What's better: paid or organic search?
VP of global marketing and communications, MIVA
Founding member of Espotting
It would be shortsighted to suggest that in the PPC vs. SEO debate it should be one or the other; a sound online strategy should always comprise both. But, with that said, here's my take on why PPC is the more important of the two.
First and foremost, it's about adaptability. The Internet is the most fluid of all media channels — search behavior constantly evolves and, as it does, so too should the way you position your brand online. Keeping up with this pace of change through SEO alone can be almost impossible given the time it takes to rank on new terms. With PPC, you can immediately adjust keywords and ad creative.
Secondly, it's about control. With PPC, you optimize your landing pages and ad copy for conversions not for algorithms. Sure, quality-based ranking used by some of the engines have moved the goalposts, but the point still stands: With PPC, you have more control over your sales messages.
What's more, PPC offers far greater control when it comes to addressing seasonal peaks and troughs. If you need to increase sales or leads at a specific time of the year, simply ramp up your PPC campaigns.
Finally, there's the issue of testing. The flexibility of PPC enables you to test multiple keywords, creatives, offers and landing pages in a way that simply isn't practical with SEO. Proper analysis can then enable you to optimize your PPC campaigns and also feed back into your SEO making for a more measured, integrated online strategy.
President of SendTraffic
Five years of experience in search engine marketing
When considering pay-per-lead search engine marketing versus site optimization for organic search, you have to ask yourself a question: Where am I getting the best return?
For our clients, return on investment is key. And, everything has a cost per click. While everyone looks at the cost of PPC, people do not have the tendency to break it down for SEO.
Whatever you are spending to optimize your site must be divided by the results that you are getting from organic search. For example, if you are spending $4,000 a month to optimize your site and you get 4,000 clicks that month, that's a CPC of $1.
Traditionally, the average cost per click is lower, cost per sale is lower and average order size is higher with SEO. Of course, this differs for every vertical. So, in the long term for many, it is more cost effective to use SEO.
That being said, we look at the marketing spend split agnostically, by evaluating the performance.
Recently, I've seen a trend of companies becoming more strategic, so that if they are ranking well in SEO they will leverage that good performance and bid lower on specific PPC keywords.
PPC is a revolutionary tactic whereas SEO is more evolutionary. It takes time to see the results of optimization efforts on the landing page. If someone is looking to boost sales quickly in the fourth quarter, I would not recommend organic. However, if a retailer is not looking at each search tool and how it's working best for their business, something is wrong.
The argument between PPC and SEO is often labeled a close call and our experts seem to agree that the best marketing plan contains both. Jacoby's point that even natural search comes with a cost is well taken and the tactic is a stable grounding for any Web site. Philalithes' case for a more flexible PPC campaign is attractive, particularly for a marketer who is looking for immediate results.