For many small business owners, knowing how to begin marketing themselves online can be an uncertain or daunting process. After all, marketing for their websites can be one of the most important things that tips the balance between their business thriving or surviving.
There are two main ways that businesses usually go about marketing themselves online: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. If you don’t know much about them, not to worry—we’ve got a quick rundown for you. Or maybe you’ve heard of them, and are debating which is better for you to focus your resources on. After all, your business, like all businesses, has its own unique strengths, needs, and targets.
While the best method is of course a delicate mixture of both PPC and SEO to build your brand and traffic flow to their optimal levels, if your business is limited, for the moment, to only one method, here are some thoughts to get you started!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
refers to the process of pushing your website as far up the list of search engine results as you can. Search engines are how millions of people every day find answers to questions and search for products, so it should be no secret that the higher you can push up your website on search results, the more traffic your website will receive. There are many ways to do this. The simplest step to good SEO is focusing on including keywords in your webpages, which will bring in your desired customers who are searching for certain words. Another way is by increasing the number of links leading to your website, which improves your “authority” in Google’s algorithms and puts you higher in the results. This process is known as “link building.” However, SEO can be as much an art as a science, so there are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether it’s the best option for your small business.
- The potential for traffic. Search engines have become an integral part of everyday use for millions of people. In 2013 alone, just Google counted for 25% of all internet traffic in North America, and 70% of the links people visit while searching for solutions are from organic search results. Tapping into this market can be enormously beneficial, and if your small business is in it for the long game, focusing on SEO could return consistent results.
- It’s cost effective when done well. You do not pay directly for traffic, but rather build an organic stream of new customers who have searched for what you’re offering. If you have the time and energy to invest into SEO, this low-cost method can lead to big results. This is optimal for businesses who are starting on a comparatively small budget.
- When people type searches into Google, as many as 80% of people skip over the ads at the top of the page and go straight for the organic results. This means that a huge chunk of search engine users are available to you, compared to the smaller number of customers who read the paid ads at the top of the results page.
- Patience is required. Building your website traffic from the ground up takes time, and can often deliver uncertain or shaky results.
- Search algorithms have mysterious methods. While there are many techniques to optimizing your website’s placement in the results, the truth is that the algorithms of Google and other search engines are known completely only by their respective companies, and the algorithms themselves often update. This can often mean your site suddenly sinks in rank.
- Doing SEO on your own isn’t easy. It can, after all, be a nuanced and frustrating process that doesn’t always pay off. This can lead to hours, weeks, or months of lost time that would have been better spent focused elsewhere. Which is why it’s generally a good idea to hire a professional SEO company to manage your SEO campaign. If it’s in your budget, their SEO experience can prove hugely valuable to your small business by saving you time and hassle.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
marketing is an advertising method in which you pay websites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or YouTube to put an advertisement on their page, and then pay the hosting site by the number of clicks the ad receives. For example, the ads you see above the organic search results when you search for something are placed there by PPC campaigns. The most common target for PPC campaigns is Google, since it receives a majority of searched content, and the search results can be tailored more accurately to help your business reach its target market. When deciding whether PPC is right for you, there are some things to bear in mind.
- PPC works directly with your budget. If you have the money to spend per click, you can set your desired number of clicks and pay for them until you reach your goal. If you’re looking for a clear-cut advertising option and you have a sufficient budget to cover the click-spend, PPC is a great choice.
- PPC marketing will return quicker results. Unlike SEO, which requires patience and growth, PPC will get you clicks from your customers faster and, if you have the budget for it, in higher volume. This is ideal if you’re looking to get your small business off the ground quickly.
- You will build brand recognition. As customers see your name associated with what they’re searching for in ads or spot you in banners, you associate your business’s name with your product or service. Customers may turn to your business in the future when they know that your business is an option. You can also target a geographic location, so if you’re looking for local exposure, such as in the town or city your business is located, this tool can be immensely useful.
- PPC doesn’t guarantee that the people who come to your site will use your services. This can make spending money on PPC uncertain and not always cost-effective. As most small businesses are trying to save as much money and resources as they can, PPC can often not be worth the investment and SEO is usually the cheaper option.
- The public has grown more skeptical of advertisements over the decades, and organic search results have become more and more of a trusted authority. Most people skip the paid ads for this reason. Still, those 20-30% of users can add up, particularly when your website is not yet anywhere near where you’d like it to be in the organic search results.
- PPC is a digital marketing strategy, and as such it runs the risk of being trickier than it seems. Like all marketing, it can be thorny trying to navigate the variables and optimize your results while working under the fog of uncertainty. But, like SEO, there are companies you can contact if you want professional help managing your PPC campaigns.
So is SEO or PPC Better For Your Business?
Well, when deciding which marketing opportunity to pursue, there are lots of variables to account for. Any business person knows budget can be a powerful benefit when used right, but also a powerful constraint. Depending on how much you have to spend, it may be worth investing some of your budget into the quick traffic benefits provided by PPC, since for many small businesses getting early exposure can be a matter of survival. If, on the other hand, you’re finding yourself short on money and able to invest some time, trying your hand at SEO is the cheaper option. It’s all a balancing act that requires you to take into account the needs and budgets of your business.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncertain when making your decision, don’t give up hope! Each method is fairly straightforward in its methods, even if it isn’t always clear-cut in its variables. Mastery of SEO and PPC can be achieved through persistence and hard work. And if you find that you’re struggling by yourself, then you can of course always enlist help of marketing professionals, which many businesses both small and large elect to do.
Best of luck to you and your small business!