SEO vs PPC – which is better for getting web traffic

Which one is the better and more cost-effective solution? In the short run? In the long run? I’ve pasted my answers below from a discussion I had with a PPC-advocate at the WarriorForums.

Here is the heated discussion I had with another member over the topic of SEO vs PPC…

One of my first comments:

I’ve been an SEO expert for years and every one of my website benefits highly as a result of that. I rank well for a multitude of keywords and get hundreds of thousands of FREE visits every month. Anybody who tells you SEO isn’t worth it probably hasn’t achieved the position before. Yes, it’s a gajillion times harder than PPC but yes, it’s worth it. I mean, who wouldn’t want all those free hits? Certain keywords can cost you $1/click with PPC but with SEO, it’s totally free. Everyone complaining about Google being hard to predict or having algorithms that don’t support the little guys doesn’t know what they’re doing. Yes, it’s true in SOME cases, but not all. Many of my websites have not been altered for years and they still rank well. The bottom line is, if you’re going to game the system instead of doing truely organic SEO, then yes, you do risk a chance of getting downranked with each new Google update. But if you’re doing things the proper way, you’ll have no worries of that. In fact, your rankings will probably IMPROVE with each new update…which is exactly what happens to my websites.  My suggestion is to learn how to do SEO correctly and then use that to your advantage. This knowledge alone has probably saved me thousands of dollars in PPC.

To which someone by the name of Gary argues:

SEO isn’t a bad thing or a waste of time. As long as: A) You use it for bonus traffic. Not life or death of your business traffic. Just search this forum for those tear filled posts of those who built their “businesses” on the foundation of sand that is organic traffic. B) You don’t build your business dependent on it…since you have zero control over constantly moving organic rankings/traffic. C) You do PPC first, to determine the true traffic data AND which are really your keywords that are worth putting full SEO effort into. blah blah blah, if you don’t build your business on SEO “obviously has never ranked” and you aren’t as good as me blah blah blah etc. etc. ~~ so full of it. Controlled targeted convertible paid traffic can run LAPS around SEO very quickly and without worrying about it disappearing in your sleep. SEO for organic rankings should be a supplement to actual controlled paid traffic. Basic common sense.

My reply:

Incorrect SEO is no more of a disaster than incorrect PPC. If you can’t afford to gamble, then having real SEO is far more beneficial in the long run if you ask me. It also depends on your market. Certain industries are not as heavily established making it pretty easy to dominate the SEO rankings within 6-12 months. Other industries are not so easy requiring you to use PPC and social media before you get a foothold on the search engine rankings. I think the problem (and most confusing part) are all the opinions coming from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve been doing SEO for a long time so I know how to expect realistic results and realistic turnarounds and also know what it takes to be successful. Likewise, I also know the true benefits of SEO because I’ve done it successfully many times. SEO easily beats the crap out of PPC when it comes to ROI when you do it right. And “doing it right” doesn’t mean luck but having a systematic way of approaching it. Unfortunately, most guys don’t have this experience and will talk out of their ass and pass it off as knowledge when all they’re really doing is sharing their failure.

GARY:

Can’t doubt that you’ve had success ranking organically which can obviously have a good ROI…for now. Where I totally disagree with you is in tomorrow. Nobody, you OR the search engines themselves can tell you what the SERPs are going to look like in the future. You are building a “business” on what you see today ~ AND that is totally dependent on SERPs that you have ZERO control of. Nobody knows which algorithm knobs will be adjusted tomorrow…and to claim that you have any fool proof system is false. I wouldn’t invest 50 cents in your business with that type of lack of controldependency on a 3rd party’s FREE blessing and lack of future outlook. THAT is not speaking from the ass and is far from failure…that, my friend, is basic business 101. Paid traffic first – which you have control over today and tomorrow…..then supplement that with SEO using the data from paid traffic. That is a solid business model with more control over tomorrow.

My reply:

Here goes another guy who doesn’t know how to do it. This is exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve got websites ranking well for 5+ years and benefitted from hundreds of thousands of FREE TRAFFIC without having to make much effort. I might have spent the first couple months optimizing. And then over the years, I might have spent an hour here or an hour there. But overall, I benefitted so much more than what PPC could have ever given me (EVEN IF I WANTED TO PAY FOR IT). Now let’s address YOUR CONCERNS: 1. “Nobody, you OR the search engines themselves can tell you what the SERPs are going to look like in the future. You are building a “business” on what you see today…” I understand the search engines, probably more than most people. The algorithms do not confuse me and Google’s work has been for the most part, quite transparent to me. I have noticed many particular trends and patterns that make it easy for me to predict…actually, better yet…UNDERSTAND what it takes to get a high search engine ranking. I am building a business on the trends I see today, yesterday, and tomorrow. I can understand somebody like you not being able to do that because you’re not an SEO expert. You don’t have the knowledge. It’s the same with stocks. If you know what you’re doing, you can invest a ton of money and almost always get great returns. If you don’t, then you’ll lose money and say things like “the stock market is unpredictable”, “it’s not a good time to invest”, blah blah blah, etc, etc. 2. “…AND that is totally dependent on SERPs that you have ZERO control of…” You’re right, I don’t have control of the search engines. The same way I don’t have control over my competitors or my consumer’s changing demands, or the constantly changing trends. I don’t have control over many factors of the industry that can ultimately decide my success. But you know what? I do have control over my understanding of the market. I do have control over the skills needed to quickly SENSE, PROCESS, and ADAPT to the changes. When the search engines change, I can read it right away to see if my website fits or doesn’t fit and make the necessary changes to stay on top. So while I don’t have any more control over the search engines than you do, I do have far more control over my ability to react to changes if needed be. 3. “Nobody knows which algorithm knobs will be adjusted tomorrow…and to claim that you have any fool proof system is false.” Ok, you’re obviously speaking for yourself here. You’re speaking from your lack of knowledge and your lack of comfort with the system. As I said before, I don’t know anymore than you what algorithm changes will be made tomorrow…but I certainly understand the changes better and can adapt better. Whereas you’re pulling out your hair and complaining for months, it might only be a quick 5-minute analysis and then a 30-minute adjustment for me. And even then…I rarely EVER make any SEO changes to my websites after algorithm changes because I’ve done such a proper and good job on my site that Google never feels a need to penalize them for any reason. Now of course, it wasn’t always this easy for me. The first couple years learning SEO, I had to go through what you did. Which was the constant fear of Google algorithm changes. But the thing was I was paid by hundreds of clients to maintain those rankings. And with time I started to learn which tactics were timeless and which tactics were “trendy”. And not longer after, I became a sought-after consultant and hired by different firms. And many years after that, I became the official GO-TO guy by people in my business network. As we speak, I’m doing a reverse SEO project for a large entity that recently got bad press. And my job is to rank 8…yes, that’s EIGHT results on the first page so that it pushes the bad press down to page 2. And it’s a hard job that I’ve been at for the past 4 months…but guess what, I’ve already successfully ranked 6 pages on there already and that’s through several Google algorithmic tweaks. And my client thinks I’m doing a miracle but actually, I’m just doing the same thing I’ve been doing for years and being VERY successful with it. Hopefully, one day you learn how to maximize the benefits of SEO for your business instead of overlooking it as an ineffective/unpredictable gimmick. I have just as much control over my SEO rankings as a PPC guy over his PPC rankings. Yes, I’m THAT comfortable with SEO.

GARY:

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackli0n View Post
Here goes another guy who doesn’t know how to do it. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

Puhlease. You don’t know me from Adam. I’ve been marketing online since 1994, affiliate marketing since ’96, before Google was even a thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackli0n View Post
But overall, I benefitted so much more than what PPC could have ever given me (EVEN IF I WANTED TO PAY FOR IT).

Imagine how much income from paid traffic you’re leaving on the table. Sad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackli0n View Post
I can understand somebody like you not being able to do that because you’re not an SEO expert. You don’t have the knowledge.

Quite the assumption as you know not of whom you speak.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackli0n View Post
2. “…AND that is totally dependent on SERPs that you have ZERO control of…”You’re right, I don’t have control of the search engines.

That is exactly my point. You have no control over what you’re depending on for traffic. That is why SEO should be a supplement, a bonus, not the means to sustaining your business. I’m not saying not to do SEO. Nor am I saying that it doesn’t have its place. Of course it does, and organic traffic has an awesome ROI. But you don’t control your placement. I know you want to think you do from your track record, but trust me…you don’t. And since you’re SO dependent on organic rankings, I hope you never have to learn what so many other experts have learned before you. Note: I’m strictly talking control here. No matter how good you think you are, and how stupid everybody else is, you still have no control over the behemoths where you’re getting your free traffic. And on top of that, you don’t even have the analytics data anymore. Another penalty of relying soley on SEO. Using PPC, you’ve got ALL SORTS of data. And using that true data, from the stuff you do control, apply that to SEO, the parts you don’t control. Example. From a PPC campaign, within a few short days you can know for a fact which keywords are worth pursuing before putting any SEO effort in on them. You can’t honestly tell me that all of your SEO targeting converts as expected. That is…3 months down the road once and if you finally get positioned. SEO without PPC is like tuning a radio, waiting 90 days, then hoping you landed on a station…that you actually wanted to land on….and that it will play the tunes you were actually hoping for.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackli0n View Post
3. “Nobody knows which algorithm knobs will be adjusted tomorrow…and to claim that you have any fool proof system is false.”Ok, you’re obviously speaking for yourself here. You’re speaking from your lack of knowledge and your lack of comfort with the system.

No. I am speaking from almost 20 years of practical hands on experience. It has nothing to do with comfort. It has everything to do with building genuine businesses based on things I dictate and control. Depending on a 3rd party for free blessings is foolish. Even though rankings have worked out for 5 years or so, that doesn’t mean it’s a smart way to build a business. There are people who hit it big in Vegas too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackli0n View Post
one day you learn how to maximize the benefits of SEO for your business instead of overlooking it as an ineffective/unpredictable gimmick. I have just as much control over my SEO rankings as a PPC guy over his PPC rankings. Yes, I’m THAT comfortable with SEO.

One day I’ll learn?  OK. I benefit from SEO quite nicely thank you. But I know its place. And if rankings were to change tomorrow, my paid traffic, the part I actually control, will always sustain my businesses.

MY FINAL REPLY BEFORE HE GIVES UP:

“Imagine how much income from paid traffic you’re leaving on the table. Sad.” – Gary, I think you’re trying to make a comparison of PPC success vs SEO success and totally not getting what I’m benefitting from. My SEO success benefits more than PPC ever could. And I know because I am regularly hired to do both for my clients. And I can see in the both the short-term and long-term which results best. And I do it again and again for a wide variety of industries and under different budget ranges. Right now, for my MAIN website….that is, my MAIN business and source of internet income. I dominate the niche so thoroughly that if you so much as mention my industry keyword in a BROAD usage, or short-tail, or long-tail, whether through analytical well-though-out handpicked choices from Google Trends, or simply a random combination of keyword that you might dig up in your head….my site EASILY shows up multiple times on the first page of Google search results. And not only am I on the first page but often the first 2-3 results within the TOP 5 results on the first page. And for many of the MOST FAVORABLE terms in my industry, I easily outrank Wikipedia, Amazon, Yelp, and whatever else giant directory that may be hogging the top spots. And I managed to do all this ORGANICALLY and without requiring a constant effort, or budget set aside. From a single keyphrase alone (not even my top one), I pull 5,000 CLICKS every month. And I managed to achieve the same success with dozens of other keyphrases. And I get all this traffic absolutely FREE! FREEEEEEEE! FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! And you’re going feel sorry for me because I didn’t do PPC? No, my friend. I feel sorry for you. It doesn’t matter how successful your PPC campaign might be. At your best success, your links are going to be sitting in the blindspots…where users don’t like to look…which don’t carry as much authority and favorability to web audiences. And you are going to PAY for these spots. And it is YOU that has to come up with all sorts of keyword strategies so that you can beat around the bush and pay less money for favorable keyphrases. You pay more money for less clicks and less keyphrases to hold maybe ONE POSITION in an AD POSITION on the search engine results…whereas I…pay ZERO MONEY to hold several on the first page…and again, I completely dominate the niche. Also…I’m sorry, but you’re not an expert in SEO. I’ll believe that you have 20 years of experience, I don’t think you would lie about that. But in no way are you’re going to convince that you know SEO as well as I do (I’m not even sure you know PPC as well as I do…but it’s ok, we don’t need to go there). I’ll reply to your thoughts and tell you how it works for me. “But you don’t control your placement.” Ooooh, good one. With PPC, you can just pay your way to the top. Pay more than the next guy and you “WIN” for sure, right? And with SEO…you could do a ton of work but there’s no guarantee than you’ll get the top position. Makes sense. Here’s how I see it. Both PPC and SEO are a gamble. PPC, it’s a smaller gamble because you get to see right away if the being on top actually brings results. SEO, is a much larger gamble because you have to spend a lot of time before getting to the top and seeing if it brings results. Well for me…if you don’t know your market and/or you’re a very small fish in a big pond, then yes, doing PPC is probably better. But when it comes to longterm and getting the most rewards possible…SEO easily beats PPC. The “you don’t control your placement” becomes a moot point because in the long run, assuming you knew how to do both SEO and PPC correctly…you would definitely achieve the favorable SEO rankings for sure. Yes, some industries take more time but the benefits are certainly there. “You can’t honestly tell me that all of your SEO targeting converts as expected.” – Well, first off… I can. I’m an expert, that’s what experts do. Clients come to me with their budgets and expectations and I tell them HOW MUCH and HOW LONG. I have the experience to know if it’s an easy job or a big job. I don’t freak out or cry or quit when I’m not yet successful yet because I have far very realistic expectations about time & cost. It might not always be 100%, but it needs to be very close to that…personally I feel anybody who delivers less than 95% in the field of SEO is totally not an expert. I think most people underestimate the amount of work they have to do in SEO, and then cry and quit when it doesn’t go their way. Additionally, I think they don’t even know how to do it. So first you have to know what is required…and then you have to know how to do it. So there are 2 different failures that happen there. So going back to what you said…I’m going to tell you straight up…ALMOST ALL my SEO projects convert exactly as expected. Now of course, I’m not gonna go out there and pick fights with Amazon on the rankings or kill myself to be #1. But getting to the #4 or #5 spot is totally doable for many industries. I have a hand in many of these difficult industries myself. But the bottom line is…it’s totally doable and I’ve been paid small fortunes by clients to make these “miracles” happen. So I can say it quite confidently that yes, TOTALLY DOABLE. Like…it’s that easy for me. I’m not a self-proclaimed genius, I just know how to do it, ok? “Using PPC, you’ve got ALL SORTS of data.” Ok…this line right here makes me doubt your technical ability. Here’s why… There are tons of helpful data online in regards to figuring out how to succeed with SEO and PPC. Both are different strategies to achieving the same goal (building quality traffic). With PPC, you basically build the traffic by going through Google’s adwords program and looking at all the helpful indicators of price, metrics, and geographical location, and language, and suggested alternatives, etc, etc….and then targeting keywords you think best fit the audience you’re going for. Obviously here…Google is going to give you a pretty little tool because they want you to spend money doing PPC. Now with SEO, it’s not the same. Google doesn’t readily give you as much free information…but nonetheless the helpful data DOES EXIST but requires more technical ability to get to that. For example with SEO…the first thing I do is scope the competition. I type in the desired keywords into Google and see who comes up. Then I check out every single competitor within the top 20 results. And it takes some time but I take a quick look at their websites, then dig into the code, then look at their content organization, their backlinks, social media presence, and use a variety of other helpful SEO tools to give me details about their website. And it doesn’t take long before I start to see trends and patterns and probable reasons as to why they rank so high. I am being very very brief with my explanation of this btw (there are many more factors than I’m listing here), the actual work itself is far more methodical and meticulous than what I am explaining here. Then I go back to my client and explain how long and how much it would cost to OUTDO the efforts of the competitors. But nonetheless the method is systematic and full of helpful data and obvious indicators that you would benefit from if you knew how and where to look. “Even though rankings have worked out for 5 years or so, that doesn’t mean it’s a smart way to build a business. There are people who hit it big in Vegas too.” – There are people who hit it big in Vegas? This is EXACTLY why I know you’re not an SEO expert. You talk about SEO like it’s a crapshoot. I bet you actually think I’m doing this all with luck (as if I didn’t systematically engineer my ranking success again and again and again). Dude…I put in a relatively nominal effort and benefit for 5+ years free of charge. You can bet your ass off that if things were to suddenly downrank, I could easily do it again and potentially benefit for another 5+ years. Heck, it’ll take even less effort because the hard work is done, only minor tweaks needed…assuming you did it right in the first place. I think it ultimately comes down to effort, knowledge, and skill. It costs me a lot less time and money to do SEO than it does to do PPC. And so I’m doing the SEO because it’s so damn easy and obvious for me…and really, I love the benefits. I don’t know how you can call my method “not smart” when I’m getting more traffic than you with less effort. And if I had to re-do it again, SEO would probably remain the better option that takes less effort and gives better results. I get far more traffic than you and I pay nothing. Just the fact that you can AFFORD TO PAY for your PPC makes me feel sorry for you. How much is a click nowadays? I’m going to pretend you only pay a mere $0.10 for each click (when we both know many people pay 5-10 times more than that). And let’s say you’re getting 10,000 clicks a month? So that’s how much? $1000/month you pay for PPC? And I’m getting over 150,000 clicks from Google every month. Can you imagine if each click cost me $0.10?! OUCH! Hahaha. I mean…sure, it wouldn’t matter if the clicks converted to sales. But the thing is they already convert, and I’m already ranked for all the most desirable keywords I could have ever dreamed of, AND I’m not paying a single cent for the traffic. “And if rankings were to change tomorrow, my paid traffic, the part I actually control, will always sustain my businesses.” – This makes logical sense. Spreading out your lead generators so everything doesn’t go down in one basket. Although I don’t supplement my SEO with PPC, I supplement my SEO with social media and word-of-mouth and other things. Then again, me and you could very well be in different industries and in different positions. So no harm there…we all have to cater to our businesses and business strategies. With that said, I do have control over my SEO rankings. It’s so easy for me. Google could change again if they wanted. I would simply re-analyze and alter my website around again. No big deal. In fact, I LOVE IT when Google algorithm changes…because they actually HELP my website, because I’m doing SEO correctly. I hope you understand there’s a difference between the way I do SEO and the way you do SEO. And that your SEO results, while truthful and logical….do not represent the entire actuality of SEO field. P.S.: I’m not trying to convert you to SEO or dis on PPC. I’m just saying you shouldn’t downtalk SEO when you haven’t fully reaped its benefits and haven’t yet figured out how to do it EASILY and EFFECTIVELY/EFFICIENTLY/PREDICTABLY.

 

You can read the discussion in its entirety here:
http://www.warriorforum.com/adsense-ppc-seo-discussion-forum/894996-search-engine-optimization-pay-per-click.html

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