Where to Invest: SEO or Pay Per CLick?


Search engine optimization comprises all of the things that get your site a high ranking in what’s called organic search–the results that Google shows on the left side of the screen, below the couple of listings at the top that may be ads.  Pay per click is the small listings that appear on the right side of the search engine results and a couple at the top of the page.  They are paid-for ads, that you pay for if someone clicks on your ad.  In this issue I provide my advice on the proper role of both.


Google’s PPC, called AdWords, starts displaying your ad as soon as you set up the campaign, choose the terms you want to trigger display of your ads and give them a credit card number.  You pay every time someone clicks on your ad to visit your site.  The good news is that you’re paying per visitor–it’s not like advertising in the newspaper, where you pay whether someone is interested in your ad or not.  And, of course, the quick display of your ad as soon as you’ve made a payment arrangement is also good news.  What’s not such good news is that it’s possible for PPC charges to mount up fast, and a campaign that’s not well run can be very expensive.

Noted in Passing

Just a note–one thing you can do with PPC that you can’t do well with organic search is to advertise on your competitor’s name!  Google will let you advertise on your competitor’s trade name.  You shouldn’t pretend you’re them–but you can show an ad saying “Compare Smith to Jones” and take them to a page of comparison when they click the ad.  Or you can be even more aggressive and say “Smith is better than Jones, see why” and take them to a comparison page.


A search engine optimization campaign takes time and has a lot of ingredients.  The most important issue today is site content, so attention is given to what you’re saying on your site, and keeping that fresh.  In addition, there are technical aspects to your site, particularly meta tags, that Google uses to find out about content.  They need to be set up to make things eager for Google.  And it’s important to get links from other sites.  There are several ways to do this, but it’s essential that at least one of them be pursued.  The good news is that there’s no cost per click.  The less good news is that it’s real work to conduct an SEO campaign, and if you’re hiring someone to do it it costs real money.

How They Fit Together

The approach I recommend is to use both approaches.  Start PPC right away–that gets you ads on Google and traffic to the site–but with a small spend.  Measure the traffic that your ads bring, and find out which terms bring you quality traffic.  Once you know which terms bring traffic that’s good for your business goals, then you can increase the spend, and you also know which terms to emphasize in your SEO campaign.  But don’t spend a lot–the goal here is not site visitors, but business.  It’s easy to spend a lot on traffic that doesn’t do any business.

The Bottom Line

Which to use?  Start both campaigns at once, but use PPC at first, along with site measurements, to find out which query terms work for you.  Then use them in your full-throated PPC and SEO campaigns.

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