Everyone these days seems to be Paying for Clicks. Google & Facebook have become companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars because everyone is paying for clicks. Why are you using Pay Per Click Ads? Did you ever ask yourself that question? Maybe because everyone does it, you think it’s what you should be doing. Maybe because you think SEO is hard work, or that it’s more expensive than PPC.
Fact : 80% of all clicks on Google Search Results Pages go to Organic Results.
Fact : 80% of Online Marketing Spend goes on Pay Per Click Advertising.
In this post I’m going to try and work out why these 2 seemingly contradictory stats. exist. I think the proportion is wrong and I think it is based on false preconceptions of both Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization.
I’m not saying that Pay Per Click is a waste of money, I have used it myself in the past. Neither am I saying that SEO is a magic bullet, the only road to online success. But this ratio of spending is crazy, especially for small, but well established businesses in the trade and construction sectors, or those on a limited budget.
Pay-Per-Click Spending in 2017
In 2017 Google brought in 109.65 billion Dollars in advertising revenue, predominantly through Pay Per Click Ads on the search results page. Facebook in the same year generated 40.7 billion Dollars, these clicks would predominantly send users to external websites. That’s a total of 150.35 billion Dollars spent on Pay-Per-Click Advertising with the 2 largest internet advertisers.
That’s just the 2 largest providers, it doesn’t include Bing, Yahoo, Twitter or any of the other search engines or social media platforms.
SEO Spending in 2017
In 2015 total spending on SEO in the US was 60.7 billion Dollars, it is expected to rise to 72 Billion in 2017. This takes in a variety of channels; SEO consultancy, SEO software or even WordPress SEO plugins.
This is a fraction of the spending on Pay-Per-Click and when you include the spending on PPC agencies and consultancy the gap between SEO and PPC grows even wider. Some may argue that this is the right way to do things. Why spend money on SEO when you can pay to secure the top spot in a Google Search anyway?
Pay Per Click Ads with Google Adwords
Let’s take a look at how Adwords works;
The top slots on competitive search results pages are ads, often 2 or 3 slots, sometimes 4. Businesses bid for these spots. But they don’t pay just for being in these spots, they only pay when they get a click.
Above is a simplified formula for how Google AdWords decides which adverts get the advert positions. Your bid (the amount of money you are willing to pay for each click) multiplied by your Quality Score (the quality of the page linked to in the ad. and it’s relevance to the search term) determines a score. This score is compared to others bidding on the same search term, the highest score gets the top spot, and so on.
WordStream.com, thought leaders in the world of PPC advertising, describes Quality Score as follows;
Quality Score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click, and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. Your Quality Score depends on multiple factors, including:
- Your click-through rate.
- The relevance of each keyword.
- Landing page quality and relevance.
- The relevance of your ad text.
- Your historical AdWords account performance.
No one outside of Google knows exactly how much each factor “weighs” in the Quality Score algorithm, but we do know that click-through rate is the most important component. When more people who see your ad click it, that’s a strong indication to Google that your ads are relevant and helpful to users. Accordingly, Google rewards you with:
- Higher ad rankings
- Lower costs
Quality Score is SEO
There are other factors involved in the auction process, but this is basically what happens. At least 3 of the 5 Quality Score factors outlined by WordSream could be described as SEO. If you have a poor landing page (the link in the advert), poorly targeting the keyword or search term, with a high bounce rate (people who click away from your website from the page they land on) then you will pay a high price for each click, or your ad will not appear at all.
In order to appear in the advert slots you are targeting, and to pay as little as possible for each click through to your website you must first do SEO. When a visitor arrives on your landing page through an advert, their expectations of quality and relevance are the same as a visitor who clicked on an organic result.
This is an example of what Google Adwords tells you about ads and keywords. Search Engine Land estimates that Expected Click-through Rate makes up 39% of the score, Landing Page Experience also 39% with Ad Relevance making up 22% of the Quality Score.
Everything you need to do in order to make sales or generate leads through the Organic Search Results are the same things you need to do to benefit from a Pay Per Click Campaign. Do these things first; make your website the best it can be, get your keywords nailed and SEO best practices implemented. If your key performance indicators are met or exceeded with this work, WHY PAY FOR MORE CLICKS!!
The SEO Learning Curve
You may be of the opinion that learning to optimize your own website takes a long time and is very difficult. I will say that it’s not easy and it’s something that involves a lifetime of learning but it is no more difficult than learning to run Google AdWords Campaigns. And, as outlined above you have to do some SEO in order to make AdWords work.
It can be very dangerous, and expensive, to embark on the Pay Per Click journey without at least a working knowledge of how search works and how the process of optimization contributes to the success of your website.
Keywords are the obvious example. Without a knowledge of how keywords work, the basis of all SEO, you will fall at the first hurdle in the Google AdWords race.
Moz puts it in simple terms;
Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. In terms of SEO, they’re the words and phrases that searchers enter into search engines, also called “search queries.” If you boil everything on your page — all the images, video, copy, etc. — down to a simple word or phrase, those are your primary keywords.
As a website owner and content creator, you want the keywords on your page to be relevant to what people are searching for so they have a better chance of finding your content among the results.
Keyword Research is one of the things that SEO practitioners spend the most time doing. Before content is created every business, and website must discover what their customers are searching for. Then fill that need. The same process is involved for Pay Per Click Campaigns.
Learning SEO is essential before taking on the world of Pay Per Click advertising.
Why choose PPC over SEO?
This is the stat. I have a problem with, more than any other. It comes from research by Google itself and they peddle it around… a lot. Marketers and exponents of PPC use it to justify the massive spending on clicks.
Google claim that “89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.”
Think about that. It assumes that all things are equal, and anyway, 11% of the traffic IS retained. Traffic that never existed in the first place. How much of this traffic would be gained from investing in SEO instead? Could the same traffic be generated with a much lower spend? I believe it could.
This stat. is useless if you are trying to decide where to invest your time, effort and most importantly, money in one or the other. Yet it is the Number 1 stat. you will read from the proponents of Pay Per Click Advertising.
Two statistics that I would prefer to use;
40.9% of Google searches done on mobile devices result in an organic click, 2% in a paid click, and 57.1% in no click at all.
62.2% of Google searches done on desktop devices result in an organic click, 2.8% in a paid click, and 35% in no click.
I see PPC as group-think. Imagine Google with an alternative business model. Imagine they charged every webmaster a flat fee, say €100 per month, to appear in Google search results. SEO would be the only way to get your business noticed (lets disregard social media and offline advertising for the purposes of this discussion).
I would argue that SEO is the only sustainable long term strategy for promoting your website in the search results.
Google’s claim that you loose 89% of the traffic if you stop using PPC I would believe to be 100% true. It is exactly the reason you should instead invest the money in quality content, in UX (user experience), rich media (video especially) and SEO in all it’s forms. The traffic you generate through SEO is never lost, in fact it will grow.
A business owner these days has to learn a number of skills; management, accounting, sales. I would strongly erg that you also learn SEO. Say you have a budget of €500-1000 to spend on online marketing. The money would be far better spent on a part time course, to learn how to promote your website organically, than it would a PPC campaign.
Every penny and every hour you spend on SEO is locked in. You maintain the benefits to your website, and your business, for years into the future.
Pay Per Click Advertising is not all bad
There are times when Pay Per Click Advertising does make sense. Let’s take a look at a few instances;
You have launched a new website.
You have done a perfect job of keyword targeting and all the other SEO tactics and practices. It can take some time for you to rank for the search terms that matter to your business and start to generate sales or leads. During this period PPC can fill the gap. As well as a Targeted Adwords campaign, I would recommend Facebook ads during these early months in order to build an early following and target audience.
Competitor Branded Search Terms.
Is their a dominant company, or a number of well known companies in your field. If so it can really pay to bid on their target keywords. It might be the case that they have every spot, all ten, for the search term; product | brand name. They may also be bidding for ads. on this SERP. You can bid too. This will gain you some excellent exposure, especially if you are new to the market. An added bonus, the CPC (cost per click) could be very low on these search terms. A comparison/review post of your product vs your competitors product can work extremely effectively in this instance.
This a relatively new tool in the marketing sphere and is a real art form. Not strictly PPC but it is a powerful weapon. It can drive massive increases in sales. AdRoll, one of the premier re-marketing practitioners explains the process well;
Tactics these days are getting very sophisticated. You can record every action taken by your visitors; the pages they land on, visit, and exit from, and the amount of time they spend on your website. With all the data you have Google, or another provider can target specific ads at different types of users, mostly on the Google Display Network.
In the video below, from the Whiteboard Friday series, Rand Fishkin, Moz founder, explains the different types of remarketing…
Demographic Targeting & Social Media.
Facebook offers some serious firepower. After installing the Facebook Pixel on your website you can target users on Facebook after they leave your website. This is similar to remarketing on the Google Display Network outlined above. A further use of this data is something called Lookalike Audience. Facebook takes your existing traffic and creates a list of Facebook users that are similar to them, based on the data they hold about all of their users. These are very good prospective customers to your business, especially in the eCommerce space.
There is also more conventional Pay Per Click advertising. The difference with Facebook is that it’s user base is so large that you can specifically target the demographics that matter to your business. Location, age, gender, even income bracket. This can be enormously useful, especially to local businesses and those with a limited budget.
Search Engine Optimization is a long term play. If you start today, or employ a company to do it for you, you will not see results tomorrow.
“Many SEO firms will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. That’s generally accurate, but bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time.”
Many webmasters give up too soon because they don’t see results overnight. The process must be carried out methodically; Start with a website audit, identify technical errors, keyword research, content creation, link building. It’s very similar for most websites.
The ROI (Return on Investment) is harder to measure for an SEO campaign than it is for a Pay Per Click campaign. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to measure. Today’s SEO software is remarkable. Moz Pro has revolutionized how digital marketing professionals work. These are the key metrics;
- Conversions – Using the Google Analytics Goals feature you can track your customer’s journey through your website, including where they came from; Direct, Search, PPC, Social Media etc. You want to look out for an increase in sales from the Search metric.
- Rankings – When the process begins a set of target keywords are identified and a base level is set. Your rankings for these keywords should start to steadily rise from about 4 months (depending on the industry and correct implementation).
- Bounce Rate – The old faithful. There are situations, certain websites and industries where a high bounce rate (the amount of website visitors that enter and exit from the same page) is not necessarily a bad thing. But for the sake of this discussion as you post more high quality content and improve existing content your bounce should go down.
- Link Profile – The amount of links you will have (or the amount of links you will need to outrank the competition) differs depending on the industry you’re in. But in every industry, if your SEO efforts are working the amount of inbound links to your content will rise. This can be bench-marked against older content.
Take Away These Thoughts from this Post
I am biased. I believe strongly in SEO. You will find hundreds of articles online that speak equally strongly in favour of Pay Per Click, or even that SEO is dead. These tip are good ones for any discipline. Even hardcore PPC people couldn’t argue with this advise.
Think carefully and do a lot of research before you spend any money online. Whether that’s Pay Per Click advertising, Facebook and other social media ads, or Search Engine Optimization.
Pay Per Clicks Ads do not equal sales or guarantee that leads will turn into paying jobs. If the website that the click goes to is difficult to navigate, poorly designed and badly optimized then every penny you spend on clicks is wasted.
Optimize your website for the Search Quires your customers use when they hit the search engines. Make sure that they can easily find what they are looking for when they get to your website. Have as many contact options as possible, everywhere on your website. Get the basics right, walk before you try running.
Then, if you believe that a campaign of PPC ads is the right option for your business, start small. Learn how the Google Adwords auction works and how you should best position your business. Experiment with different ads, different keywords, different target customers, even different platforms.
Thank you for reading this post and please leave a comment with any questions you might have, or experiences you’d like to share.