PPC (Pay-Per-Click) is also known as Paid Search and has become pretty much synonymous with Google AdWords because AdWords is Google’s PPC platform. At its highest level, PPC involves bidding on particular keywords to have your ads shown to people searching for products and services and information online. Each time your ad is clicked you pay for that click and the online user is taken to your site. With PPC you can have ads that are just text, ads that are images, or ads that are videos. The amount you pay for each click will vary widely from industry to industry because the price depends on the competitiveness of the keywords you're using. Once you start digging into PPC further, it gets grittier and much more complex, but we’re going to stay high level to make our comparison with SEO easier.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a set of techniques used to build relevancy with search engines. This relevancy is important because it affects search engine algorithms (which is a fancy way of saying that a search engine like Google has a very sophisticated equation to compare tons of different websites across a bunch of different factors all at once). In short, building your relevancy online helps your rankings so that when someone does a search on Google your site appears where people will see it. When it comes to SEO, there are best practices to follow that Google approves of (these are referred to as “white-hat”) and bad practices that Google disapproves of and can punish you severely for (these are referred to as “black-hat”). White-hat SEO practices involve things like creating quality content that people actually want to read and will benefit from (things like homepage text, category page text, product descriptions, blogs, an about us page), using title tags and meta tags, and so forth. Black-hat SEO practices are basically ways that people have devised to try to game the system like hiding text on pages, keyword stuffing (repeating keywords over and over on a page), coding fake pages to trick Google as they are crawling your site for content, and so forth. The reason Google disapproves of these tactics is because they create a poor user experience and they attempt to essentially cut the line ahead of better pages. The penalties for these types of things can be swift and severe – like being demoted in the rankings and sometimes even being banned from Google altogether.
PPC and SEO are very different on a number of components, but the biggest differences are the following:
Where They Show Up
When you do a search on Google the results that come up are referred to as the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). PPC ads appear at the very top of the page and down the right side. There are usually 2-3 ads at the top in a yellow or pink box and then 8-9 ads on the right side. The “organic results,” which is what your SEO efforts influence, are in the very middle of the page.
Keywords That Are Used
With PPC you are bidding on keywords, which is to say that you’re telling Google “I want my ad to appear when someone searches for this term and I am willing to pay up to $X for each click.” You can have lots keywords that you’re bidding on for PPC and you can change them frequently depending on the results you’re seeing and what your current focus is. You can even change them based on the season or if you’re running a certain promotion. As an example, if you are using “women’s scarves” as a keyword you can also use keywords like “winter scarves for women” when it’s cold out and “women’s scarf on sale” when you’re clearing out inventory. This ability to cast as wide of a net as you’d like and also the flexibility to change keywords is one of the benefits of using PPC.
With SEO you’re not paying for the keywords that you’re using, but that doesn’t mean you can use as many as you want. On the contrary, with SEO you want to focus your efforts on the 3-10 most important keywords for each of the pages on your site. You want to find keywords that describe your page and find a good balance between being popular terms that people search for, and also terms that aren’t super competitive. And then once you’ve found those keywords you’re really pretty much married to them going forward because if you keep changing them you won’t gain much traction or see much of a return for your hard work. This is why keyword research is so important with SEO!
The Results You’ll See
PPC tends to show results faster, but the important thing to remember is that once you stop paying for PPC the results end almost immediately. SEO, on the other hand, takes longer to show results, but if you do it right, the efforts that you put in carry on for some time and continue to benefit your site in the future.
If you’re looking for an online marketing company to manage your PPC or work on your SEO, contact LionShark! We’d love to be the digital marketing company in your corner!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so beware!
Really awesome photo from Google Talk About