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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Organic Search vs. Pay-Per-Click for Small Business

    Posted by Jeff Evans

    Guest Post: Which Traffic-Driving Method is Best for Your Company?

    Driving traffic to your website is one of the most important things for your business right? Whether you do it using SEO/organic search, or PPC isn't an easy one to answer, and of course "it depends" on a number of things.

    Basically it is a personal decision, but never the less, I am going to try to give you some guidance on the subject.

    So let's look at the pros and cons and what you might want to consider.

    Money Of Course!

    For most small businesses money is the biggest factor when considering how to get more traffic to your website and increase visitors, potential leads and get more customers.

    This is an obvious reason to go with SEO, because SEO is about generating free traffic after all. There are some things to consider about SEO, however.

    Unless you plan to do the SEO yourself (more on that in a minute) SEO does have a cost.

    Now it may be that the cost is less than the cost of PPC, but do consider the requirements of having a good SEO system in place.

    The real question of course is how much you will have to invest in either option before you make a profit. After all, if you can make your ROI positive, the price of any marketing option will stop being an issue.

    The Cost Of SEO

    Generally, SEO is a longer term game. It costs more up front in terms of time than money, but the pay-off can be bigger.

    You will have to start investing in your SEO program at least a few months before you start to see a real return. It takes time to build up a good SEO presence.

    But having said that, SEO is generally accepted to produce a better ROI in the long run compared to PPC. In some cases the ROI can be much higher.

    The question you should ask is not "how much you will have to spend per month", but "how much you will have to spend before you see a return?" This includes man hours, SEO research and including keywords in your blogging efforts, social media distribution and carefully placed wording in emails, CTA's and offers.

    This isn't an easy question to answer of course, but if you think about it you can get a feel for how profitable/affordable SEO could be for you.

    The Cost Of PPC

    It's hard to say what the costs of PPC will be. The true cost comes in how much you pay per customer (per sale).

    There is also a risk cost to consider as well. Until you actually begin a PPC campaign, you have no idea what the conversion rate will be.

    You can get an estimate of the cost per click for your niche using the Google keyword planner.

    From there you can work out how much you are going to have to spend to buy a certain number of clicks. The number of visitors you need will depend on what you are selling.

    For most websites 1000 clicks should be enough to figure out APPROXIMATELY what your conversion rate might be. With that number, you can see if your PPC campaign will be profitable.

    Doing Your Own SEO

    I won't belabour this point too much because I might be biased.

    Yes, it is possible to do your own SEO. If your budget is limited and you are just getting started, then this could be the most viable option.

    But more people fail at SEO than succeed, so the real question is whether you can afford the time to dedicate to it.

    Success with SEO also depends on how competitive your market place is too. If you want to compete for traffic nationally it's a lot harder than just competing locally.

    Google is making local SEO much easier.

    Doing your own SEO also depends on the time you have and your technical abilities.

    PPC Gives Instant Traffic

    A big upside to PPC is that as soon as you put money in you get traffic out. This means that you can get the ball rolling right away.

    The downside is that you might not make enough profit to cover your costs. If you can get your PPC campaign running efficiently enough to make a profit, you can, in principal, increase your budget.

    With a little experience, you can start relying on a little safety in the knowledge that you are making more than you are spending.

    PPC Is Hard To Do Right

    The next question is whether you can make a success of PPC. The downside to the "it's fast and easy" angle is that it is competitive. How competitive depends on your niche.

    Before beginning a PPC campaign, it is a good idea to assess the competition first.

    If your product is fairly specialized or unique then you might find PPC is reasonably easy.

    If you are retailing more common items (particularly with slim margins) you might have your work cut out for you.

    Here's a simple calculator to work out your cost per customer - Most PPC campaigns start out making a loss and it is only through careful refinement that they make a profit. In many ways, the real cost of PPC is the total loss you will incur before you make it break even.

    SEO Produces Legacy Traffic

    Another downside to PPC is that when you stop spending the traffic dries up. With SEO; once you are established it can be possible to stay at the top with much less effort than it took to get there.

    In other words, SEO generates traffic for some time after you stop doing it (or after you lower your efforts and time).

    So What Will It Be?

    I hope these points have been helpful for you.

    Clearly the answer depends on your business and the answers to some tricky questions:

    • If you use PPC - how long will it take to become profitable? (Run a test, and if it is, keep doing it!)
    • If not, how long will it take to make it profitable and how much will it cost?
    • Will SEO be any cheaper, assuming a reasonable time to see a return?

    Compare the estimated costs as best you can and make the decision that suits you and your business. Good luck!

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    Guest Blogger: Adam Green

    My name is Adam Green. I am a digital marketing expert. I specialise in technical SEO and traffic building. I work for a London Agency called Digivate (learn about us here) and I love online marketing. The best thing about my job is working with small businesses and helping them to grow.

     

    Photo: Flickr - Matt Trostle

    Topics: SEO