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September 5, 2018

SEO or AdWords: What’s the Best Choice for Your Business

You’ve asked yourself this before, haven’t you?

Whether your business is brand new or has already withstood the test of time, choosing digital marketing channels is an on-going quest. With new ones appearing every day, it’s no surprise that most business owners and marketers suffer from choice paralysis.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked when we onboard new clients at Idunn is whether they should choose between AdWords or SEO. Or between Facebook ads and Google AdWords. 

To answer this question, you have to get past two major issues:

  1. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. What makes sense for the business across the street from you can be the worst idea for yours. You have to take the time to weigh in your own pros and cons.
  2. There is a lot of misleading information on this topic. Ask someone who does SEO and they will tell you AdWords is the worst idea in the world. Ask a certified AdWords expert and they will tell you there’s nothing better than what they are selling. 

Well, my agency sells both services. We’ve seen what both can do and we can recommend one or the other without bias on a case-to-case basis. 

Let’s see how you can make that choice for your own business.

First, the similarities

Both Google AdWords and SEO boost your ranking. They make your page appear higher in search results. In fact, ads will always appear before organic results.

The example below illustrates the distribution of paid versus organic results for a sample query. 

However, you can’t appear at the top page of results with just any copy in your landing page. The text has to match the keywords you input in Google AdWords. So, there’s a bit of SEO in AdWords, too.

The key difference is that a page that is optimized enough to be accepted (and even perform well) in AdWords may not (and usually doesn’t) rank organically. If it did, why would you pay for ads, right?

Next, the differences

I think we’re all clear on the main difference between AdWords and SEO: the first one is PPC ads (bought traffic), the second is organic ranking (earned traffic). 

However, when it comes to growing your business and acing your marketing KPIs, technicalities like this don’t really matter. What really matters are results.

So let’s talk about those.

Of course, both AdWords and SEO get results.

The difference comes from time and money. 

If you work with the right SEO copywriters – as I said, landing pages you use in AdWords do need their own SEO –, you may begin to see a revenue from your campaigns the same day you launch them. The CTR and the CPC both depend on the competition in your industry at the moment you launch your campaigns. But, whatever they are, you can start seeing results from day one.

SEO, on the other hand, will take more time. Our clients have started to see the results of the SEO content we created for them after three months to a year. As in the case of AdWords, it depends a lot on the competition in the industry among others.

But here’s the catch: when you stop paying for ads, you stop getting results. On the other hand, the results of SEO can last for years to come with minimal interventions.

Now let’s talk money.

A personal example first: ever since I started Idunn, the digital marketing agency I run, I only invested $400 in AdWords. The amount got us a few leads and one great client almost instantly. 

But I invested a lot in SEO content. It took time to get results. I wrote a blog post about the way we convert blog readers and the mistakes we made in the beginning. When we got our act together, our blog began to convert like mad.

Today, 99% of our clients chose us because of our content. The remaining 1% are referrals. The proverbial proof is in the pudding.

How much did it cost, though?

Well, I don’t have a precise number for you. I did (and still do) most of the writing myself. If I were to consider an average hourly or per article rate, I think the investment is somewhere around $1000-$1500 per month.

I know for a fact that we wouldn’t have gotten such results from AdWords. More importantly, I know they wouldn’t have lasted this long. Even during our busiest months, when we have less time to work on our own blog, we still get clients that find us via older posts – sometimes even as old as two years.

But that’s us and that’s our industry. The calculations are different from industry to industry and from company to company.

Let’s see how you can make your own decision.

How to choose between AdWords and SEO

Are you in a highly competitive industry? Think electronics, nutritional supplements or mobile apps.

If so, AdWords is the fastest and surest way to get customers fast. 

In fact, we recommend AdWords to almost all our clients in e-commerce. A well-written ad and a well-written landing page can get you an excellent CTR, an excellent CPC and, consequently, an excellent ROI.

If you’re in it for the long run, SEO is the best way to go.

Even in competitive industries, a savvy SEO writer can help you find keywords you can rank for easily – keywords that bring more than traffic. 

Pit them against each other and you will see that, dollar for dollar, SEO is the wiser choice. But it will take longer to get results.

Plus, you will have to keep at it. 

Most people say SEO is the free way to rank. I strongly disagree. SEO is not free. It takes time, commitment and, yes, money to get there. You need to invest in great content that not only ranks, but also convinces people to trust your brand. 

And you can’t write a blog post and say you’re done with SEO. You need to be consistent about it. You need to write regularly and you need to work on improving your content every day.

Briefly put: do you want clients FAST to help you get some cash flow? Invest in AdWords. Want to build something that keeps on giving? Invest in SEO.

Final recommendations

No one is saying that you can’t keep on running CPC ads forever. You can. But you won’t get the best ROI. SEO content wins by a mile here.

For new businesses and new websites, I recommend diving the budget. Run AdWords to get some clients in through the door. BUT write every landing page for AdWords with SEO in mind. It’s an added bonus, as it will also help you get a better score and a better positioning of your ads.

In the meantime, work on building your domain authority and your content. When you start to see results from your SEO efforts, you can drop AdWords and re-allocate the budget to SEO.

If you need help with either AdWords or SEO, my team of expert marketers and SEO writers is happy to jump in and get you the best possible ROI. Let’s talk!


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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the CEO of Idunn, a digital marketing agency that helps clients all over the world with copywriting, social media marketing and marketing strategy. Follow her blog here: http://idunn.pro/blog.

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