SEO or PPC – Which is Better For Online Sales?

If you’re new to eCommerce or a seasoned retailer, there’s only one thing that counts… making sales! Deciding how you’re going to attract new customers and where you’re going to spend your digital marketing budget can be a bit of a minefield.

You’ve most likely come across SEO and PPC (pay-per-click) when researching ways to market your business but which is the best for you… SEO or PPC? Today we’re going to look at the strengths and weaknesses of SEO and PPC, letting you know which could work best for you in the short and long term, increasing your sales.

So let’s take a look at the different options.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

In a nutshell, SEO is a technique used to propel your website to the first page of Google. When talking about SEO we usually refer to Google because it’s one of the biggest search engines having a 77% market share. If your website is optimised, relevant and authoritative it can appear on the first page of Google, attracting a high volume of organic traffic to your website, resulting in an increase in online sales.

Google is the place to be if you want your business to be found. If you’re thinking of starting an SEO campaign here’s our eCommerce SEO Checklist to help you make a start. Before you do take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of an SEO campaign.

SEO Strengths

  • Cost-effective – the costs of setting up an SEO campaign compared to a PPC campaign can be similar however the amount of traffic that can be gained from SEO can grow whereas traffic from a PPC campaign will be budget restricted.
  • Sustainability – once an SEO campaign is finished, your website can maintain a good position in Google gaining traffic but once you stop a PPC campaign your website will disappear from Google. (See the SEO vs PPC graph below)
  • Relatively stable – a good SEO campaign can produce stable results whereas PPC results depend on your competitor’s advertising strategy and budget.
  • Website traffic – SEO campaigns increase website traffic over time resulting in a better return on investment.
  • Free traffic – when a customer clicks on your organic result you will not be charged, allowing for unlimited visits to your website. On the other hand, when a customer clicks on your PPC advert, the click will cost you and the number of visitors will be limited to your budget.

SEO Weaknesses

  • Slow – SEO campaigns can rank keywords quickly but can take several months before you start to see a major increase in website traffic whereas PPC results are immediate.
  • Ongoing process – SEO is a long term strategy. It takes a lot of work and patience to reach your goals.
  • Time-consuming – if you’re doing SEO yourself it can be very time-consuming. Depending on the size of your site you can spend more time on SEO than your daily business tasks.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

In a nutshell, PPC is a type of advert where you’re charged each time a visitor clicks on your advert. Using Google Ads you can increase your website traffic when your website doesn’t appear in the organic search results. You are effectively paying your way to the top, which sounds fantastic but it can be expensive and not a long term solution.

As an online retailer, there are a couple of types of PPC campaigns you can run. The types of campaigns determine where your adverts can appear.

  1. Search ads – a text-based advert which appears above and below the ten organic results.
  2. Shopping ads – a product image based advert which appears above the ten organic results and in the right-hand column on a desktop.
  3. Display ads – a banner advert which appears on external websites.

PPC Strengths

  • Immediate visibility – as soon as you set up your PPC campaign, you’re good to go. Your adverts will start to appear for the relevant keywords and customers can start clicking. Compared to SEO it can take months to appear in the search results. (See SEO vs PPC graph above)
  • Controllable – you set a daily or monthly budget and Google will use it wisely to get the most clicks or conversions (sales).
  • Scalable – once you know your cost per conversion you can change your bidding strategy to get a better return on investment.
  • Penalties – Google’s algorithm updates will not affect your PPC adverts. With SEO you need to ensure that you’re following Google’s best practices to ensure that your rankings are not affected.
  • Targeting – PPC allows you to target your ideal audience based on keywords, day, time, location, language, age, gender and device.
  • Great for promotions – if you’re running a time-sensitive or seasonal promotion PPC is great for getting it seen by customers quickly.

PPC Weaknesses

  • Management – selecting the best keywords and monitoring a campaign can be time-consuming for business owners. You need to ensure you’re keeping an eye on click-through rates, cost per click, negative keywords, advert performance and using the most effective keywords.
  • Pay to play – the more you pay, the better the results. As competition continues to rise so will your budget meaning that over time you’ll be paying more to get the same results.
  • Spiralling costs – your budget can easily be stretched by adding more keywords to bid on as the campaign progresses. From time to time Google will recommend that you raise the budget to get more clicks. It’s tempting to blindly apply the changes but you need to keep an eye on the keywords that are working for you.
  • Not a permanent solution – as soon as you stop a PPC campaign you’ll stop getting clicks and sales.

Which is Better For Your Business?

SEO or PPC, which should you invest your marketing budget in? It all depends on your situation. Here some questions you should think about before you choose an SEO or PPC strategy.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What does success look like?
  • Are you in it for the long term?
  • What is your marketing budget?
  • What’s the competition like?
  • Do you need quick sales?
  • How much time do you have?
  • Is it seasonal or time sensitive?

A hyper-local business with little competition, needing a few leads per week can rank well with a small SEO investment and maintain a good position once the campaign has ended.

A new eCommerce site selling highly competitive products would most likely struggle at first to rank organically and would probably opt for a PPC campaign to get the sales rolling in.

An established eCommerce site would most likely benefit from an SEO campaign if it’s not generating enough organic traffic. If the site has been online for several months it might be ranking on Google page 2 of 3 and by optimising the site you should be able to make some quick wins.

However, an SEO campaign can increase your online sales and transform your business. Just look at the results we achieved for an eCommerce Start-up. Within 36 months their revenue from online sales increase by 491%, revenue increased by 491%, organic traffic increased by 1,612% and ranked for 232 keywords on Google.

If they chose to go down the PPC route over 24 months it would have cost them an extra £30,000 to generate the same amount of traffic to make those sales.

Using a Combination of SEO and PPC

If you have the budget the strategy we would suggest is to use a combination of SEO and PPC to generate website traffic and sales. If you’re a brand new eCommerce business you’ll be keen to start acquiring website visitors and making sales. Starting with a PPC campaign when your website goes live will immediately place your website on Google and you can start to attract visitors and making sales.

To make this strategy sustainable an SEO campaign will be running in the background, working on your long term goal of ranking organically. Once your website starts to rank and attracting a steady stream of visitors, approx 6 months onwards, it will allow you to start reducing your PPC budget as you’ll be acquiring traffic from organic results. After 12 months you should be able to stop your PPC campaign completely and rely on just organic traffic as your main source of website visitors.

Based on your return on investment at this point you can decide if you want to invest more into your SEO campaign further pushing your site higher up Google and generating more sales. Or you can decide to use PPC just for promotions only such as Christmas, new products and special offers.

If you’re unsure which route would be best for you or if you’re relying too heavily on PPC and your website isn’t organically visible in Google we can help you increase your visitors and revenue.

If you want to know more about our SEO services call Mechanised on 0161 791 0100, email or click on the message box in the corner.