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Balancing SEO and PPC

One of the biggest mistakes online marketers (and their clients) make is placing SEO and PPC into two distinct, mutually exclusive categories. Online agencies have a department for SEO and a department for PPC and never the twain shall meet. This is unfortunate as the two disciplines are ideally suited to complement each other. One is the yin to the other’s yang. The trick is to find a balance between the two components in terms of budget and time and effort to achieve optimum results.

The first place to start is to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

SEO advantages

1)     SEO is cost-effective.

2)     It increases brand awareness.

3)     It attracts more traffic.

4)     It has long-term benefits.

5)     Results are compounded over time.

SEO disadvantages

1)     Because it’s a long-term strategy results can be slow in coming.

2)     It’s not suited to seasonal or short-term campaigns.

PPC advantages

1)     Effects are immediate.

2)     It’s ideally suited to short-term promotions.

3)     It attracts targeted traffic.

PPC disadvantages

1)     It’s more expensive than SEO in the long-run.

2)     Results stop as soon as the budget runs out.

Getting the best out of both

If you’re just starting out on your online marketing strategy, a good way to make your presence felt immediately is to implement a PPC ad campaign. Another advantage of this is that you can put your keyword research to the test. As results start coming in almost straight away you’ll be able to see which keywords perform well and which don’t. You can then spend the initial burst of SEO energy focussing on the high-performance terms to optimise content and start gaining ground in the search results.

And, as if you needed further proof of the usefulness of PPC at the outset, it provides an ideal testing ground for SEO landing pages before the strategy gets into full swing, saving you time and effort (and money).

Once your SEO strategy has taken hold, you can use PPC to focus on broad search terms while attracting more targeted (long-tail) traffic with your SEO efforts. Because your PPC terms keep traffic coming in, you have time to optimise long-tail properly and plan appropriate social media marketing campaigns.

This is where it becomes important for your SEO and PPC people to work together and keep communication lines open. By sharing information on what works and what doesn’t, the two disciplines can benefit from mutual experience, learn vicarious lessons and support each other.

Communication and a holistic strategy will also ensure that SEO and PPC don’t work at cross purposes. That is, they don’t promote competing landing pages or dilute the effectiveness of keywords.

One of the big questions clients ask is how to split the budget. If you’ve got a new site and need immediate exposure before your SEO kicks in you might want to spend more on PPC than an established site. But it still shouldn’t make up the bulk of your spending. A 65/35 split in favour of SEO should suffice. As your presence online grows you can start focussing more on SEO, possibly ending up with a 80/20 split in favour of SEO.

This is because for all PPC’s advantages, SEO is the winner in the long-run and will serve you in good stead if ever you find yourself in an online reputation management (ORM) predicament.

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