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One of the biggest stories that surfaced in the first half of this year is the United States college admission scandal surrounding some of America’s most respected institutions, including Yale and USC. A girl who has never played soccer in her life was admitted into Yale’s women soccer team as a high-profile recruit with the help of US$1.2 million. Another, with zero experience in rowing, was admitted into USC using a similar tactic. Money has the power to get you into places you don’t necessarily belong, until it doesn’t.

It’s tempting to be able to use money as a shortcut to solve all of your problems but either they end up coming back to bite you in the future or they’re not going to be as effective as taking the high road. This too can be seen in the case of pay-per-click (PPC) ad against search engine optimization (SEO). SEO offers no quick and easy solution but there’s a reason why SEO services remain aplenty and why SEO is typically the preferred option for marketers and small businesses alike, they can be effective when done correctly.


PPC and SEO shouldn’t always be a case of either/or

Typically, the question of PPC and SEO tends to revolve around which one you should be using as if using one would automatically disqualify you from using the other but in practice, there’s actually no objective reason why you shouldn’t use both if  you’re capable of doing so. It’s a bit like trying to live a healthier life. The best way to do that is to both start exercising regularly and eat better but since I’m woefully incapable of doing the latter, I’d have to settle for the former even though I know that won’t actually do much good in the long run.

I mean, I get it; you’ve already spent quite a bit of money on your PPC ad so it’s possible that the last thing you’d want to see is some random guy on the internet telling you that you just spent all that money for nothing but just hear me out for a second. PPC does work, I’ve gotten to know some businesses from ads shown to me on Instagram, but the problem with a quick fix is that they tend to fix the symptoms instead of the underlying issue, which I’m going to explore in greater detail.


PPC only works so long as the money’s flowing

A friend of mine shared that meme about how the purest love is the one between grumpy dads and the dog they said they didn’t want. It’s completely adorable but the point I was trying to make is that SEO is like that dog. You shower them with love and affection and they’ll be there for you for as long as you want to. Sure, you probably have to spend some money on them as well and it would take some time for you to garner that dog’s loyalty but it would work at least 75% of the time.

By comparison, PPC is more akin to, and I hope you’ll forgive the crude analogy, the girl/boyfriend experience. The company and affection they offer is usually top-notch and instantaneous but also strictly transactional. They’re only there for the duration you’ve both agreed on and once it’s done, you’ll both go your separate ways unless you’re willing to cough up more money. Some would say that this is uncomplicated but I’d prefer to describe this as hollow.

Of course, the PPC comparison isn’t exactly straightforward. The idea with PPC is that once you’ve accumulated enough customers, word-of-mouth marketing from those same customers would be enough to offset the loss from stopping your PPC campaign but this is far from a guarantee. Budget reorganization is a very common occurrence in the world of small business so if you arrive at a point where your PPC budget has to be diverted into other, more pressing needs, the amount of hits you’re getting will drop off considerably unlike in SEO.


To get better results with PPC, you’re going to have to spend more money

Now, in the college admission scandal analogy I used at the beginning of the piece, one set of parents paid US$200,000 to get their kid into USC, a good and highly respected school that is a couple steps below Ivy League schools such as Yale. As I’ve mentioned before, another set of parents had to pay US$1.2 million dollar to get their kid into Yale. The problem with using money to fix your problems is that the quality of the solution largely depends on how much money you’re willing to burn.

Starting a PPC campaign with Google is like bidding in an auction. For a given keyword, it’s quite likely that there’s going to be more than just one business wanting to use that keyword. I mean, there’s got to be at least more than one business in your area that works in the same field that you do so to solve this, Google will only allow the use of a certain keyword to the highest bidder. It is possible for you to use less popular keyword to minimize the competition but for maximum results, you’re going to have to bid for the most popular keyword and that’s not going to be cheap.

The tricky thing is that the bidding process is also not as straightforward as I’ve just explained. This is because Google gets paid per click so it’s possible they’d go with the second or third highest bidder if they deem those bidders more ‘relevant’ to the keyword at hand than the highest bidder. They do this by evaluating the quality of the landing page so businesses still have to make sure their landing pages are well-optimized for the keyword, which is the whole point of SEO.


Closing thoughts

As a quick fix, PPC is highly effective since it doesn’t take long to get going but relying too much on PPC can leave your business too dependent on PPC. If there comes a time when PPC isn’t an option, you need to have something to fall back on and safety net exists in the form of SEO. At the beginning, put the majority of your resource on PPC while starting your SEO effort in the background. Overtime, once your SEO efforts have started to bring in some results, reallocate some of those PPC resources into SEO so that you won’t have to start from scratch once you’ve stopped your PPC campaign.