SEO vs PPC vs Facebook

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a small business owner ask me if they should do Search Engine Optimization or Pay-Per-Click advertising. It’s a question small businesses wrestle with and a frequent topic during meetings with prospective clients. To further complicate the discussion, paid advertising on Facebook has entered the debate.

In this article I have attempted to thoroughly answer this question while incorporating pros and cons to each strategy, timelines, expectations, and budget concerns.

The Succinct and Direct Answer

If I had to answer the question shortly and candidly, I would tell you to do all three. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Doing all three is cost prohibitive, takes up too much time and resources, and creates challenges finding trustworthy talent for three different marketing disciplines.

This is exactly why this question relies on important details to arrive at the right decision for your company’s marketing budget. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Brief Overview of SEO

Overview of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the best practice associated with acquiring traffic from the “free,” “natural,” or “organic” listings from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Google has a proprietary algorithm they use to decide which websites to show in order of relevance to a search. It’s well known that Google has about two hundred ranking signals they incorporate when determining the rank of a site.

In essence, SEO is executing known best practices, keeping up with new practices, staying informed of speculative ranking signals, avoiding penalties, and committing to providing a highly valuable user experience. When you put potential site visitors first, you will automatically touch on core SEO strategies.

Industry Professionals Have Divided SEO into Categories

Local SEO

This type of SEO focuses on ranking your business locally. This is most applicable to businesses with a physical location that serve customers within a certain region. For example, a dentist in Del Mar will likely have 80% of its customer base living within 5 to 10 miles of the practice. Implementing sound Local SEO practices would be critical for this dentist, while an e-commerce store shipping women’s dresses nationwide would likely give less consideration to Local SEO because their proximity to customers is irrelevant.

Technical SEO

This type of SEO is foundational to a strong SEO plan. Technical SEO is all of the best practices associated with making it easy for search engine spiders or web crawlers to crawl, index, and understand your website. Technical SEO requires using Google’s Search Engine Console, submitting sitemaps, unblocking JavaScript and CSS, managing site speed, fixing crawl errors, implementing schema, setting canonical tags, and many more technical components. For a comprehensive guide to Technical SEO, check out this write up.

On Page SEO

This type of SEO is concerned with the content on your website and how well it is optimized for keywords you are targeting. Think of On Page SEO as the content and copy factors that provide visitors a good and relevant experience. Experienced On Page SEO professionals are constantly making small on-page adjustments like adding subcategories to service menus to better silo content, adding copy to pages that are determined as “thin,” or optimizing blog postings to outrank competitors.

Off Page SEO

This type of SEO includes best practices that take place externally to your website. For example, if you are writing a Title tag, that would be an activity internal to your website and would not fall under the category of Off Page SEO. But, if you are writing a guest post, you would be practicing Off Page SEO.

The Off Page SEO activity that is the largest weighted ranking signal is no doubt backlinking. In my opinion, you should have a strong Technical SEO and On Page SEO foundation prior to engaging in any Off Page SEO efforts. For example, if you are going to roll out a backlinking strategy, you are going to need a content bank. So, you will need to start producing high quality videos, infographics, or informative long-form blog postings. Otherwise, publishers and other sites will have no interest in linking to your content.

Barnacle SEO

This is a specific strategy to rank for extremely competitive keywords that are nearly unreachable by leveraging other companies’ strong rankings. Sometimes big brands that are content generating machines make certain keywords unreachable for the rest of us. So, why not make like a barnacle and attach to the ship! An example of Barnacle SEO would be identifying a question or keyword phrase where Quora ranks. From there, you would write a more informative answer to the question in an effort to get your answer up-voted to the number one answer on Quora. Then people will click the Quora listing, notice your response, and hopefully click one of the links back to your site. Boom, new traffic source!

Brief Overview of Pay-Per-Click

Overview of PPC

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is a form of search engine marketing. The pricing model literally charges advertisers every time their ad is clicked. The cost-per-click has a very large range and depends on a number of variables.

The Google PPC platform is called AdWords. AdWords is an online marketing platform enabling businesses to advertise on the Google search engine results page and its advertising network. The platform is incredibly popular with over one million advertisers. In fact, about 90% of Google’s revenue is from ad revenue.

Google provides a great deal of resources and support for marketing companies and advertisers. They have training tutorials, an AdWords certification test, and live phone support.

The Yahoo/Bing network provides an alternative to Google and allows advertisers to run Pay-Per-Click ads on Yahoo and Bing. While these two search engines receive less traffic than Google, the clicks are more cost effective and the campaigns are often less competitive since there are fewer advertisers.

Brief Overview of Facebook

Brief Overview of Facebook

More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook, one of every five minutes that people in the US spend on mobile devices is on Facebook or Instagram, and 500 million people use Instagram each month. It’s no wonder advertisers are spending more money each month and that Facebook’s 2016 Q4 revenue was nearly $9 billion.

Facebook and its family of apps provide an unparalleled advertising opportunity. Never before have brands had access to such important data about consumers behaviors, demographics, and the interest of their target market.

Facebook advertising enables marketing campaigns with a variety of objectives on a platform that is conducive to testing, tweaking, and scaling.

Pros of SEO

Web Visit Channel Distribution

There are dozens of stats and case studies on the benefits of a website showing up on the first page of the internet. To be frank, I think it’s quite obvious that if your business’s site shows on the first page of Google, Yahoo, and Bing, you will likely reap huge rewards.

According to a 2014 study by Conductor, organic searches account for up to 64% of web traffic. That means organic traffic trumps paid advertising traffic, direct traffic, and social media traffic. 70-80% of users ignore paid ads and click on organic ads instead, and SEO leads have a close rate of nearly 15%, while outbound leads (direct mail or print) have a close rate of 1.7%. 93% percent of online experiences began with a search engine.

People use search engines when online, they favor organic listings over Pay-Per-Click ads, and SEO leads convert at a very high rate.

A well thought out SEO plan will conclude in a great user experience for your visitors. For example, part of your Technical SEO task list will be to enhance your site speed. Users love a fast site and quickly become impatient while trying to access slow sites. If your site is too slow, expect to have short dwell times and high bounce rates.

Another section of your plan will include optimizing your site for mobile devices. While mobile optimization is a ranking signal, the effort will also cater to a large portion of your current and future site visitors.

Sites that silo content and have specific pages for products and services are not only properly structured for SEO but also create good organization for the visitor, making the site easy to navigate and locate the information they are looking for.

Since content is a huge ranking signal, your SEO plan will likely have a section for blogs, videos, and infographics. Content and multimedia can be extremely informative to site visitors and often present information in an engaging format. A good content plan increases the time on site metric and discourages users from bouncing off quickly.

Since a good SEO plan promotes organization, the initiative often creates landing pages that are ready to convert traffic from paid advertising campaigns into leads or customers. A good SEO plan should have a section for organizing pages by product or keyword and ensuring each page has a strong call to action. If you think about it, these are common best practices when building landing pages specifically for Pay-Per-Click or Facebook advertising campaigns.

It used to be that the only goal of SEO was to rank your site on the first page of search engines. While that is still the core objective, there are now many ancillary benefits to a strong SEO plan. A sound SEO plan will create a great site structure, ensure your site is fast and mobile-friendly, set you up to convert paid traffic campaigns, and most importantly, create a great experience for site visitors.

Cons of SEO

The biggest con to SEO is that it takes time to rank a site on the first page of a search engine. The time it take depends on a number of factors like how competitive and saturated your market is. If you operate in a highly crowded space and compete against big brands, then it could take a very long time to rank and it may require a costly SEO plan.

On the other hand, if you operate a niche business with very few competitors and under-represented competitors, you may be able to rank your site very quickly.

Most of the companies we work with at Rocket Pilots are local small businesses like law firms, assisted living facilities, dentists, event furniture rental companies, mortgage lenders, tour companies, and other service businesses. If you fall into one of these categories, it may be easier than you think to rank your site.

Sure it will take time, money, patience and consistency, but it can be done in a reasonable timeframe.

Another con to SEO is the lack of control you have over search engine algorithms. The formula for ranking a site is not exactly a transparent blueprint provided by Google. The SEO community has a very good understanding of ranking signals and best practices, but no SEO or small business owner is privy to the exact formula or knows precisely when the next algorithm update will be rolled out.

Pros of PPC


Pro of PPC Speed

If you know what you’re doing, you can have a PPC campaign up and running in no time. And if you build your campaign properly, you can quickly generate new leads and customers. The short amount of time it takes from the time you decide to run a PPC campaign until you are generating leads is one of the biggest advantages to PPC advertising.

Page Placement

Four of the eight PPC ads on desktops are located above the organic search results. Whether a user likes it or not, they will inevitably see the ads. You will hear many people say that they never click the PPC ads. I’ve had countless small business owners ask, “Does anyone even click those ads?” When you hear this, just remember that Google’s principal source of revenue is from advertising. The majority of Google’s $75 billion in revenue in 2015 ca