Blog Post

SEO Vs. PPC: Which Should You Recommend For Your Client?


As an agency owner, you probably pride yourself on the ability to make personalized marketing recommendations for your clients. But if you don’t handle fulfillment in-house or you have limited experience with specific types of advertising or marketing, you might not feel confident in the guidance you provide.

In order to set your clients up for success, you need to learn as much as possible about the services and products you sell. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to execute marketing campaigns all on your own -- but it does mean you should get to know the basics, as well as some specific scenarios that might call for selecting one service over another.

In the arena of search engine marketing (or SEM), there are two services that often go head-to-head: SEO and PPC. Search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising are both incredibly popular ways to increase brand visibility, website traffic, and conversions. The end goal of both services is to ensure that the brand’s offerings are seen by internet customers and, ideally, to make a sale. But while the ultimate goal of both SEO and PPC is essentially the same, these options work in very different ways. What’s more, depending on the circumstances, one option may be more appropriate and effective than the other. Understandably, you might be curious about the answer to the SEO vs PPC argument yourself.

Since SEO and PPC are two of the most popular services we offer here at Semify, we thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance to our resellers and agency owners. It’s our hope that, in learning more about these different SEM services, you’ll feel more capable of making informed recommendations for your clients, set more realistic expectations, and build on existing relationships. Let’s dive right in.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, involves a number of techniques that make it easier for a given website to be found in online search engine results. Optimizing a website for search engines can involve anything from fixing broken links and improving title tags to posting regular blog content and developing new web copy that includes relevant keywords.

SEO is a multi-faceted approach that focuses on organic, long-term growth. Rather than providing fast results with big surges in traffic, the idea is to slowly build traffic and web authority over time in a way that’s sustainable and feels natural. In addition, SEO isn’t about shameless self-promotion or search engine manipulation; good SEO should be virtually undetectable because it’s chock-full of useful, relevant, interesting, or entertaining information. Both Google and web users want to see (and reward) sites that provide helpful and valuable content -- and that requires far more than a sales pitch.

A great thing to note about SEO is that it’s highly affordable and cost-efficient. It’s actually one of the most cost-efficient forms of digital marketing in existence. Not only is its cost-per-lead impressively low, but it retains its value over time. With SEO, you just keep building on what you have -- which allows you to stretch your initial investment. Even if you stop focusing on SEO for a while, you won’t undo all that hard work you’ve done or sustain any losses. You can always come back to it and continue to build on your existing optimization. And since SEO is an ongoing process, there’s always something more you can do to improve your results. However, it’s essential to note that you won’t achieve overnight success with SEO. While this is ultimately better for an overall strategy, it may not be the best option for businesses that need immediate results.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

You’ve probably seen examples of PPC ads when you conduct searches in Google. They typically appear as text results above organic search results, within the first couple of positions of the first page. They’re marked as ads, but that fact is easy to ignore. PPC ads get prime real estate in search results -- but where your ad appears depends on how much is spent on keyword bids and other factors pertaining to campaign setup.

As the name suggests, PPC ads prioritize clicks above all else. Visual impressions don’t matter here in terms of cost. If the ad is clicked, you’ll be charged a fee -- regardless of whether that click translates into a sale for the business.

The good thing about PPC ads is that they can drive a huge volume of traffic to a site in a short amount of time. The downside to that is that it can be expensive to maintain, especially if you’re operating within a relatively competitive industry. In many cases, the superior visibility you’ll obtain with these ads is worth it. But those costs can add up if you don’t have the necessary experience to make informed decisions about campaign setup and management.

Another positive aspect of PPC is that you’ll generally have more control over the audience to which your ad is shown. While SEO could theoretically show your content to the masses (and attract those who have no intention of becoming a customer), PPC is a highly targeted way of advertising to your ideal client. In this way, it may allow for more flexibility in terms of how an advertising budget is used on different keywords. However, PPC really refers to one specific type of ad, instead of a number of different behaviors that work together to optimize a website.

Main Factors to Consider When Deciding On SEO Vs PPC

It’s clear from the information we listed above that both SEO and PPC have their pros and cons. But you might be wondering: in the SEO vs PPC debate, which is best for your client?

Ultimately, there’s no one right answer that will apply to every client. Digital marketing should feel much more personal than that. Recommending the same exact strategy to every client won’t set them up for success, so it’s crucial to know how to make the best determination using the information at your disposal.

If you’re trying to settle the SEO vs PPC question, here are a few factors you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • Urgency: Does the client need results immediately? Do they have a special sale they need to promote or are they launching a brand new product? Are they looking to quickly increase their conversions during a specific season? If so, PPC might be your best bet. By definition, SEO does take longer to work, even though new pages may be indexed relatively quickly. But if time isn’t on your client’s side (or you need to do some fast work to convince them that marketing is worth the investment), pay-per-click advertising might be a good way to start.
  • Budget: How much does the client have to spend on marketing? Are they operating within a competitive industry? If the customer runs a small business or a startup and they’re just looking to get their feet wet in the world of marketing, you might not want to scare them off with a PPC campaign. Starting small and slow with SEO may be a more effective option, as you can show them the improvements you’ve made to their website and how their web traffic increases gradually over time. Should they have only a few hundred dollars to spend on marketing each month, SEO can provide the cost-efficiency and value they need.
  • Website or Niche: Keep in mind that certain websites -- and even certain niches -- are better-suited for either SEO or PPC. If your client doesn’t have a highly valuable or recently updated site but they need to make sales quickly, PPC is probably going to be the better choice. There’s really no sense in optimizing a site that needs to be redone or that doesn’t provide a lot of value if that isn’t on your client’s list of priorities. If their site isn’t mobile-friendly, that’s another factor to consider because they will probably have difficulty improving their rankings without a responsive site. You may also need to assess whether their niche or industry aligns with a given marketing service. Google does place some restrictions on what kinds of products or services can be advertised through PPC ads, which means certain clients may not be good candidates for these kinds of advertisements. In some cases, working on specific SEO strategies may be more likely to produce the desired results for the client.

SEO Vs PPC: Why a Diverse and Integrated Marketing Strategy Wins

We outlined just a few scenarios above that might help you to make an SEO vs PPC determination for a given client. But those situations are often outliers. For many clients, the best option is to use a combination of SEO and PPC.

An integrated approach to marketing is always best, whether you’re online or offline. For most businesses, it’s a good idea to diversify a marketing strategy. And in this case, SEO and PPC actually complement each other beautifully.

SEO may not be as flashy as PPC, but slow and steady often wins the race. PPC can address a client’s need for immediate traffic and sales, while SEO can build up their brand visibility and perception over time while positioning the business as an industry leader. Really, SEO vs PPC isn’t an “either-or” situation. The more frequently a site can appear in search engine results -- whether it’s a paid ad or an organic link -- the better off the business will be.

That’s not to say that you should always recommend both SEO and PPC for every client. But understanding the advantages and shortcomings of each option, as well as delving into your client’s expectations and specific marketing challenges, will allow you to make the best marketing decisions possible.

Of course, we’re here for you if you need sales assistance, reports, or more in-depth training that can allow you to scale your agency. At Semify, we believe that growing together gives us the freedom to be more, do more, and have more. We’d love to help you grow with us. To learn more about joining our SEO reseller program, please get in touch with our team today.