scale measuring SEO vs Paid Search

If you have a website, you’ve more than likely heard that you should be doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization). You’ve likely also heard that you should be doing Paid Search (also sometimes referred to as PPC or even SEM). Perhaps you’ve even talked to multiple people and heard various stories about which one they’re doing and why, but none of their advice has steered you one direction versus the other. As a business owner, you have limited resources and want to invest your money wisely. So which one do you choose?

As a Search Marketing agency, we at Fox Two Group craft strategies that best suit our clients’ goals. The tactics we use are designed to best navigate the competitive landscape that the particular client operates within. While our recommendations to clients are most often a combination of both SEO and Paid Search, sometimes we’ll specifically recommend one or the other. How we make that determination relies heavily on the individual needs of each client.

At a very basic level, the most common goal our clients have is to appear at the top of the search results for keywords relevant to their business (aka ranking well). When trying to figure out whether SEO and Paid Search is the best way to get there, there is one distinction that is probably the most important to understand: SEO is a long-term strategy whereas Paid Search can be very quick. Regardless of this fact, each has their own merits and demerits to consider.

Our SEO strategies are comprised of three main pillars: on-page optimization, content strategy and backlink acquisition. Work and analysis on all three is done on a continual basis to achieve improvements in rankings. However, it is essential to remember that SEO work done today may not have an effect on your rankings for weeks or even months due to the way that Google evaluates websites. Part of this is because Google doesn’t necessarily look at your website everyday. Another factor is that it can take time to fix errors or amass valuable content on your site that Google interprets as authoritative.

At the surface, Paid Search is much simpler. You choose which keywords you want to bid on/rank for, write a couple ads, set a budget and flip the switch. If done properly, your ad can potentially be in the top 3 or 4 positions within the hour. However, the thing to remember about Paid Search is that you must pay for each visitor to your site. And then there’s the realization that these campaigns can be incredibly nuanced and complex to run.

In an ideal situation, you’d run both a SEO and Paid Search advertising campaign. This way, Paid Search gets your website to rank for relevant keywords quickly while the work on SEO helps your website improve in organic rankings over time. Running both campaigns concurrently can ultimately ensure your website ends up appearing multiple times within the search results, thereby drastically increasing the likelihood that people end up on your site, buying your product or subscribing to your service.

But sometimes it’s just not possible to run both SEO and Paid Search at the same time due to a restriction of resources. In that situation, we often recommend clients start with SEO first. The reason is that you can think of your website as your home. Before inviting people over for a party, you want to make sure that your house is clean and there are things for people to eat, drink or do once they get there.

young woman cleaning her house

SEO accomplishes that for your website. By cleaning up broken images or navigation issues and adding valuable content, you are making sure that visitors both enjoy their time on your site and find it useful. Once you have things in order and are ready to receive visitors, you can then open the flood gates with Paid Search and generate traffic.

While this is an accurate representation of what we recommend to most clients, there are always unique situations that necessitate a more customized plan. If you own a business and you’re curious about what you should do regarding SEO and/or Paid Search, send us a note. We always happily give out free advice here on our blog, but talking to us one-on-one means that we can learn about your business and tailor that free advice to your specific needs.