When it comes to digital marketing, you have two main avenues for promoting your business website: SEO and PPC. Although both are viable options for improving your Web presence and increasing the amount of traffic flowing into your site, the degree to which you’ll want to invest in each of these methods will vary based on your company’s unique needs and priorities.

To understand which blend is right for you, it’s important to first understand the key distinctions between the two techniques:

  • SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of controlling various on-site and off-site factors in order to make your site more appealing to the search engines.  Good SEO campaigns should result in higher placements within the natural search results pages (SERPs), leading to an influx of free traffic from the search engines.
  • PPC: Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, on the other hand, involves purchasing ad spots within the “Sponsored stories” section of the SERPs, or in the content block that displays on program publisher websites. Instead of paying a flat fee for a certain number of impressions, PPC ads are charged based on the number of click-throughs each ad receives, based on the bid price offered by the advertiser.

Both SEO and PPC advertising have their own advantages and disadvantages. SEO, for example, often results in sustainable, free traffic, once high SERP positions are achieved. Unfortunately, it may take more than a year to reach these top spots, depending on how competitive your industry is.

Alternatively, PPC advertising results in an immediate influx of website visitors, though you’ll pay for this privilege, at rates that can range from $.01 to more than $20 for each click.

Given these disparities, there are situations in which it makes sense to focus on either SEO or PPC over the other. Concentrate your efforts on search engine optimization if you’re dealing with any of the following scenarios.

1. Your company has no digital marketing budget.

If you don’t have any money to spend on click fees, PPC advertising clearly won’t be an option you’ll even want to consider.

2. Average click fees in your industry are quite high.

If you operate in a field like auto insurance or legal services, you may find that average bid prices are too high for you to be competitive. As an example, the Google Adwords Traffic Estimator places the cost-per-click (CPC) for the keyword “DUI attorney” at $15.71, meaning that you’ll pay more than $15 for a single click on your ad (whether or not that visitor results in an on-site conversion).

3. You don’t have the time to actively manage a PPC campaign.

Given these sometimes-high click prices, PPC campaigns require hands-on attention to ensure that any click fees paid result in a positive ROI. There is a learning curve associated with the practice, which makes it a bad choice for companies that can’t invest in either understanding the system or hiring an outside PPC consultant.

On the other hand, PPC advertising certainly does have its place when it comes to website promotions. If you find yourself in any of the following situations, this method may be a better choice for your business’ needs if the following situations are more common for you.

1. You have more money than time.

If you prefer to spend money to attract website traffic, rather than spend weeks or months toiling away at monotonous SEO campaigns, PPC provides a faster alternative for growing your Web business.

2. You’ve been dinged by past SEO algorithm changes.

In SEO, top SERPs positions aren’t guaranteed, as the search engines are always tweaking their ranking algorithms in order to provide the best possible web results. Sometimes, these changes result in a serious loss of traffic, which may make PPC advertising a necessity.

3. You want to speed through website testing.

Good website management relies on ongoing testing to maximize conversion rates. However, to complete these tests, you need website visitors to determine which on-site changes lead to the best results. PPC advertising can help you to secure this traffic faster than you’ll achieve by waiting on your SEO campaigns to inch your site up the SERPs.

Of course, SEO/PPC marketing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing project. In fact, plenty of businesses will find that a combination of both SEO and PPC marketing helps them to both secure the immediate traffic needed to make quick improvements to website efficiency, while still capturing the high natural search results rankings that will sustain inbound Web traffic levels in the long run.

Sujan Patel is the founder and CEO of Single Grain, one of the top Digital Marketing agencies in San Francisco, CA. With more than 10 years of Internet marketing experience, Sujan leads the digital marketing strategy for companies like Sales Force, Yahoo, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 caliber companies.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

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