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SEO (Search Engine Optimization) versus "Pay Per Click" Advertising - what are the pros and cons?

SEO v.s. Pay Per Click

In the battle for the eyes of internet viewers and potential new clients, the war is waged between SEO and PPC. You are victorious when you see the results in terms of increased web traffic, new customers and more profits.


When considering online marketing, two of the more popular methods companies can use to enhance its visibility on the Web are: organic search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) (or PPV - pay for view) advertising. In a perfect world, it would be beneficial to use both strategically to maximize your site's traffic although the cost associated to do this is not an option for most small to medium sized businesses.  If not done correctly a dual approach can result in neither campaign producing strong results. Organic SEO campaigns offer many specific advantages over pay-per-click advertising, as many recent studies have shown. Following is a list of some of these findings.


Many studies show people are less likely to click on paid search ads (PPC) rather than on results from organic SEO. For example, one study found that search users are up to six times more likely to click on the first few organic results than they are to choose any of the paid results, while an eye tracking study showed that 50 percent of users begin their search by scanning the top organic results. Other studies have shown that only 30 percent of search engine users click on paid listings, leaving an overwhelming 70 percent who are clicking the organic listings. And a 2003 study found

that 85 percent of searchers report clicking on paid links in less than 40 percent of all of their searches, and 78 percent of all respondents claim that they found the information they were searching for through sponsored links just 40 percent of the time.

Client First Impressions

Studies are beginning to indicate that the trust level for organic results is much higher than that of paid results, and that paid results are looked upon as a nuisance by some searchers. One study found that only 14 percent of searchers trust paid listings, and 29 percent report being "annoyed" by them. Another study found that 66 percent of customers distrust paid ads. Clearly, it's not generally a good idea to upset potential customers before they even click on your link.

Value of Your Visitors

Organic search engine results tend to be seen as non-biased, and they therefore are able to provide visitors that are more valuable. The overall conversion rate, or the rate at which searchers take a desired action on a site, is 17 percent higher for SEO search results than the rate for PPC (4.2% vs. 3.6%). Trends also have shown that more of the sales that result from search engines originated in organic search listings.

Searchers Becoming More Aware of Pay-Per-Click as Advertising

As more and more people turn to the Internet for research and information, more searchers are becoming aware of paid results as a marketing tool. One study showed that not only are 38 percent of searchers aware of the distinction between paid and unpaid results, 54 percent are aware of the distinction on Google, which is widely recognized as the most popular search engine.

Pay-Per-Click Becoming More Expensive

Meanwhile, pay-per-click costs are rising steadily. Between October 2004 and December 2005, average keyword prices rose from around $25 to just under $55. And the cost of keywords can increase by as much as 100 percent during the holiday season. These costs aren't going unnoticed either; one study of problems experienced by U.S. companies found that 57 percent of respondents felt that their desired keywords were "too expensive," while 51 percent expressed concern that they are overpaying for certain keywords. On the other hand, when you outsource to an organic search engine optimization firm, your costs will likely remain more stable than the prices for pay-per-click advertising.

Long Term Results

While a pay-per-click campaign may produce results more quickly than an organic search engine optimization campaign, organic search engine optimization campaigns can give you results that last. When the budget runs out for a pay-per-click campaign, or when your company decides that the pay-per-click campaign should be terminated, the results end as well. With organic search engine optimization, the optimized site content and other changes made to your site can have an impact on your search results until the next change in a search engine's algorithm, or possibly even beyond.

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