In between watching cat videos and dash cam videos on the internet, anyone who might dare find themselves researching the pros and cons of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) versus Pay Per Click (PPC), might also find themselves scratching their heads. For those now Googling "Finis Origine Pendet" – the translated Latin expression: The end depends upon the beginning – perhaps best captures the answer to the question.
This isn't a new question for web developers, marketers, content strategists, digital domain experts or creative agencies, though all will come to the same 'consultant-like' answer: It depends. But rather than promote solution over the other, we can find the answer with a healthy mix of the two, by using the proper lens.
When I have this conversation with my clients, we always have a healthy back-and-forth. Do they want to 'pay to play' or are they hoping for 'organic' exposure through a rich content strategy? At MOJO Creative Digital, we try to walk in the shoes of our customers to provide the best solution versus injecting one approach over the other. In the end, we help guide them to find the best answer by first understanding their objective: Do they want to appear in the top ten, five, three search results? Do they want the highest probability of conversion? Do they want a lot of clicks? Are they launching/relaunching/rebranding their business and looking for a splash or a promotion?
You're writing the check so you better know what you're paying for. SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, estimated that 87% of search engine dollars were spent on PPC against 11% spent on SEO work. By the numbers, that works out to $10B spent on PPC vs. $1B on SEO. Meaning that the strategy that's five times more effective – SEO – is only receiving 1/8th of the total spend. Where do you want to spend your search dollars?
Nobody likes to be sold to. Online behavior is fickle – some people search and some people browse. For those who depend heavily on search, the way results are displayed may be a turn-on or a turn-off. Where PPC results may feel less genuine or less respected than SEO results, the data behind search sheds more light on the subject. SEOmoz is a great resource for online marketers. In an article SEOmoz published on the topic, some compelling search data is worth a look:
- For every 1 click on a paid search result, the organic results generate 8.5 clicks
- Based on action/conversion tracking, paid search clicks convert, on average, at 1.5X the rate of organic clicks
- The opportunity from organic search is 5.66X that of paid search
With advantages to both, unfortunately, there is no single answer to this evolving question. The only important question to really answer is: What do you want to get out of your web presence? Conversions? Clicks? Eyeballs? Inquiries? Leads? Both SEO and PPC will give you what you need, but you first must know what you're trying to accomplish and the cost associated with both. Or put another way: Finis Origine Pendet.