Bringing quality organic traffic to your site is a big priority for every eCommerce vendor. Without customers, your business is not a business so it’s important that you have a digital marketing strategy that does all it can to get them through the door.
But this is no easy task and eCommerce managers are often faced with the same age-old question when looking to improve their search engine traffic, should we be doing search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC)?
I’ll try and shed some light on the pros and cons of both of these tools and show you how they can be combined to make one agile and effective digital marketing strategy.
Of course, there is a lot more to digital marketing than PPC and SEO, such as social media marketing, conversion rate optimization, email marketing etc - but for today we’re just going to look at the techniques that are most relevant to search engine results.
What are PPC and SEO?
If you ask any specialist from an eCommerce SEO agency, SEO and PPC are two different means to reaching the same end; that end is bringing more traffic to your site and increasing conversions. The obvious way to do this is by making sure that your eCommerce pages rank highly on the top search engines. This is especially important for online businesses because the gulf in traffic between the top results and those further down is immense. It is estimated that the top few rankings on both Google and Bing enjoy a share of roughly 40% of the traffic generated from any given search, whilst all ten results on the third page have to share 8% between them.
Search Engine Optimization is the name given to a set of processes and techniques that focus on getting pages to the top of relevant searches by honing in on keywords and on and off-page factors that improve rankings. Done correctly, these techniques will resonate with the search engine’s algorithms and improve the page’s ranking.
Pay Per Click cuts out the time taken to build a page’s ranking by placing it at the of the page as a paid ad. The main goal of the process is instantly achieved so the benefits of PPC are obvious.
Just to be clear, PPC doesn’t affect your organic rankings in any way. It’s only there for as long as you pay for it.
Pros and Cons to SEO and PPC:
Asyou guessed probably, there are catches. However, this is not simply a case of too good to be true, there are pros and cons to both that are worth taking note of.
Let’s start with the pros:
Visibility, awareness and trust – Well-conducted SEO will present your business to potential customers on a plate. As we’ve previously mentioned, being in the top few results on Google all but guarantees you the lion’s share of the traffic. Being at the top carries with it an implication of trust so customers are already more likely to visit and convert.
Sustainability – SEO is a building block process that takes time to develop but rewards the business with a stronger foundation and a longer-lasting return even when investment is reduced.
Cost – Whilst eCommerce SEO is by no means cheap it still generally offers a better return on investment than other marketing tactics. This is because it produces organic, high quality traffic made up more comprehensively of customers that are likely to convert.
- Guaranteed visibility – Paid ads dominate the top of every search result, meaning that PCC guarantees that you will be noticed. What’s more, Google allows visual PCC images above its search results. This can prove really effective, as it offers customers an easy path to purchase.
- Speed – PPC can be conducted in a fraction of the time SEO can. This does not only apply to its creation but also to assessment and feedback. If your PPC ad is not hitting the spot, you can rethink it and go again in a matter of days not months.
- Precision – PPC removes a ginormous amount of the trial and error involved with SEO. By paying to be where you want, you no longer run the risk of misfiring on keywords or being trumped by your competition. Paid content also allows you access to more useful analytical information that SEO does not.
Cons of SEO:
Time-consuming – SEO is a building block process that can take months to develop.
Changing terrain – The factors that determine search rankings are always changing and SEO managers are always having to play catch up. Only recently, Google made Core Web Vitals an important search ranking factor. At the time of the announcement, only 15% of all sites were estimated to have been ready for the update.
Complicated– There is a lot more to SEO than keywords. There is technical SEO, on and off-page optimisation, quality of content and more. There is a lot of housekeeping with SEO and lacking in any of these factors can have a significant impact.
Cons of PPC:
Expensive – Paying to jump the queue isn’t cheap and PPC requires constant investment. You get what you pay for and it all ends when the money stops.
Lack of trust – The caveat of paying to be at the top is that there will be a big sticker next to your result telling customers that it’s an ad. Some people see this as a bad sign and are prone to automatically scrolling past results that don’t feel organic.
Still difficult – Whilst PPC removes a lot of the hard work tied to SEO, it doesn’t eliminate it. Your ads still need to reach the right people to justify a decent return on investment and understanding where to place them requires skill and experience.
Why you should run SEO and PPC Together
Although very different, using PPC and SEO together can be highly rewarding:
Keyword testing – By using PPC to check the efficacy of keywords you can establish whether or not they should be incorporated into your SEO.
Getting ahead of the game – PPC allows you to test and analyse keywords that your site does not yet have the chance to rank for. This analysis can help you initiate an improved SEO strategy in future.
Faster brand building - If you are launching a new project then PPC can give you a big head start in building brand awareness and trust before you follow up with a more solid SEO marketing campaign.
Using PPC and SEO agencies
There are hundreds of agencies out there offering a range of SEO and PPC packages. But be warned, having different agencies use these tools separately is not a good idea.
This is because both of these techniques focus on keywords and having two agencies using different techniques to reach the same goal can cause confusion. Consequently, this can lead to your site’s pages potentially competing with each other and having a negative impact on your site rankings.
Best practice would be to use one agency for all your digital marketing - to use the same experts for your SEO, PPC, ideally combined with your conversion rate optimisation agency.
This allows you to form a comprehensive strategy that can harmoniously use both PPC, SEO and other tools to reach your goals and form of a strong working relationship with professionals that will quickly grow to understand your business.