Organic Vs PPC Traffic - What Are the Pros and Cons?
By : Steve Lazuka
People often ask us for advice on how much they should focus on pay-per-click traffic efforts, vs their natural, content-based search efforts. We always tell them that, while every site is unique, it usually makes sense to include both as part of a diversified marketing effort for your site.
We always recommend that if you're are buying pay-per-click (PPC) traffic and it's actually profitable for you, then by all means continue using it. There are many positive aspects of PPC, like immediate gratification, and total control. There are also a few drawbacks to PPC, however…
1. It's expensive if you want to be listed at the top where the traffic is
Most companies spend a majority of their PPC budget on traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo, or MSN. These sites use an auction-based payment system for each keyword. In essence, this auction format guarantees that you will pay the absolute highest possible amount for each click.
2. Only 1/10th of the clicks go towards these results in the search engine results
Also, if you ever ask the average person how often they click on the right-hand sponsored results (I've asked this question to probably hundreds of people in the past few years), they'll tell you rarely. 80% to 90% of clicks occur on the left-hand, natural results.
Being listed at the top of the natural or "organic" search results is the "Holy Grail" for the average online business. Why? You get 8 to 10 times more traffic, and it's free!
These are some serious benefits.
Think about it. Do a search for office supplies, and you'll see OfficeMax, Staples, and OfficeDepot listed along the right in the sponsored results. (The big advertisers are often the ones listed at the top of the PPC results since they have the big budgets to afford paying the high rates.) However, notice that sites like www.biggestbook.com
are listed along the left in the natural results. Talk about leveling the playing field! This obscure company that you've probably never heard of, is now taking 10 times more traffic than the big boys in the industry, and they're getting it for free.
So there's really no debate… for the average online business, being listed at the top of the organic search results is far superior to being listed at the top of the paid results. However, just like in real life, rarely does something that provides this much benefit come without a little hard work.
This brings us to the challenges with organic traffic:
1. Less control and predictability over your ranking
Unlike PPC, where money controls where you rank (for the most part), the natural search results are based on the quality of the content on your site, and how important the web community deems that content to be. In the short term, this can mean unpredictability when it comes to where you rank in the search results. The good news is, the longer you focus on great content and build your site into a true authority, the less these shifts in rank should affect you.
2. It takes time to develop your site into a true authority
PPC provides immediate results. Within a few minutes, you can hop in, bid higher than the top bidder, and within a matter of seconds, you're ranked #1 for your main term. Ranking at the top of the natural search results, however, will take some effort over time. Again, nothing that can provide such an incredible benefit like 10 times more traffic than PPC, for FREE, can be achieved overnight.
No Shortcuts to Long-Term Success
Online business owners are beginning to realize that, just like in real life, there's no shortcuts when it comes to building a business that will succeed in the long term. We'd all like instant gratification, and we'd like it for free! However, this just isn't how life works. Site owners have tried all the latest tricks to get their site ranked higher, and have either been penalized for them, or have gotten little to no results from them. They're beginning to understand that if they want the best result, they must invest just a little bit of resources to set themselves up for a future where they are not totally dependent on PPC traffic, with its continually rising prices.
The only way to do this is by investing some of their energies in high quality content. Studies have shown that, besides driving free search engine traffic, high quality content can increase visitor retention rates, increase repeat visitor rates, and increase the level of trust in your visitors.
We never advise that people stop using PPC and move all their resources overnight into content development. PPC provides a level of control and predictability that is hard to find with organic search efforts in the short term.
However, as a long-term strategy, we definitely encourage everyone to spend a little bit of time and resources on developing content for their site on an on-going basis. After some time and resources invested in high quality content development, not only can you get 10 times more traffic than ppc for free, your visitors will also appreciate your efforts to provide them with such a great information resource. And will reward you with their business.
About the author
Steve Lazuka is a well-known expert in the field of natural search engine optimization. Mr Lazuka founded Interact Media, a search engine optimization service that leverages the power of high quality content to improve search engine traffic for its clients. To learn more about this and other seo topics, visit Steve's blog at http://www.interactmedia.com/blog.html