In the battle for marketing dollars, many businesses are torn between search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In 2013, the tide seemed to turn toward PPC as concerns about the death of SEO prompted businesses to slow down their SEO spending. The changes to Google GOOG -2.51%’s algorithms meant marketers must shift their focus from keyword-heavy copy to relevant content linked with Google authorship, many experts said.
As businesses plan their 2014 marketing budgets, many are wondering if these death knells mean they should move completely away from SEO. But businesses shouldn’t move so quickly. Google’s changes were designed to stop those who were trying to work the system. For honest businesses, keywords and backlinks can still improve search results, especially when those tools flow naturally throughout a business’s well-crafted, informative copy.
Meanwhile, PPC seems to be just as popular as ever with marketers. In its report, The 2013 State of Paid Search, 72 percent of businesses surveyed reported they plan to spend more on PPC in 2014, up from 70 percent who increased spending in 2013. Google AdWords was by far the area where businesses planned to spend the most money on paid search, followed by Bing Ads, display networks, and Facebook.
|SEO vs PPC|
One force driving businesses toward paid search is Google’s decision to limit analytics. In recent months, marketers have begun noticing the words “not provided” under many areas of their results. Security is a top concern for many search engine providers and as a result, they’re masking keyword referral data.
Paid search customers don’t have this problem. Google gives its AdWords customers access to keywords, helping them learn whether their current SEO efforts are working. But do customers have to pay? Kissmetrics came up with a few ways to get around the “not provided” issue, although the more instances a business has, the less these methods will work.
This alone could serve as an incentive for businesses to move marketing dollars toward PPC advertising in 2014. The lack of feedback on SEO efforts can lead a marketer to feel as though he or she is operating in the dark and with no insight, it will be difficult to plan future campaigns.
One major difference between SEO and PPC is that PPC requires money. Marketing budgets have been locked down for the past few years, as businesses struggle to survive tough economic times.
Economists predict the financial outlook will improve slightly in 2014, with many marketers stating that they’ll increase their social media and content marketing budgets for the year. This cautious optimism could be a win for PPC as businesses become more comfortable with spending money on marketing.
Along with the benefits of improved analytics, PPC advertising is popular because of its immunity from search engine algorithm changes. Businesses must struggle to keep up with changes affecting their search engine marketing efforts, but when major changes happen, they’re also required to update existing content to ensure it stays visible. Paid search results remain viable for the duration of a business’s paid campaign.
SEO Takes Time
As anyone who has ever deployed an SEO campaign will attest, an SEO campaign requires patience. New content can take weeks, even months, to begin appearing in search engine results and as new content comes along, it may be bumped lower until it disappears from the first page of search results.
With PPC advertising, businesses receive quicker results, which may pay off if it results in bringing in new income. Google’s Keyword Planner can help AdWords customers come up with the best keywords for their campaigns. It can also provide traffic estimates to help marketers create a budget for their campaigns.
Trend Toward Mobile
2014 is the year many experts predicted mobile devices would eclipse PCs in the consumer market, but PC World said the devices have already exceeded desktops. Therefore 2014 will be the year laptops will be outsold, as well, if predictions are correct. This means local search will be more important than ever. Customers are more likely to search for “best restaurants” while on the road, for instance, rather than while at home or the office. Since Google recognizes these search habits, businesses must adjust their marketing efforts to accommodate this new method of search.
In 2014, businesses will also be required to determine whether their PPC campaigns are addressing mobile devices. It’s important that you use the call and location extensions when setting up your campaign, which gives customers the ability to call you or get directions by clicking on a link.
SEO Still Matters
While there are definite incentives to move from SEO to PPC in 2014, businesses can’t neglect SEO altogether. Search engine placement is still very important, especially since many consumers have grown used to scrolling past “featured results” to the beginning of organic results. While past SEO tactics may not work, there are still ways to craft SEO campaigns that work.
Link-building will be more important than ever in 2014, but it’s important businesses create organic links. This has ignited an entire industry of guest-blogging, with sites like MyBlogGuest helping connect businesses with influential sites looking for content. It’s a win-win for both parties—the host site receives keyword-heavy content with a backlink to the guest blogger’s site, while the guest blogger receives extra clicks. By linking to the posted blog on its own blog, the guest blogger can also increase search engine exposure.
One major change businesses will notice in 2014 is that a presence on Google+ will be more important than ever. Google has been gradually shifting preference toward Google+-linked content, and since Google remains by far the most popular search engine. At the end of 2013, Google still claimed 67 percent of the search engine market, so even if Bing improves its 18 percent market share in 2014, Bing and other search engines have a long way to go before they catch up with Google.
SEO and PPC are both crucial elements in today’s marketing campaigns. Chances are, many businesses will incorporate both into their plans for 2014, but attention may be shifted off of SEO in favor of PPC. By experimenting, businesses can work toward finding a formula that works for them.