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Let's Define SEO & PPC

Wednesday, October 13 2010 3:42 PM
By Scott Thome

A common misconception that is shared by many business owners as well as marketing firms is that search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising are the same things.  They are indeed two roads in a yellow wood, but they do diverge rather quickly.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What is SEO?
SEO is tasked with achieving good organic search results within a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.).  When you perform a search engine search, the organic results are the lists of web pages found in the primary content area of the results page.  You cannot buy placement on a search engine's organic list of results, so you must have your website optimized to be found there.  SEO is a marathon - it's a long race to the top of the page, and the speed of the marathon is governed by the speed limit that each search engine sets in its algorithm.  But that algorithm has different speeds depending what types of SEO tools you use - it's a complex beast.

Why is SEO important?
A website is only functional if it can be found.  SEO was born out of ever increasing levels of competition by other websites to be found by searchers like yourself.  The days of just having a website up and running are over.  A successful website must be well designed, highly usable by website visitors, programmed to load quickly and consistently, and to have relevant content indexed by search engines so they can be found by searchers.

There is no single SEO silver bullet that will allow you to out-perform your competition.  Every market and industry is unique with its own set of variables the optimizer needs to plan for.  When done properly, a highly optimized site will start your website's climb up the search engine's result pages.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

What is PPC?
Pay Per Click is an advertising model in which you can display text or image ads on search engines.  This method of advertising is free until someone clicks on your ad, at which point you are charged for that click.

Using PPC advertising is a way to get paid placement on a search engine's first page of results.  Remember that organic placement is the list of web page links in the main content page.  PPC ad links are usually found at the top, bottom and right-hand side of the search engine's results page.  PPC is a sprint - a quick way to get on page one for a keyword.

Why Is PPC Important?
As stated before, PPC advertising can get you first page placement on a search engine.  PPC will not help you get organic search results, so it has no substantial effect on SEO.  PPC is used most effectively when promoting an offer, product or an event when a website is not already enjoying first page placement for that topic.  Placing an ad for your product will direct traffic to your website in hopes of converting that visitor into a customer.

When To Use SEO or PPC

Now that you know that SEO and PPC are two different things, they still remain two roads in a yellow wood.  As a general rule, invest your time, energy and budget into SEO first.  Optimizing a website is a multi-faceted approach and can include copywriting, keywording, directory listings, and social media integration.  The sooner you get your website optimized, the sooner you will start to see results.  Again, SEO is not an overnight process, and its rate of success can depend on market conditions.

Use PPC when you need to promote something specific.  If the goal of your PPC campaign is to get visitors to your website, you need to offer them a reason to click on your ad to begin with.  Then, you need to give them a purpose once they're on your website.

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