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March 28, 2014

Content Strategy 2014: SEO or PPC? Or Both?

As online marketing becomes an increasingly competitive field and businesses continue to keep close tabs on their marketing budgets, a growing number of firms are in a quandary about whether to choose SEO (search engine optimization) or PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. In 2013, there was much buzz about the “death of SEO,” resulting in a trend toward PPC and a slowdown on SEO spending.

While rumors of SEO’s death may have been premature, there is little doubt that Google’s algorithm changes prompted many marketers to alter their SEO strategies. Instead of the emphasis on keyword-heavy copy, the focus changed to relevant content. This was a positive development in many ways because there was a renewed — or in some cases a brand new — emphasis on quality of content.

SEO is not really dead…
Even with the acceptance of the “new rules,” many businesses are still considering moving completely away from SEO in 2014. But some experts advise this would be folly: why not use a tool if it is still viable, albeit in a modified, harder-to-cheat form? Google made the changes to foil those who were trying to “game” the system. Although the rules for SEO have changed, businesses should not underestimate the value of keywords and backlinks, which can still enhance search results. As long as a business is honest and is offering quality content and good information, SEO remains a viable option.

…But PPC is hotter than ever
SEO’s viability doesn’t rule out PPC, which seems to be more popular than ever with online marketers. According to The 2013 State of Paid Search report, 72 percent of businesses surveyed said they plan to spend more on PPC in 2014. This is up two percent from 2013 — not a huge amount, but indicative of a steady upward trend. The lion’s share of the planned spending for paid search is with Google AdWords, but Bing Ads and Facebook are also contenders.

Here are some points to consider when deciding to choose between SEO and PPC.

Advantages and disadvantages of SEO and PPC

SEO advantages:

It doesn’t need to be expensive. There are quality people working in the field, and you can actually do some of the SEO management yourself. Google has a helpful guide.

It compels website owners to focus on quality content. Some may grumble, but we maintain that raising the bar is a good thing, as most people search the Web for quality information and content.

SEO disadvantages: 

Analytics are becoming increasingly limited. As search engine providers become more security-conscious, there is a trend toward masking keyword referral data – a major source of feedback on SEO efforts. Google’s decision to limit analytics has prompted many businesses to opt instead for paid search.

There is no instant gratification. SEO takes time and requires patience. In some cases it takes weeks or even months for new content to appear in search results and its place is never secure; it can always be bumped down by still newer content.

The rules keep changing. Google will no doubt continue to change its algorithms in an effort to beat the system “gamers,” improve the integrity of search and enhance its services. Other search engines will probably follow suit.

PPC advantages:

Quicker results. PPC advertising delivers quicker results, allowing marketing managers to more quickly determine what works and what doesn’t.

Improved analytics. Not only does Google provides a Keyword Planner to assist AdWords customers with finding the best keywords for their campaigns, but it can also provide traffic estimates – a boon when creating a marketing budget for a campaign.

Immunity from search engine algorithm changes. Website owners don’t have to worry about changing and updating existing content to make sure it stays visible every time Google sneezes. Paid search results will remain visible as long as the paid campaign lasts.

PPC disadvantages:

It requires money. This is an obvious disadvantage to a struggling business in a faltering economy. However, as the economic outlook continues to improve, this will be less of a problem for many businesses.

Another obvious disadvantage, or at least a potential disadvantage, is that searchers cannot necessarily rely on the integrity or objectivity of the content. Then again, as long as the paid content is clearly marked as such, readers can take that into account.

Whether you should have a SEO-focused or PPC-centric marketing strategy – or a combination thereof – will depend upon your company’s unique needs. Don’t count out SEO quite yet, but don’t overlook the advantages of PPC either.


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This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from free people search. She is a Houston-based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23@gmail.com.

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