent study from a couple of NYU Stern professors found that organic search engine results can play a direct role in whether or not a paid listing is clicked.

Which do you think is more important – SEO or PPC? Share your thoughts here.

WebProNews reporter Abby Johnson contributed to this report.

Related Articles:

> Does an Organic Search Presence Help Paid Result Performance?

> Can You "Rank" in Google if Everyone Has Different Search Results?

> Optimizing for Mixed Media Search Results