How PPC and SEO can help your small business digital marketing

7 min read
Selina Bieber

They’re the dark arts of digital marketing, but if you’re selling your wares online it’s essential to understand search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to make the most of your digital marketing.

Digital marketing question 1: So what’s the difference?

The key difference between SEO and PPC is that SEO is free, while PPC you have to pay for.

SEO relies on organic search, and is the art of getting your website into the best position to be found naturally when people are searching through Google (or another search engine). Google links to sites it considers relevant and authoritative, so the more you can do to make your site’s content relevant to people’s searches, the better your SEO. And the more links you can get to your site, the higher you rank in a Google search.

digital marketing organic search results
Organic search results

PPC uses the Google AdWords advertising space at the top and side of Google search pages. These small ads appear when someone’s search matches the advertiser’s keywords. Each time someone clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays a fee, usually up to a pre-set limit.

digital marketing paid search results
Paid search results

Digital marketing question 2: Which one’s better?

Although they both form crucial parts of search engine marketing (SEM – okay, that’s enough acronyms for now), and they both aim to get your brand and messages seen by as many people as possible, SEO and PPC are really two very different digital marketing beasts.

Basically, PPC is about ‘buying’ visits to your site rather than ‘earning’ them through SEO and organic search.

So once you’ve made the effort with SEO (either on your own or with the help of a paid expert), it can make sense to take it even further by adding PPC into the mix.

Research by SEO consultants at Moz found that organic search results were 8.5 times more likely to be clicked on than equivalent ads. But also that ad clicks were 1.5 times more likely to result in a sale. So they can complement each other – but it’s up to you how much time and money you want to spend on each.

Digital marketing question 3: How can I get better at SEO?

The aim of SEO is to make you relevant to searches on the internet. So that people will click on the search links and come to your site. And if they like what they see they’ll learn, buy, share, and help make your SEO even more successful. The tricky bit is that if SEO was easy, everyone would be brilliant at it – and then the best would have to think of new ways to stand out.

You can start by getting the basics right. Search for keywords that might appeal to your customers using Google Keyword Planner. Or search for other keyword sources. They’ll be able to tell you which keywords and phrases people are searching for most often so you can get them into your headlines and opening paragraphs. Bear this in mind when you’re adding new content too.

Gone are the days when so-called ‘keyword stuffing’ could drive you up the rankings. Google got wise to that ages ago and now the emphasis is on good, useful, relevant content.

The more people that like it and rate, the higher your site will rise.

To excel with SEO in digital marketing it’s worth consulting with the experts. There are nearly as many of these as there are keywords and their contribution can vary greatly in quality. Invest small at first, track the results, and then you can make a call if you want to continue. But before you do, try these basic tips.

Add value: 

Give the people what they want, with interesting, useful, relevant blog posts and other content. It’s the single most important aspect of SEO.

Give your website a health check:

User experience is important for SEO, so check that all your content is up to date (including anything you link to). Check that your links are all still current and make sure your pages don’t take too long to load.

Check your stats:

Add Google Analytics (if you haven’t already) and check regularly to see who is visiting and how they’re using your site. This will help you remove or improve the bits that no-one uses, and optimize the bits that they do.

Make the most of pics and video:

Visual content is becoming increasingly important. Think about titles for your images and make sure you include alt text, metadata and keywords when you’re uploading new content. Consider adding a text transcript for videos so they can be searched too. And keep the file size down – large images mean users may have to wait for the page to load. And if they wait too long, they may just leave.

digital marketing PPC

Digital marketing question 4: Do I need PPC?

Naturally, most people look at the organic results first. If they’re web-savvy, they know that Google’s highly sophisticated (and highly secret) algorithms will have worked hard to decipher which sites best fit their query, based on keywords used, previous browsing history, trending searches and myriad other criteria. And if they’re not web-savvy, the organic results dominate the page and invite clicks more readily than the ads at the side.

But… people do look at the ads, and they do click on them. As a digital marketing channel, PPC is a measurable, quick entry medium to target new customers and get your brand out there. With more than 100 billion Google searches each month, it’s no surprise that there can be an awful lot of money to be made and spent with PPC.

It’s said that 96% of Google’s revenue comes from PPC advertising, and the biggest players can spend eye-watering amounts on PPC.

So depending on what your business is, and the strength of your PPC campaign, you can yield some very good results in your digital marketing efforts.

But the really clever thing about PPC, and a fact that has helped make Google the behemoth that it is today, is that just about anybody can afford it. You can start using Google AdWords with just a few pounds (the average cost per click for a Google AdWords ad is £0.66 and £1.32). You don’t have to invest over a period of time (though results will likely be better if you do) – you can stop or start, anytime. But while businesses may make on average $3 for every $1.60 they spend on AdWords, not all campaigns are successful.

If you’re going to get serious, there are any number of professional PPC experts who can help you. But in the meantime, here are some tips to help you get it right on your own.

Track everything

Set your site up with Google Analytics and track before and after you start using AdWords. If you don’t you’ll never know what effect your spending is having. Even small changes can make a difference. Watch out for the ‘bounce rate’ – if people aren’t hanging around when they click the ad, they’re clearly not finding what they are looking for.

Combine with organic search

Getting your messages and keywords aligned for both ads and content can greatly increase your results. Pay particular attention to the landing page (probably your home page) that your ads will be directing to.

Consider more links to your site

Most PPC ads have a single link, but you can add others to increase the scope of your offering and target niche requirements, such as a link to ask a question, or to learn about a specific saving.

Scale up when you can

If you start modestly with PPC you can only expect modest results. But if you’re getting it right, those results can become sizeable very quickly. Experiment with smaller investments until you feel you’re on the right track, then scale up as you feel ready.

These tips should help you start thinking about SEO and PPC in your digital marketing efforts. You can start trying them out on your own and then consult a professional in the future if need be.