SEO or Pay-per-Click?

  Jeroen Seynhaeve     2023-11-01

While all digital advertising campaigns share a common objective, how they go about attaining this objective can be roughly distinguished in “organic” and “pay-per-click” strategies.

Organic strategies play the long game. They include SEO (search engine optimisation), SMN (social media networking), and EM (email marketing). In essence, these strategies try to accomplish advertising objectives over the long term. SEO does this by strategically optimising your website (and the world wide web), in the hope of improving its rankings in Google’s and Bing’s search results. SMN and EM focus on building long-lasting, personalised and trusted relationships with customers. While there is a cost for setting up and managing organic advertising campaigns, there is no additional cost for the clicks, likes, follows, subscriptions, leads and sales they generate.

Pay-per-click advertising strategies focus on immediate results, by paying big tech platforms for a guaranteed position on their search result pages or timelines. When you pay Google, for example, they show your advert (text, image, video, website, phone number, etc ) when people search for particular keywords, or when they browse partner websites. Paying Meta or LinkedIn means that your advert becomes visible to people outside of your established network. Costs are threefold: first, advertorial content needs to be developed and set up on the platforms; second, the performance of the campaign needs to be managed, measured, and fine-tuned; and third, tech platforms charge a cost for every action the campaign generates.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

With 1.13 billion websites (and counting … a new website is built every three seconds) vying for your attention on a global digital stage, you may wonder how people would ever be able to find your website – a needle in a haystack, right? The answer, of course, is a search engine that filters all this information on the basis of keywords. A search engine, like Google and Bing, uses algorithmic formulas to decide which websites appear in its search results, and where. Google’s formula, known as Page Rank, is the oldest and most advanced – with a reported 83% market share for desktop search, and 96% market share of mobile search (Bing takes up 10% and 0.5%). In essence, SEO tries to manipulate these formulas and move a website up the search result rankings. But because the formulas are very, very secret, and change without notice, SEO is bound to rely on ongoing monitoring, trial and error of on-site (content, structure, speed) and off-site (back links) strategies.

Social Media Networking (SMN)

With 3 billion monthly active Facebook accounts, 2 billion Instagram accounts, 1.2 billion TikTok accounts, and 745 million LinkedIn accounts, competing for attention on a global scale, SMN is really easy and terribly challenging at the same time. While it’s been made really easy to connect with your customers – personally, directly, and immediately – it is also really hard to stand out from the crowd.

Email Marketing (EM)

This one’s for the older crowd ;-) While most people born after 1999 hardly use email these days, it does still seem to be an efficient strategy to connect with loyal customers. Email has of course been plagued by scammers and spammers for many years, and may therefore not be a good strategy to attract new customers. After all, receiving unsolicited email these days is seen more as irritation than exaltation – regardless of how good your intentions are.

Google Ads

If SEO does not meet your expectations, or not quickly enough, or meets your expectations for particular search terms but not for others, we can look at paying Google for guaranteed positions in search results (Google Ads). This allows us to make use of Google’s machine-learning AI to target the best audiences with the best advertorial content.

Social media pay-per-click

Meta and LinkedIn also offer pay-per-click advertising options to show your adverts on timelines well beyond your network of followers. In addition, social media platforms have collected massive amounts of (personal) data about their users for years, and make this information available to advertisers.

Deciding which strategy is best for your business – organic or pay-per-click – depends on your objectives. Do you want to make your advertising message available to as many people as possible, or do you want to test the market or see immediate results, quickly? Then pay-per-click is your recommended strategy. Do you want to develop a network of trusted customer relationships, or ‘credibility by visibility’ in the search results pages over a longer period of time? Then organic is your friend. Needless to say that most companies have different objectives at the same time, and apply both strategies simultaneously.

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