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Finding the right digital marketing strategy can be challenging for your small business. You know a solid online presence is critical, and you understand that both SEO and PPC have a role to play in driving traffic your way.

As a small or medium-sized business (SME) owner, you may have less of a budget than larger competitors, making the need to see an instant ROI (return on investment) from your advertising spend in order to justify the costs.

However, choosing whether SEO or PPC (or both!) is best for your small business can be a real challenge.

What exactly are SEO and PPC?

Both SEO and PPC are proven online marketing strategies. So having a solid understanding of what they can do for your business is the first step in your decision making.

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of boosting your website’s ranking on Google and other search engines.

Every business aims to be at the top of Google’s first page – SEO is the process of optimising a website to rank competitively by adhering to Google’s algorithm requirements.

PPC or Pay Per Click is a marketing model where advertisers pay the search engine every time a user clicks their online adverts. It usually refers to Google Adwords, but may also refer to paid channels on other search engines such as Bing ads.

Paid ads appear at the top of search engine pages and can grab your target audience’s attention straight away.

Now let’s look at the advantages of SEO and PPC advertising for your small business.

Is SEO Right for Your Small Business?

Done well, improving your site’s SEO value is an incredibly effective way to increase organic traffic on your site. And while prioritising SEO can seem daunting, it can be relatively straightforward. Let’s break it down into critical processes:

  • Technical SEO: Make sure your site can be indexed correctly by search engines, loads as quickly as possible and is generally as user-friendly as possible.
  • On-site Content: Ensure your content is relevant and adds value to your users. Undertake keyword research to find the right terms for your brand and make sure these are targeted on relevant pages.
  • Off-site SEO: Build links to your site by posting great content and offering value to other site owners.

Whilst clicks from organically ranking for keywords are technically ‘free’, there is still the cost for paying the SEO professional to optimise your site correctly.

In addition you may need to invest in your website’s functionality as well if the SEO audit uncovers any issues that could be holding it back in the rankings.

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How Long Will it Take to See a Positive ROI on SEO?

For small businesses, the bottom line is key and the faster any marketing strategy can generate a positive ROI the better.

SEO is a fantastic revenue stream for the long-term. Once you start ranking for multiple keywords and get established on the front page, your audience increases exponentially.

However, this is not a quick process. In fact, a recent study found that only 0.3% of pages ranked in the Top 10 for a high-volume keyword in less than a year.

This is particularly relevant then for new businesses with a completely new website domain. This is because Google prioritises older domains, that have built up trust and authority over the years.

Ranking quickly depends on the quality of your SEO strategy and website itself as well as how competitive the keywords you want to rank for. If your business is in a niche with zero or very little competition, you could start to see the site ranking competitively within 6 months.

Is PPC Right for your Small Business?

If you don’t want to wait for results, PPC advertising will get you noticed and start driving traffic to your site fast.

With PPC you can be specific in targeting a certain demographic, meaning the traffic is relevant from day 1, making it ideal for niche ecommerce businesses.

And while there’s a direct cost associated with this type of marketing, both in terms of paying a professional to set up and manage your account and costs for the clicks themselves to Google, it can have a significant RoI if managed correctly.

PPC has come a long way in recent years, with better targeting such as showing location ads on maps when the searcher is nearby, making this a fantastic tool for businesses if used correctly.

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How Long Will it Take to See a Positive ROI on PPC?

Used correctly, PPC can generate plenty of business in a short amount of time. So if you’re a new business or startup looking to break into your market fast, PPC could be a viable strategy.

Whilst competitive national searches will require a very large budget due to cost-per-click, local or niche product searches can breakthrough quickly at a relatively low cost.

If you are a small business offering a local service, PPC can be a great tool as you can set your targeting to as small or large a target area as you like. Want to show an ad to everyone searching for ‘builders’ in your city? Then Google Adwords can allow you to do this at a drop of a hat.

For this reason, we would always recommend PPC for businesses targeting a local demographic, as well as for ones with a new website that will take longer to see results through SEO.

Which is better for Your Small Business: SEO or PPC?

Whether SEO or PPC works better for your business depends on your marketing strategy.

If you need to get your business noticed fast, then PPC will satisfy your short term goals. On the other hand, SEO is a better choice if you have long-term marketing goals and want to establish yourself as a major player in the industry.

If you have time to wait to establish your brand organically, focus your efforts on SEO. But be prepared to wait to see an ROI.

Whilst long-term SEO is much more profitable than PPC due to the ability to get ‘free’ clicks, it can take years to rank competitively depending on how competitive your niche is.

If you need results within months or are a local-based business, consider targeted PPC ads that can deliver results fast.

SEO Pros

  • ‘Free’ clicks
  • Sustainable brand awareness
  • Builds credibility and trust
  • Exponential RoI once your rank competitively

SEO Cons

  • Higher upfront costs
  • Positive ROI can take time
  • Need to keep up with the latest Google algorithm changes
  • Almost impossible to rank well in competitive space quickly

PPC Pros

  • Quick results, get noticed instantly
  • Very easy to track ROI
  • Low cost for businesses operating in niche or local service area
  • Ability to target specific audience

PPC Cons

  • Ever-increasing cost per click
  • Lower trust ratings than SEO
  • Needs constant management to stay competitive
  • High budget needed for competitive industries

Do You Need both SEO and PPC?

If you’re a small business owner that wants to get ahead fast, PPC helps you quickly reach that target audience. Whereas SEO is a slow burner that gradually builds the organic traffic you need to turn searches into purchases.

Using both SEO and PPC as part of your marketing strategy can help you accomplish short and long term goals and dominate the search engine results. And your business won’t need to sacrifice productivity while you wait for your SEO to kick in.

SEO and PPC are complementary strategies that combine to create a strong and effective marketing campaign. Using a two-pronged approach, your PPC immediately gets you noticed while your SEO can build up organic traffic over time through creating quality content.

If you choose to implement a quality SEO strategy from day 1 that your site is launched, you will undoubtedly see benefits in the longer term. Your brand awareness will benefit, and you’ll increase the number of users from your target demographics, and thus your profit margin.

And once your SEO is established and you start receiving ‘free’ clicks to your site, you can revisit your PPC advertising to reduce your ad spend or end the campaign.

Digital Marketing can be Tough, Get in touch with a Specialist Today

Search engine marketing can be tricky for small business owners to understand. After all you want to focus on what you’re best at, rather than learning a completely new skill.

When it comes to deciding between SEO and PPC, understanding the pros and cons of each method can help you create the best digital marketing campaign for your business.

Search Hog are SEO and PPC specialists that can help you decide which strategy is the best fit for you. Get in touch today to see how we can help your small business.

Matthew Pavli

Matthew Pavli is the founder of Search Hog and resident SEO expert. When he's not geeking out on Google algorithm changes, he can be found surfing at one of his local beaches in Cornwall.

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