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SEO vs PPC: Is Organic SEO or Pay Per Click Better for my Business?

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When you are planning marketing campaigns for your ecommerce website, there are a number of variables to consider, albeit given that every business is different, whichever you prioritise at different times, depending on changing business objectives, both have their value, regardless of business type.

It’s simply a question of keeping your marketing strategy under regular and consistent review to find what is working.

That being said, let’s dive into the essentials to learn what might work best for your online business and remember that what works today may have to evolve as the search engines tweak their algorithms.

SEO Versus PPC

SEO includes two elements, organic and PPC, (sponsored ad’s). Both are important for boosting your visibility and search engine ranking. The skill is in applying each at the appropriate time.

In general, as a rule of thumb, to gain immediate presence and visibility, pay per click (PPC) allows those with a good budget to get fast results, perhaps when launching a new product line, or boosting sales of your higher value goods or services.

Organic SEO is a longer term strategy, requiring consistency of efforts in creating high value content to your audiences. Every asset you create is money in the bank that accumulates in terms of ranking.

Some marketing channels achieve greater results than others, depending upon what products or services your business is about.

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Google regularly updates its algorithms, so, organic ranking involves a commitment to learning emerging priorities of this search engine.

While this ever-changing SEO landscape is frustrating, it helps stop those with deep pockets gaming the system, leaving room for the smaller online business to compete.

Organic Ranking

The options for marketing focus are seemingly endless. For instance, here are just a few organic marketing channels to conjure with:

  • Video uploaded to YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.
  • Blogs
  • White papers
  • Guest posts to high authority niche sites
  • Articles on LinkedIn
  • Social media links from e.g. Facebook, Pinterest
  • Forum contributions, such as Quora
  • Your preferred media

The point whichever ‘channel’ you use for promotion is to establish:

  • brand authority or industry leadership
  • competitiveness in cost
  • quality versus competitors
  • any of the above and more

When creating content, it has to be significant to your audience and relevant. This way, the search engine maintains its value to searchers online. It’s important, therefore to avoid irrelevant links to other content.

Spamming will consign the website owner to a digital black hole. While there is an element of speaking to search engine bots, first and foremost write content for humans!

Another important aspect of what Google values is adaptability of online content to smart phones – bearing in mind this behemoth sells their own phone! If your content requires excessive page manipulation on a phone, chances are customers will get frustrated and click away.

Whatever content you upload, stay abreast of your audience’s responses by analysing your metrics. Without putting time into reviewing success, your efforts can be wasted. Seeing what is popular and where your audience likes to find your website content from helps you to prioritise your future marketing strategies and better manage your SEO return on investment

PPC

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Sponsored Ad success is a potentially expensive learning curve. It is essential that you have done some groundwork before putting your money into this machine. For instance, key word research is essential in order to understand what terms your audiences are using to find your stuff.

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Observing competitor activity in this area helps to get an idea of what keeps them ranking. It is not only the amount companies are prepared to bid, but the structure of their ad and language used. Pay per click is part art, part science.

The science is the checking of metrics and tweaking accordingly. It is vital to conserve your budget to do this on an hourly basis with new campaigns, or as a newbie. Then look daily at conversions to sales or consultancy appointments made. After a week, you will have a clear idea of terminology that speaks to your audience and structure to galvanise the psychology of your buyers.

Bear in mind also, that the key words used in your ads must align with descriptions of products on landing pages i.e. relevance rules! This initial research and on-going monitoring of performance can be off-putting, in which case, there are plenty of marketing agencies to whom you can outsource campaigns until you learn the ropes.

If you are committed to learning and deploying in house, then be prepared for consistent, planned split tests, alternating between variants of ad content. Also, continual trial and error over several months is inevitable during your PPC steep learning curve.

For those that prefer to teach themselves PPC rather than outsourcing, be aware that there will be important metrics to monitor closely, each of which has their own jargon, e.g.:

  • Cost per impression: banner ads and text ads can be paid for ‘in bulk’, e.g. purchasing 1,000, 100, 000, etc. displays around the net. These are said to generate a click through rate of around 3%.
  • Impressions can be reported to you via the search engine’s webmaster tools, showing you how many times your advert showed up to your audience. This gives an idea of whether your message generates click troughs. It is useful to split test two adverts at a time, at least, to compare response rates.
  • Cost per click; this involves calculating how much is actually spent on each click through to your website and from this you can work out how many of these convert into actual sales
  • Cost per acquisition; this is the established cost of actually acquiring a new customer, or new sale.

Either Or and Campaign Combination’s

Realistically speaking, organic and paid search are not mutually exclusive and should run in tandem, at least when Pay Per Click is deemed either necessary, or your organization has the budget for this ‘nice to have’, in addition to building your organic presence, the value of which is cumulative.

The weight of budget allocated really depends on your particular business situation and what your goals are. If you are looking to corner the market over a competitor, then boosting your visibility via PPC has value. Similarly, when launching new product lines, or conducting sales, then extra promotions will boost views to your online store. Some online retailers will want to promote their products aligned with popular holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Eid and so on.

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Consultancies seeking to expand their revenue streams and gain market share may decide to capitalise on currently trending topics of interest, such as healthcare during a pandemic, support in applying for business grants and support during an economic downturn and so on.

Whichever combination of organic and paid marketing campaigns you are weighing up in terms of value, consider the following aspects of implementation:

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Speed and Time

PPC’s value lies in the fact that campaigns can be up and running immediately. Having selected your ideal key words, adverts can be running in less than an hour, driving traffic to your website.

Organic SEO is a long-term game and it takes a while to show its effect in the Search Engines. However, the impact is cumulative; the more you do, the more ‘rods in the pond’ and the more the search engine rewards your efforts.

If, however, you have content valuable enough to see you featured in Google News, expect faster results and high volumes of traffic. If you are picked up by magazines and journals in your industry, you can generate a lot of traffic quickly too, when your website is mentioned on a popular website.

Budget and ROI

With no budget, sweating it out in organic SEO is your only option. However, learning what works and putting in the time will yield great results over time.

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If you do have sufficient funds for PPC, you will need to ensure that the revenue you receive from paid campaigns exceeds expenditure. Pay Per Click can lose you money very quickly. Bear in mind that some key words cost much more than others, for instance in high value industries, or where there are many more competitors. In this case, to make it work for your business, you will have to build your investment and be well-capitalised.

Take a look at the average cost per click across different industries for an idea of what you can expect in terms of investment:

The return on investment is much greater with organic SEO over time. Once you’re achieving a significant amount of visitors from search engines, you create a virtuous circle, wherein the more popular you are, the greater your potential for reaching more viewers and buyers.

Of course, the flip side of this is that your online shop-window could continue to get window-shoppers who do not convert to enough buyers to make your business viable, in which case, you may seek purchase uplift through additional paid campaigns.

Targeting

The key to any marketing is learning how to best target your ideal online shop visitor. PPC gives you targeting options that are not available purely through organic SEO. You can be extremely precise via long-tail key word phrases, such as: “(Brand-name) summer dress sale”, “U.K. made, organic moisturiser for men”, etc. Such specific targeting will reach those looking for exactly what your are selling and is likely to convert more visitors to purchasers.

Alternatively, should you choose a broader audience, your phraseology in your ad will be more generic, but may convert less.

Here are just some targeting variables to consider:

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  • Keywords: “sexy”, “bargain”, (brand name), “fast-acting”, etc.
  • Interests or hobbies – particularly if linked to topical subjects
  • Placements i.e. geographical, local or demographic references
  • Retargeting involves the smart use of technical tools, such as cookies to track where your website visitors come from and go to afterwards; whatever they are looking at, pop up banner adverts can follow them around, linking to their interests
  • Organizational roles, for instance, reaching decision makers, such as CEO’s, managers, etc.
  • Life events, e.g. weddings, Holy days, local holidays or festivals, back-to-school, pandemic concerns, environmental disaster challenges, etc.
  • I am sure you can think of many more relevant to your offering. Make a list, then schedule your campaign, to establish your calendar.
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There are so many options which enable you to reach your particular audience of interest. Slight tweaks to change your message or offer can help achieve marginal increases in RPI that make all the difference in turn over.

Get specific about the particular pains and needs of each of your ‘segmented’ audiences.

Tracking

Since Google stopped providing keyword data for advertisers to target specific audiences, tracking which keywords generate sales or leads is more challenging. However, some paid SEO services such as SEMrush, Keyword Hero and others continue to offer some metrics to support your efforts. While attributing revenue to specific keywords is now more difficult, by monitoring and recording competitor success, you can make informed guesses as to what works.

By keeping records of all your campaigns and analysing results from detailed tweaks, you can track rewards from particular keywords or formatting of your ad.

Other important metrics include: value per click or impression, bounce rate, pages viewed, number of website interactions occurred before a visitor bought and much more, all of which helps you better manage your budget and optimise campaigns.

By reviewing organic SEO metrics and optimising your performance, your company has the opportunity to appear in search engines alongside household brand names, but with far fewer resources.

Putting in the Work

Every new art or skill is a matter of putting in the time. By regularly scheduling in time to review your results, you can learn what works for your particular business, whether it be learning which platforms your audience likes to spend time on, or what words galvanise activity.

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When you’re getting your SEO efforts right, through learning what works, you’ll be getting links from other websites that increase your viral impact, bringing increased visitors to your website than your efforts alone would otherwise manage.

Popularity from balancing inputs via organic or paid SEO helps you rank higher in the search engines at different levels and at different times. One method is not intrinsically ‘better’ than the other unless of course, you have a specific purpose in mind, for which one strategy works better. The combinations and budget allocated will evolve over time as your business needs change.

Remember, while Pay Per Click costs more in the short-term, it can help you fill in gaps in your rankings while you work on organic SEO to bring visitors to new content, services, or products.

The toughest decision is deciding which channels to start out with because relying on one channel to support your business is risky.

Choose two or three channels and really understand how they work. Learn and observe the impacts of hidden algorithms on your website visits. Mastery and turnover are simply an on-going learning curve.

This technical side of SEO can seem off-putting, but by focusing on organic versus paid, you will learn these various elements as you go along.



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Author: Matt Janaway

Follow @mjanaway

Matt Janaway is a successful Digital Marketer and Entrepreneur based in Nottingham, UK. He started his digital career journey during the mid 2000’s internet retailing boom by developing 10+ eCommerce stores which enjoyed great success using a successful and evolving SEO formula. Matt is now Head of Digital for a… View full profile ›

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How to Write For Google

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How to Write For Google


Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?

I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.” 

I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.

As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story. 

I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.

Whether you’re an in-house SEO content writer, a DIY business owner, or a freelance SEO copywriter, this 27-point checklist will help you write engaging, Google-happy content—every time.

Items to review before you start your SEO writing project

 

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– Do you have enough information about your target reader?

Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions. 

Here’s more information on customer personas.

 

– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?

It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.

Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today. 

 

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– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources

When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.

 

– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?

Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.

 

– Did you conduct keyphrase research?

Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.

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Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.

If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.

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– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?

Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.

 

– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?

Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!

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Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.

 

 — Do your keyphrases match the search intent?

Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position. 

 

— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?

Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”

Here’s some excellent information on how to write headlines that get noticed (and that are good for Google.) You can also use headline-analyzing tools to double-check your work.

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– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?

Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.

As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.

 

Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?

Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power. 

Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential. 

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– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?

Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!

 

– Is your content written in a conversational style?

With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.

Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.

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Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.

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–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?

A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.

Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.

Items to review after you’ve written the page

 

– Did you use too many keyphrases?

Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.

 

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– Did you edit your content?

Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.

 

– Is the content interesting to read?

Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.

 

– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?

Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.

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Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.

 

– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?

“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals. 

Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.

 

– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?

Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.

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Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.

 

– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?

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If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.

Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.

 

– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?

What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.

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Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.

 

– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)

Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.

 

– Does the page include too many choices?

It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.

 

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– Did you include benefit statements?

People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.

 

– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?

It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.

Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful. 

And finally — the most important question:

 

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– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?

SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics? 

If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job. 



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