Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) vs Pay Per Click (PPC)

I received a question this week from a potential new client about SEO and PPC ads (Facebook and Google) and I realised many people are a little confused about the difference.

So briefly I thought I would share my 5c worth on the subject with you. Feel free to skip this if you know the difference already :-).

Organic Search Results

In a broad sense SEO is essentially something you do on your own website to improve your chances of being indexed by the search engines. This is things like using the correct title tags, image tags and integrating keywords on each page / post / product. This is called on-site SEO and the aim here is to have the site rank well on Google (or other search engines) in organic searches – i.e. when someone types in a phrase like “buy underwear online in South Africa” your site is then a match for that because of the keywords / phrases you set on your site.

Off-site SEO is making sure you have enough links coming back to your site which in turn bring you more traffic. These links can be generated in a number of ways:

  • shares you do on your own social media accounts,
  • shares done by your customers on their own social media,
  • links to your site from other articles / blogs etc.

The more of these links back to your site you collect the more likely it is that search engines will start to see you as an expert in your field, and rank you better.

Some ways to build this sort of “link-juice”?

  1. Do guest blogs on other related websites or blogs
  2. Post in industry magazines or newsletters in your field
  3. Write engaging content that people will share – blogs play a role here: as people share your articles each then links back to your website. Not only that but search engines also love sites that have regularly updated content.

All of the above efforts help your organic search results.

Paid Search, Promoted Content or PPC

Secondly you have your paid search. Here we talk about PPC (pay per click) channels – like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads etc. Also called Sponsored Content on Social Media.

These are interruptive or intrusive actions as they show up in people’s search engines or social accounts as sponsored content, and haven’t been expressly requested (searched for) by the person.

For PPC you generally setup a campaign with images and text, and a budget, and then compete with other companies for certain keywords or phrases. The cost of each keyword / phrase changes over the course of your ad campaign, and so sometimes you may have to adjust your budget.

Whilst SEO is largely something you can do yourself if you have the time there is a bit more strategy required for online ads, as you want to make sure you are competing for words / phrases that have a high search count with low competition. And it is generally recommended to focus on long tail keywords here instead of short ones – i.e. where to buy bras online in south Africa VS bras online. There are several resources for analysing keywords and finding recommendations. Google Ads has some good tools that will show you the cost per phrase depending on your target country, and will also estimate how many people you are likely to reach over the period of your ad. Google ads especially do need tweaking over time as the campaigns tend to run longer, and costs can change almost daily depending on your competition’s bids.

Facebook ads are very effective and easy and a good place to start, for around $7 a day you get good results, and increase your visibility quite quickly.

Lastly, before you spend a bunch of money on a particular platform it’s important to think about who your customer is. Where are these people likely to be hanging out online? And then target your PPC campaigns to those networks or locations to maximise your reach. Your first campaign on Facebook might be to just get people to like your Facebook page. After that it might be to get them to go to your website, or buy something.