I have been in the search engine optimization (SEO) world for 15 years now. I really believe that ranking high organically is a great goal for a business. But there are times we strongly recommend either supplementing SEO with pay per click (PPC) or in some cases even putting all the money on that option.

The pay per click (PPC) model is most commonly associated with Google AdWords, but it is also used by other search engines as well as on social media platforms such as Facebook.

Pay per click has some clear advantages, including:

  • More keywords. Search engine optimization is limited to the content. Any particular page can only be optimized for a finite set of keywords. One of the decisions the Google algorithm makes about a page is what that page is most about. The keywords related to that topic are the ones for which the page has the best chance of ranking highly.
  • Better control over the message. On a search result page, the text accompanying the link is selected by the search engine. You can influence the selection by providing text in the meta-description tag, but the search engine doesn’t have to use it, especially if the text is not relevant to the search, or can’t be found on the page itself. On social media, people may link to your content, but how they frame it is out of your control. Even supporters may apply the wrong spin to content you spent a lot of time getting just right. With a Google or Facebook ad, the headline and text are up to you.
  • Multiple messages. Using PPC you can quickly create new ads, or many variations of existing ads. They can be targeted in many different ways. Changing messaging over social media or search is limited by the time it takes to produce new content that meets your quality standards.
  • Message testing. The great thing about PPC ads is that you get plenty of data. You can see which ones work best and often you can see why. You can create multiple versions and compare results.
  • More data overall. It has always been true that a small spend on AdWords was a great way to supplement the web analytics data available, but this has become far more important in the post NSA spy-scandal era. Now many browsers are locked and do not pass on information such as the search phrase used to websites. The loss of search phrase information has made SEO more difficult, but much of it can be replaced with data from a PPC campaign.

When pay per click should be the first choice:

When a website is new, or has a lot of new content. Google crawls content very quickly. However, it uses age as a ranking factor. If you need to get visitors to content before Google decides it has aged enough, you need PPC.

If the audience is not known. Web content strategy begins with an understanding of the desired audience. But if there is no way to do this PPC can be used to develop a better picture. Experiments on search phrases, placement, interest types, and ad content can be performed quickly without having to develop a full range of content. Also, posted content that turns out to be wrong for the audience doesn’t always just disappear.

When the client cannot or will not produce the content necessary for effective search engine optimization. SEO is not magic. Not all clients can produce the quality content required for effective SEO. The work “optimization” means making something the best it can be for a particular purpose. In this case, that something is the content, and the purpose is to rank highly on search results pages. But without the content to optimize, SEO is an exercise in futility. If the kind of content is not part of the overall strategy, or is inappropriate to the website or audience, then SEO just won’t deliver results. PPC can, however.

Use the right tool for the right job

We love good web content, and we love optimizing that content for search engines and for social media. But we also know when to use a different tool because the job requires it. If PPC is the right choice, then that’s what we offer.