Is SEO Still Worth the Time, Effort and Money for Small Businesses?
One of the reasons why most website owners choose to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as opposed to paid advertising is because of the long term benefits associated with it.
However, when businesses need to cut down the amount they are spending, marketing is often the first area to see cuts. This leads to many questioning whether SEO is still worth the time, effort and money.
In this article, we’re going to take an in depth look at organic SEO and explain why it is still something that every small business should perform.
An Introduction to Search Engine Marketing
According to a study performed by Jupiter Research, 81% of users find websites through search engines.
This data makes it very clear that you need to have at least some form of presence on search engines. That presence can be ‘earned’ through SEO, or purchased through Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.
SEO is the act of optimizing a website to be more search engine friendly. It involves a wide range of areas, from keyword optimization to link building, and takes quite some time to implement successfully. Google uses complex algorithms to rank websites, so SEO guidelines can – and do – change on a regular basis. This means that a website’s search engine ranking can vary when an algorithm update is released. However, those who optimize using white hat SEO techniques will see their site climb through the ranks without having to pay Google for the privilege.
PPC is the process of buying advertisements and sponsored links that will be visible in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). PPC varies depending on where the ads are purchased, but when you purchase PPC ads on a search engine like Google, you are able to bid on the keywords that appear in the Google search results. The higher the price you bid for a keyword, the more chance you have of it appearing on the first page. PPC enables businesses to get their message out to a large sector of the population in a very short space of time. However, it can get quite expensive to run on a long term basis.
Neither SEO nor PPC can guarantee you a front page spot on Google but, when done correctly, both can help get you in front of your desired audience.
SEO and PPC vary in the amount of effort they take to perform, how much money they cost, and how much time they take to see results. Which is better for you will depend on your current circumstances, your budget, and the type of business that you run.
The Difference in Price and Time
The main benefit of PPC is the speed with which you can advertise on the search engines under multiple keywords.
When running a PPC campaign, you can appear on the first page of the SERPs for a multitude of relevant keywords within minutes. However, each of these keywords will vary in price. Therefore, you may find that you are spending a few pennies per click on one campaign, and a few dollars per click on another. In terms of budget, this approach isn’t for the lighthearted.
When you compare this to organic SEO, you’ll see that there is a big difference. Although an organic SEO campaign will take longer to see results, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEMPO, estimates that 11% of advertising dollars are spent on organic search, versus 87% spent on PPC. That’s $1 billion spent on SEO as opposed to $10 billion spent on PPC. Considering how much more effective organic search can be, and how much cheaper it is to employ in a marketing campaign, it is almost always the better long term option.
Organic Results Are More Respected
Research has shown that organic results are 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than PPC results.
This is likely due to search engine users gradually learning the difference between organic and paid results, and recognizing that organic results are usually more useful to them. The location of the ads may also play a role in why organic results are more likely to be clicked. (Researchers have proven that people hardly notice ads to the right of a screen, and so are more likely to click on those at the top of the organic results.)
If we look at conversion rates though, PPC does seem to perform slightly better. Paid search results are 1.5x more likely to convert clickthroughs than organic search. However, this is probably because the landing page and the text has been heavily optimized by the advertiser.
When looking at both sets of figures though, it is clear that organic search results still account for the larger percentage of clicks. So, if you were purely trying to decide between organic and PPC, the logical choice would be organic.
However, it’s often a better choice to employ a mix of PPC and organic marketing, as SEO can take quite some time to see results.
When is PPC More Worthwhile?
Although organic search is the ideal option for most small businesses, there are times when it’s worthwhile spending money on PPC advertising.
If you have just launched a new company, for example, a PPC campaign can help you to build brand awareness quickly. Or, if you have just launched a new product or a special service, PPC can again help to make people aware of this in a short space of time.
Because PPC can be turned on and off, it can also be run on certain days of the week. For example, if you run a restaurant business and offer discounts on Tuesdays, you can ensure that your ads are always displayed on a Tuesday.
You can also adjust your campaign budget at any time, so if your business is doing well, you can increase your advertising budget to attract more customers. You can also lower your budget if cashflow is tight.
PPC is also better for companies that sell products as opposed to services. If you are running a web design company or a content management agency, for example, an SEO campaign will be the better long term option. However, if you are a company selling satellite TV bundles, or new gadgets, a PPC strategy will make more sense.
Finally, if your site has been affected by an algorithm update, you may want to consider implementing a PPC campaign until you have recovered from the penalty.
Conclusion, Is SEO Worth It?
Although it takes longer to run an effective SEO campaign, organic search is still worth the time and effort. It’s a lot cheaper to invest in, it attracts more click-throughs than PPC, and organic search results are more trusted than PPC adverts. You won’t receive a top ranking overnight, but in the long term, your business will see many benefits.
Keep in mind that most businesses will benefit from combining PPC advertising with organic search. Each has their benefits, and both will help you to enjoy a larger web presence.
Have you experimented with running SEO and PPC campaigns? Do you agree that organic search is still worth the time and effort? Please share your opinions in the comments section below.