- What are the goals for the campaign you are about to establish?
- How much money do you have to allocate towards a budget?
- How much time are you willing to invest in you campaign?
Once you have answers to those questions we can really begin exploring whether you need SEO or AdWords.
What is Google AdWords?
We’re not going to get into the nuances of AdWords, but if you are new to digital marketing here’s a fairly simple breakdown. You’ve probably heard people mention terms such as cost per click (CPC), pay per click (PPC), bids and campaigns. If you never knew what those buzzwords meant, it’s okay. Today you’ll find out.
Google AdWords is owned by Google and is their advertising platform. It’s also their largest revenue stream, so they constantly promote AdWords at every turn. Businesses can advertise their ads on Google’s search engine result pages (SERPS), Google owned products such as YouTube and Gmail, as well as thousands of websites that use Google Adsense (websites that allow advertisements to appear on their site).
There are two main payment methods for AdWords, CPC and cost per thousands impressions (CPM). If all of these acronyms are too much, you’re not alone. It gets easier to remember them with time, though. In short, AdWords is an auction and it’s your job to out-optimize and outbid your competitors.AdWords is an auction and it's your job to out-optimize and outbid your competitors. Click To Tweet
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting better rankings in the SERPs organically (not using paid advertising). It’s not just for Google. When you optimize your website you are aiming to get better rankings on Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, and other major search engines. Whereas you can theoretically not optimize your site at all for AdWords to garner clicks, SEO will not work without a website that is search engine friendly.
One of the easiest ways to learn if a website is optimized well is if it is written for both users and search engines. If you’ve ever been to a site that optimizes for SERPs but not for real people, you know what I mean: keyword stuffing, awkward phrasing, semantic stuffing, etc. We have tons of white hat SEO tips on our blog, so feel free to give them a gander after you’re done here. It will give you an idea of what configurations are most important to make your website optimized.
SEO and AdWords Are Hard Work:
I am going to be honest with you, neither SEO or AdWords is easy. I would be lying to you if I said they were. It is easy, however, to lose a lot of money and time if you don’t know what you are doing.
We truly believe that both are worth every minute and dollar you allocate to it. Whatever you invest, be it time or money, your benefits will be tenfold if you do it wisely.
What you have to understand is that whether you choose SEO or AdWords they are both about planting seeds and nurturing growth. You have to work daily to build a sustainable future with your campaigns. This means that you take the time necessary to prepare and flesh out your campaign over and over again. If you make the right choices now, you can still reap the benefits in the years to come. The work you put in today can produce results that last for an extremely long time.
For example, one of our clients receives the majority of their traffic for a blog post we wrote over two years ago. When you optimize a blog post well, there’s a chance for it to become a Google “featured rich snippet” and that’s exactly what happened for our blog post. When you combine the snippet with the fact that our client appears first for this particular keyword, they have a constant source of readers each month.
If You Could Only Have One:
If it comes down to a choice of SEO or AdWords you should really take a look at what your goals are. As we mentioned, if you are able to answer the three questions above you should also be able to pick between the two. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend search engine optimization as your long term choice. You most likely won’t see results from SEO until months after your initial campaign, but the results you do receive are long lasting.
On the other hand, AdWords are fairly instantaneous. You obviously need to develop a sound strategy going into your paid search campaign, but once you have it figured out you just need to put the ads in place. Depending on how much money you have allotted to each ad, you could be at the top of Google’s search results by the end of the day. This doesn’t make for a very strong long term goal though and we typically use it to supplement SEO.
AdWords don’t make for the most successful long term campaigns because they can cost a small fortune depending on your market. It’s not uncommon to pay $10, $15, or even $75 per click in very competitive markets. While pricing certainly varies on a number of factors, you can see where even paying $4 per click as a small business owner can add up quickly. Once your budget is up for the day or month, that’s it. You no longer appear at the top or bottom of the SERPs once the well is dry. That’s why we recommend it as a supplement to SEO.#PPC is best utilized as a supplement to #SEO Click To Tweet
SEO or AdWords:
Now that we’ve gone over both in depth, here is a short cheat sheet that will give you a final comparison. Maybe it will help you decide if SEO or AdWords is right for your marketing:
- SEO applies to all search engines and not just Google. Meanwhile, AdWords is only for Google search engines, websites that use Adsense, and Google owned properties.
- Traffic from SEO is organic while AdWords is paid.
- AdWords ads are found either on the top or bottom of Google SERPs (if you outbid competitors), but you are not guaranteed any particular spot on SERPs when you use SEO. For SEO you have to work much harder and longer to get on the first page.
- Your SEO campaign is not immediate and you may not see success for several months where as AdWords are more immediate and your advertising campaigns can generate traffic almost instantly.
- If you stop your AdWords campaign for any reason then your traffic will stop immediately, but once you gain traffic with SEO it will continue long term (some caveats apply).
- Because Google wants you to pay for AdWords, they won’t show you where your organic traffic is coming from when you use Google Analytics. They will, however, show you exactly where your traffic is coming from when you use their Ads.
- Adwords can target many keywords at the same time as long as you’re willing to pay for it, but SEO requires you to focus on a few keywords for the best results.
What is Best For My Marketing?
Ultimately this is up to you, but you really can’t go wrong with SEO or AdWords. Ideally you’d have a budget that can be split between both, but we understand that’s not always realistic. If you want to see which keywords and phrases are working for you in a hurry, than by all means use AdWords. Once you see which terms are producing the most traffic, you can always turn off AdWords and then optimize your website around those exact terms. This gives you a pretty decent idea of what is converting for you and you can start working on organically getting those customers to your site.
If your business doesn’t have much of an online presence or is new, I’d recommend using AdWords to get your foot in the door. Once you are more established brand and gathering a customer base, your name is already out there among those customers. If you are remarketing to them then you should have a stream of income. Turn off AdWords at this point and really build up a strong search engine optimization campaign. It may seem like you’re spinning your wheels at first, but keep in mind that it takes time.
When you are ready to start your SEO or AdWords campaign, take a long look if you are capable of managing it in house. If you can’t, a consultant will be able to provide you with the best results. Experience, as with most things, is your best asset when using AdWords and SEO.