As a small business owner who is serious about digital marketing, you must have been in a situation where you had to decide what’s right for your business, SEO (Search Engine Optimization or PPC (Pay-Per-Click Ads). And it’s a very important decision because although SEO and PPC are both great solutions for generating online leads, their underlying methods are quite different. While in this article we will talk about how SEO costs lower than paid Ads, please be aware that by no means are we suggesting that SEO is better than paid Ads. In fact, both the approaches are quite different and often complement each other.
Understanding the costs involved in SEO
Let’s look at some of the major costs involved in most SEO undertakings, especially in case of small business websites. Good SEO work is typically handled by a team of experts. This team constitutes of –
- Google Expert – This person lives and breathes tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, and Google Keyword Planner. This person plays an important role in ensuring that the website follows Google’s guidelines.
- Web developer – This person works closely with the Google Expert in making all the necessary changes to the website.
- Content Writer – SEO revolves around website content. The more relevant your content is, the better your website will rank in search results. Therefore, Content Writer plays an important role in putting together content that’s not only search engine friendly, it’s also meaningful to the end user.
- Graphic Artist – This person works closely with the Google Expert, the Web Developer and the Content Writer, and creates visual diagrams, edits photos to help enhance the visual appeal of the website.
- Program Manager – Lastly, you need one person to manage the entire project and ensure all aspects of SEO are being handled properly and in a timely fashion.
But wait… this all sounds quite costly. Then how does SEO cost lower than Paid Ads?
There’s a saying – “Good advice costs $500, bad advice costs $50. Take your pick”. It’s amazing how many times small businesses tend to pick the cheaper option even though it may turn out to be the bad one. SEO is kind of like that. Many small business owners underestimate the effort involved in doing SEO right. Therefore, they hire inexperienced people, they often rely on cheap advice, and end up losing money on SEO. Good SEO doesn’t come cheap, but it pays many folds over itself.
Let’s take an example.
A plumbing company is deciding to generate leads online. They need to pick between SEO and PPC. They have found that it costs them $2.5 to get a website visitor through PPC (paid Ads). Also, 5% of the visitors generated through PPC eventually call them. Therefore, their cost per lead through PPC is $2.5 / 5% = $50.
They also looked at Google’s organic search volume for keywords related to their services. They found that monthly average of organic searches is 1000. Also, they estimated that by focusing on SEO they could convert 70% of those searches into website visitors. Therefore, their monthly organic search volume would become 1000 x 70% = 700. And, of those, 5% would eventually call them. Therefore, they could potentially get 700 x 5% = 35 leads per month through SEO. Assuming their SEO budget is $1000/month, their cost per lead through SEO would become $1000 / 35 = $28.57.
As you can see, SEO wins hands down in this scenario. That said, there can be situations where search volume is just not enough to make the case for SEO. And that’s where a good and honest digital marketing company can help you make the right decision.
Benefits of SEO go beyond just lower costs
When comparing SEO and PPC using just cost per lead criteria, one would find that SEO wins hands down in most cases. But that’s just one of the success criteria used in digital marketing. There are other aspects that are worth considering also, such as trust, authority, customer experience, etc. For example, since SEO helps bringing your website at the top in search results, without paying Google, consumers automatically associate your content as trust-worthy; they automatically consider your business as a market leader in your space. In some cases, it also improves customer experience and helps build customer loyalty without having to pay for loyalty coupons. For example if the plumbing company provides lot of high quality content that solves real life customer problems (such as covering topics like “how to clean your drain”, or “things to consider before calling a plumbing company”), customers will feel happier about the brand and will automatically consider that company for their plumbing needs.
PPC has its place too
One major reason you may choose PPC over SEO is because SEO is inherently a long-term strategy. It can take weeks and sometimes months to see its true value. And you may not be in a situation to wait that long. Furthermore, tying efforts to results may not be as easy as it may seem. Especially if you are a small business owner, chances are you really don’t have enough money to spend on marketing with the hope to see results in few weeks or months; In most cases you expect results within days (if not hours!). Also, as most other small business owners, you know your expenses very well and tying efforts and costs to results matters to you a lot. If this sounds familiar, then chances are that you may not have much of an appetite for SEO.
SEO and PPC are two very different digital marketing techniques. For the most part, they both solve different problems. The only one commonality in them is their impact on your website traffic. And therefore, they are compared against each other all the time. However, comparing SEO and PPC is like comparing apples and oranges. While one may seem cheaper than the other, success of your business will most probably depend on employing both the strategies in proportions that makes sense for your individual situation.