SEO or PPC?
Whether you are new to the world of Internet Marketing or an abiding veteran, the choice between SEO and PPC is one that will be different for every site, company, and situation. Search Engine Optimization and Pay-Per-Click advertising are the two most widely used forms of Search Engine Marketing and most popular techniques to drive traffic to your website. The goal of both of these is to drive traffic to your website via search engines. But which one is best for you? Sometimes, the answer is actually both.
As a starting point, it is important to fully understand the concepts and purposes of SEO and PPC. Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting traffic from the “free” or “natural” listings on search engines, such as Google or Bing. SEO is like a marathon, where it takes a lot of time to see the results of your hard work. Your website is modified or improved to help it appear higher in the organic listings. These listings or ranking positions are determined by factors such as the popularity of your links and the relevancy of your content, but changes definitely won’t happen overnight. Pay-Per-Click advertising allows you to display ads in the sponsored results section of each search engine’s results page, and when that ad is clicked, you are charged a fee. If you want immediate clicks to your website, PPC is a much shorter race—like a short sprint—because you can immediately start appearing on the first page of results. Your rankings with PPC are determined by how much you bid on keywords, the quality score of your ads, and the landing pages that the ads point to.
The main factor in deciding between the two is the kind of budget you have to work with. To go in depth on which online marketing technique is appropriate for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each:
If you are first launching a website or even a brand new company, you want to get your new site/name out there as soon as possible. This is also beneficial if you have special promotions or events that need exposure and cannot be planned months in advance.
You are in Control—
With PPC ads, you have control over which page the “clicker” is sent to. By having control over the landing page, you are able to make sure that the visitor is seeing the most relevant information to what your ad was displaying. The ads that are displayed are written by you and you are able to test them to see which ad performs the best, which landing page is better for visitors, etc.
You have the ability to choose which keywords you want to bid higher on, how much you want to spend in a day, and even the ability to pause your campaign if you are running low on your budget. You are also able to set the placement of your ads and the location where you want your ad to be shown.
Limited Long Term Benefits—
Once the money stops, the ads stop. While you may gain some branded traffic down the road, that unbranded search traffic will completely disappear when the ads stop running.
PPC listings look like ads and are purposely placed where they are. Many people dislike ads, refuse to click on them or frankly just have no idea what they are and do not trust them.
Costs Add Up—
Even though you have the ability to control your PPC campaign budget, costs do begin to pile up and you may end up spending more money than you originally planned. Traffic to your site with PPC is completely dependent on the money you pour into it. If the keywords you are targeting are highly competitive, they may be expensive and can drain your budget quickly.
86% of search engine users reportthat they trust organic search results over paid search results. In fact, it’s been said that searchers simply get annoyed with the advertisements that come up during searches and do not even think about clicking on them.
Long Term Benefits—
Once all the SEO best practices are implemented – like creating quality, keyword-rich content and a strong linking profile – the results will outlast your efforts. The return on investment for SEO will continue to climb long after PPC has peaked.
Relevant, Targeted Traffic—
SEO allows for the use of long-tail keywords, which are three to five word phrases that refine a search term to be more targeted. For example, someone who is searching for “shoes” probably is just doing some casual window shopping, but someone who is searching for “red sneakers size 9” is someone who is further along in the buying process. With long-tail keywords comes more relevant traffic.
Forces Website Improvements—
A main difference between PPC and SEO is that with PPC, you pay for the visitors, but with SEO, you earn visitors by improving your site and following best practices. It may take a lot of work, but it’s a good thing in the long run because of the improvements to your site’s usability.
Ever-changing Google Algorithms—
A top complaint about SEO is that all of the work you put into your site to get your website on the first page results could be affected completely if Google releases new algorithm changes (which they do, at a rate of about 1.2 changes per day).
Required On-Going Maintenance—
Keyword research, content updates, link building and more are all factors of SEO that need to be regularly monitored and updated in order for your site to maintain rankings or to increase them.
Compared to the instantaneous results of PPC, the time lag with SEO can be a downfall. It can take anywhere from one to three months to see any increase in rankings or traffic. This also depends on how much optimization is needed for your site to even be ready to launch.
So should you start running that marathon or lace up the sneakers and begin the sprint? That question is up to you to decide. Both types of search engine marketing need to be considered, then from there you can determine whether SEO, PPC, or even both options are best fit for your needs, goals and budget.
What are your thoughts? Which did you choose, or do use both methods for your website? Feel free to post your preference, success stories, and more!
The Golden Rule of SEO
“Think like your customer.” If your company has even the faintest working knowledge of SEO and its best practices, then you have probably heard this statement a thousand times before — and justly so. The key to breaking through to quality rankings in Google SERPs involves thinking like the customers do when they conduct a basic Internet search.
But sometimes thinking like the customer can be a difficult task, especially for those deeply involved in the business. While you may think it’s possible to rid yourself of any recollection of your business, sometimes you might not even be sure what your customers know and don’t know about your products or services. This can make customer engagement a challenging task and make it a lot more difficult to improve your SEO efforts. There are a number of things businesses can do in terms of influencing customer engagement for SEO purposes, but crowdsourcing can be a fun and exciting way to tap into the minds of your target market.
A fairly new concept in the online marketing world, crowdsourcing is the term to describe the act of reaching out to members of the Internet community to contribute to a campaign or project. Crowdsourcing involves appealing to a wider community whose advice and opinions matter most, and it is usually up to the party in question as to whether or not the consumer input is rewarded. Campaigns can take the form of a themed post, a custom landing page, a discussion board or any type of unique, shareable content that fosters a sense of community within the brand.
If this concept is still not ringing a bell, “My Starbucks Idea” is a great example of how crowdsourcing consumer information has produced an interesting marketing campaign.
In 2008, My Starbucks Idea started out as a community website intended to collect suggestions and product feedback from customers, but evolved into something much bigger than that. Unlike most crowdsourcing campaigns that are centered towards improving the business’s products and services, Starbucks created a campaign that instead focuses on the entire customer experience. Ideas have stretched way past the development of better products and entered into the realm of establishing and maintaining Starbucks’ corporate social responsibility. Users are heavily involved in the voting process and have put many well-known ideas into action. That plastic reusable cup you drink your frappe from once originated as a My Starbucks Idea back in 2008.
The power of the crowd is already being utilized by many businesses and is serving as an initiative to replace current customer service models. Crowdsourcing taps right into the core line of support and information for a business’s model: its market. The information can be perceived as honest and invaluable in terms of consumer engagement on a more personal level. And what can be better than getting feedback from the decision makers in your industry?
Okay, So What About SEO?
A recent SEO case study conducted by a photo identification products vendor, ID Wholesaler, took a glimpse into the world of crowdsourcing by creating a unique campaign intended to increase customer engagement for the B2B retailer. Their efforts didn’t stop there; the campaign also aimed at improving various SEO tasks that the company had yet to target including increasing their inbound links and Google SERP rankings.
So what did they do? A lanyard design contest prompted a niche target market (graphic artists, fashion designers, etc.) to submit design entries to a custom landing page that served as the central hub of the campaign efforts. Much like My Starbucks Idea, visitors could submit, view and vote for their favorite entries until a winning design was selected. ID Wholesaler received over 80 entries, 7,000 votes, and nearly 1,000 Facebook “likes” following the campaign launch.
Lanyard Design Contest Custom Landing Page – Source SEO Moz
Although they chose to pay the winning designer, the campaign proved to be well worth the investment. Because the campaign required some initial outreach, the company was able to dig deeper into social networking, an area of online marketing that proved to be an ongoing challenge for the B2B retailer. The campaign spurred a large volume of blog articles written about the contest, as well as a spike in social mentions and inbound links. Crowdsourcing has the potential to turn your online “focus group” into a great source of links back to your site.
Crowdsourcing campaigns can also help your website show an increase in non-paid traffic and rankings, which can be traced through Google Analytics. For ID Solutions, their results were quite eye opening and provided them with fresh information regarding keyword opportunities they were not previously targeting. Keyword variations for the term “lanyard” saw a 90% increase in non-paid traffic and the company jumped to the number 2 position in Google for the search term “ID badge lanyards.”
Ranking History – Source: SEOmoz
If creating a fresh campaign from scratch is too intimidating for you, crowdsourcing can also be as simple as creating an ongoing forum that could be promoted through social networks. A couple intriguing questions is all it takes for decision makers within your industry to want to respond, which can prompt relationship building with industry authority figures, a wider scope of input, more links, more site content and increased brand exposure. If you’re a small restaurateur, decision makers could include a food reviewer or even your local food distributor. Whatever the case, igniting the conversation within key influencers can set you up with the perfect opportunity to understand how viewers interact with your brand, and with a little testing, can point out flaws in your site’s usability and conversion data (Source: http://www.submitawebsite.com/blog/2010/03/crowdsourcing-websites-and-seo.html).
But Before You Go Crowdsourcing Crazy…
As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to crowdsourcing. I think this article from Mashable does a nice job of explaining some key tips for your next campaign, but here are the main things to be cautious of when it comes to crowdsourcing:
Understand that crowdsourcing campaigns involve some type of initial or post-investment.
- People want to be rewarded for good ideas. Don’t damage your brand reputation by just soliciting people for what you want – reward those ideas which you want to make use of!
Set Campaign Rules and Have Them Handy.
- Be very clear about what you’re looking for from your visitors, the time period of the campaign and how/when you will select winners. And make sure to have these rules posted on your site to prevent any disasters from occurring.
Keep It Professional.
- Some call crowdsourcing “a solicitation for free ideas.” However, if you keep your campaign professional and rules clear, there is no reason why your brand cannot foster some interesting conversations to produce a change for a mutual benefit. Your consumers are telling you what they want… what could be easier than that?
Has your company had any experience with a crowdsourcing, or have you participated in one? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Obviously anyone who has ever run an AdWords or adCenter campaign knows when the click through rate (CTR) increases, they’re probably doing something right – whether it be ads tailored seamlessly or ideal keyword targeting. The CTR is significant because it tells you when an ad is compelling a user enough to take action and visit your website. What’s more, Google likes to reward advertisers for a high CTR by showing your ads more often at a lower cost. Google will display the “better performing” ad – whichever ad does and will continue to make them more money. So everyone wins. Google makes money, you garner a potential customer and your potential customer finds what he or she wants on your website. Simple enough, right?
So why wouldn’t you pay just as much attention to the CTR in organic search? Not only does it naturally send more traffic to your site (without having to pay Google I might add), but if AdWords is any indication – and it often is – CTR is obviously important to Google. Take a hint from Google itself … please.
Optimization or CTR?
Maybe I’m cynical, but I feel as though people still wrestle with the following questions: should I stuff keywords in the title and/or meta description so I rank well for that keyword? Or should I consider the ramifications of mediocre meta descriptions and titles? While any SEO, including myself, would allege you can’t have a positive CTR if you’re not ranking well … with millions of options to choose from, users won’t be fooled anymore. The game has changed … stop being in denial and start improving.
So back to the original question: “optimization or CTR?” I’d venture to say it’s impossible to separate the two. If your site is well-optimized, you will inevitably compel users to click through. If you are compelling to users, it is likely your site is well-optimized for the search engines as well. That is, after all, Google’s intention. The keyword in the description doesn’t affect how well you rank at this point, but it does inevitably draw the user’s eye to your result, even if subconsciously. Searchers are naturally drawn to things that stand out. Take advantage of this. That’s not just optimization, that’s improving CTR at its best.
How else can you stand out? By being different. Here’s your chance to revert back to traditional advertising: proclaim your unique selling point (USP). Don’t just be different, let users know you’re different. Finally, keep in mind people don’t expect to have to think too much about it – they actually like being told what to do. A strong call to action (CTA) is beneficial for all parties involved. Take advantage of your opportunity to tell users to “buy now!” or “call today!”. Keyword(s), USP and CTA – all the makings of an exceptional CTR – and well-optimized landing page.
What’s more, when you have a decent CTR, Google knows it. The consequence? It really isn’t a consequence at all – quite the opposite actually. A high CTR tells Google users are intrigued by your results listing and are wanting more – which is ultimately what they are looking to provide with search results – and provide they will (in other words, don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t using this CTR data as a strong ranking signal).
How (and Where) to Get CTR Data
One of my favorite features of the new Google Analytics is the functionality of syncing your Google Webmaster Tools account for impression and click through data.
While this information was already available in Google Webmaster Tools, now we can see it right in Google Analytics. Regretfully, neither tool provides you with the entire puzzle – while it’s essentially the same information, in some cases where Webmaster Tools data provides, Analytics lacks and vice versa. While Webmaster Tools gives you keyword compared to landing page data, Analytics does not. I’m hopeful it’s inevitable at one point or another. Then again, Analytics allows you to compare to the past while Webmaster Tools only lets you go back so far. Remember to look at both for any missing piece of the puzzle. And remember that when used together, the tools can serve as a great resource for understanding how well your pages’ titles and meta descriptions are performing in the SERPs for specific keywords over time.
So where exactly can you find this data I’m referring to? In Webmaster Tools, simply navigate to “Your site on the web” > “Search queries.” You can then choose a specific keyword and view associated data, including the CTR based on what position the keyword appears.
Likewise, you can navigate to the “Top pages” tab and see which keywords are associated with your top landing pages. You can also see the click through rate for each of the individual pages, which is more likely to give you better information on the meta description as a whole rather than for one specific keyword (this can likewise be found in Analytics).
Looking for it in Analytics? First make sure you’re in the new version. Then navigate to “Traffic Sources” > “Search Engine Optimization” > “Queries” (or “Landing Pages”). If you track by specific keywords or “queries” – you will need to know which page is ranking for the specific terms – or you could just use Webmaster Tools for this data (recommended). For recent, actionable data, you will most likely want to reference Webmaster Tools because, as previously mentioned, it amalgamates landing pages and keywords. Analytics is best used when you’re looking to compare a specific dataset to a previous time period (i.e. after you’ve made a change to your meta description).
Taking Advantage of Date Comparisons in Google Analytics
So we have all of this data, now what can we learn from it? More importantly, what can we do with it? Just as you would tweak and test headings and ad text in AdWords, learn to test your meta descriptions just the same. Did you have an ad that performed exceptionally well? Why not try it out as a meta description? It’s important to not just assume it will work the same in either medium – don’t forget to monitor closely – but it’s certainly worth a shot.
Make sure you track all of your changes and keep records of what you have tried. I recommend keeping a spreadsheet of titles and meta descriptions with date ranges of when you ran them and how CTR improved or declined. Don’t consider a decline a failure, it shows you what doesn’t work – and is an impetus to more closely mirror the ones that do work. The most important thing to remember is not to be satisfied with what you have and to not be paralyzed by the data provided. When you think you’ve done enough testing, keep going. If you continue to test and improve your results, the outcome will be worth it, every single time.
In addition to keeping a spreadsheet – of which you should try to never forget to update I might add – you could make use of the “Create New Annotation” function in Google Analytics (an oldie, but goodie) to be reminded of when exactly you changed a meta description or two right in the Analytics interface. You will then have a reminder of when you made a particular change that you can easily reference when looking at the chart comparison.
In looking at the comparisons you want to consider the large variety of factors likely to inflict a change in click through. Beyond the obvious meta description tweak, did you enable rich snippets on the pages (also recommended to improve CTR)? Did you move in regards to ranking positions? There are many different factors to consider – be sure to keep note of them all.
While optimizing your CTR can seem like a daunting task, Google is going out of their way to make it easy on webmasters. With a number of tools, all kinds of data and a few of the tips I mentioned above, it’s easier than ever to achieve the high click through rate you’ve always wanted. Remember to pay attention to what signals Google thinks are important and always keep testing!
Dear College Graduate/New Internet Marketer,
Congratulations! You worked your tail off, followed the tips for studying SEO in school and landed your dream job in SEO! You may be experiencing a lot of different emotions right now… excitement, relief, eagerness, nervousness, sadness in leaving your classmates, etc. Well, brace yourself! The days of waking up at 11am and going to the all-you-can-eat dining hall may be over, but trust me, your life is about to change for the better 😉
Have you ever seen the movie The Pursuit of Happyness? If you haven’t, here is a synopsis. It is a classic rags-to-riches movie where Christopher Gardner, played by Will Smith, overcomes unfathomable odds to become a stockbroker for Dean Witter. How did he do it you may be asking? Well, as Trevin stated in his previous letter, he “hustled.” Gardner developed a mindset where failure was not an option, and he strove to reach his goals – regardless of the price.
“You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”
I would like to challenge you to develop a similar mentality as you enter your career in Internet marketing. Initially, leaving the classroom where you were probably at the top of the totem pole (you wouldn’t have gotten the job if you weren’t!) and entering an environment where coworkers have more knowledge and experience can be a difficult pill to swallow. One of the greatest benefits of SEM is that if you develop the mindset mentioned before, the rate of change in the industry is so great that you can bridge the gap sooner than you think. But how??
First off, classes may be over but you HAVE to become a student once again. Before you start the job, invest $20 to $40 in a book that will provide you with a foundation of mostly basic knowledge, but some advanced information as well (SEO: An Hour a Day is a good place to start). Here is the kicker… you actually have to READ IT! In college, you may have been able to get away with skimming chapters and playing Angry Birds in class, but this is an entirely different ball game. Read it once, twice, even three times… take notes, create flashcards; do whatever you have to do to get that information engrained in your mind.
Secondly, take this knowledge and apply some of it to your personal website or blog! SEO and SEM are great to read about it, but I would argue that it won’t really click in your mind until you try it out. Take chances! If you break your personal site once and a while, it’s okay (hopefully you backed it up)! Test what you are learning to see the direct impact your efforts can have.
If you remember one tip from this letter, remember this next point: Some of the most impactful knowledge I learned in Internet marketing came when I was listening to others on the phone. Open a Word document and start a daily notes journal. Did your coworker use a phrase that you are not familiar with? Jot it down and look it up! Did they state a statistic that would be beneficial to learn? Memorize it! Did they have a direct and informational response to the client? Remember it to use later! My point is there is a wealth of knowledge that you have at your disposal aside from the normal training sessions. Take advantage of it!
Next up, find a concentrated area of Internet marketing that you are interested in and become the office expert in it! After work, go home and study Schema.org markup. Learn so much about it that you become the go-to person in the office for any and all questions on that subject. After accomplishing this, move to another topic. Make your foundation so strong that not even Google can bring you down.
Another beneficial tip is to call your friends and family. Wait… what?! Exactly. Call them to explain what your job actually entails, what you are learning and what results your hard work has helped to achieve. More than likely, your parents don’t know the specifics behind SEO. By practicing and explaining the work you do to your parents, you will be a lot better equipped to explain and answer questions your future clients have down the road.
Lastly, set 30 minutes to 1 hour aside every day, outside of work, to research and find the day’s latest Internet marketing articles. Ask colleagues what their favorite sources are, set up a Google Reader, visit Inbound.Org and comment/interact on different blogs to improve your SEM credibility on the web.
This letter could go on forever but I am going to stop it here. In summary, if you want to become one of the top Internet marketers in the industry, it will be difficult but it is not impossible. Become a student once again and go get it. Period.
Who would have thought America’s favorite sitcom, Seinfeld, was created on the basic premises of search engine marketing (SEM)? Okay so maybe it wasn’t; but let’s have some fun and see how the two stack up. By referencing Seinfeld, we can easily recall several facets of search engine marketing that help increase your site’s overall presence on the web. Let’s meet the cast shall we:
“Hi, my name is George; I’m unemployed, and I live with my parents.”
Arguably the funniest character on the show is George Costanza. He spends more time figuring out a way to avoid work than actually doing it! In almost every episode, two things are always discussed. One, George is cheap, and two, he’s bald. How can these two qualities help your efforts in ranking higher in the search engines? First, your site cannot be bald; rather, it should be filled with keyword-rich copy. Many professionals recommend writing strong relative content instead of maintaining a specific keyword density in an attempt to please Google. Be sure to always keep your site’s visitors in mind first while creating new copy.
Next up, Google recommends building high quality links to your site instead of going the “cheap” route and participating in link buying. One of Google’s recommendations is to “get involved in the community around your topic.” For example, if you own a bakery website, contribute to different blogs about baking desserts, delicious pie recipes, and so on. In doing so, you will positively increase your reputation and eventually drive people to your site. Keep in mind that results may take time, but it will be well worth it!
“Boy, these pretzels are makin’ me thirsty!”
Seinfeld wouldn’t have been the show it was without Jerry’s unemployed, eccentric, always entertaining neighbor. Whether it be accidently burning down the cabin, committing mail fraud, or urinating in the parking garage, trouble always seems to find “Cosmo” Kramer. By excusing his many, many faults, viewers have fallen in love with the man who entered almost every episode by sliding through Jerry’s door.
Having a great entrance is pivotal not only in the show, but also for your website! If you truly want to get the most out of your pay-per-click advertising campaign, a custom landing page is crucial. Not only will this help improve your quality score, but you could potentially increase your return on investment by grabbing the attention of your visitors during the most critical time, namely the few seconds it takes them to decide whether your webpage is the solution to their search query. Make sure the page has a clean design with a compelling, and very obvious, call to action above the fold visitors are sure not to miss.
What would you say is the most memorable Elaine Benes moment in the 9 seasons Seinfeld aired? Chances are that her dancing skills at the office Christmas party come to mind. The way she danced caught the eye of everyone in the office. So what is one way you can catch search engine and user attention for keywords in which you are trying to rank higher? Proper keyword use in the title tag! Let’s say your bakery is called “Betsy’s Baked Goods”. You have a page dedicated to discussing apple pie recipes (you are trying to rank for this term) and your current title is “Baked Goods and Pies”. One helpful tip is to move the keyword to the start of the title, as this will help click through rate and rankings. The new title tag could be something like “Apple Pie Recipes | Old Fashioned Pies – Betsy’s Baked Goods”
Once upon a time there lived a postal worker named Newman. Unlike the slogan, he didn’t deliver mail through “rain, sleet or even snow.” Jerry was unable to avoid Newman as he seemed to sneak up on him at the most inopportune times. Luckily, you do have control from search engines coming into different parts of your site in which they are unwelcome. On a site-wide level, simply “Disallow:” folders (directories) or pages in the robots.txt file. If configured properly, the robots.txt will restrict search engine robots from crawling the page. Keep in mind however, it does not keep the actual URL from being indexed if there are external links pointing towards it. My preferred method is to include specific instructions in the head section of the HTML document called the “Meta Robots Tag.” Some of the available commands include “NOINDEX” which prevents a particular page from being included in the index, and “NOFOLLOW” which will prevent a robot from trailing the links on a page.
“I don’t wanna be a cowboy!”
There are two absolute certainties in my day-to-day life. The first is that I will go to Starbucks and order a Venti Iced Coffee. The second is that when I turn on the television to watch Seinfeld, Jerry will have a new girlfriend. All of his girlfriends seem to be temporary, which leads me to my final point. If you are switching domain names or attempting to redirect a URL, be extremely cautious when employing a 302 redirect, indicating to search engines that the page is merely a temporary move. This redirect also passes 0% of the ranking power of a page. In most cases, you should use a 301 (permanent) redirect, as in this case, an estimated 95% of your link juice will be passed to the new page.
There you have it, one of the first ever comparisons of the Seinfeld characters to different aspects of SEM. This concludes the “The Blog About Nothing.”
Images by Sony Pictures
Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice.
Leona and I spend a lot of time doing some really high-level SEO stuff like server configurations, targeted linkbuilding and universal search optimization.
But its good to get back to the basics every once in awhile!
Believe it or not Google actually has a few resources scattered about their web properties that do a great job of explaining SEO, for beginners and advanced marketers alike.
Here they are: