There is always a big discussion when it comes to comparing two of the best ways to advertise online: PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising and article marketing, otherwise known as "organic" or "natural" search engine optimization. There is no denying that both methods can be effective. However, which method is better? Which gives you a bigger bang for your buck?
You may get varying statistics on this issue, depending on which website you visit for information. Oh yes, this matters, because you have to consider the source of the statistics and who is sponsoring the article. For example, two sources of information (respectively, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and ComScore) recently produced studies indicating that PPC advertising was more cost-effective on average. However, did the fact that Yahoo/Overture and Google were sponsoring this major study play any role in determining the final outcome? Of course it did - those are the two biggest PPC companies on the net!
In figuring out which of the two is better, you have to consider cost-effectiveness as well as click-through-rates and direct conversion from visiting user to paying customer. We are going to review some statistics a little bit later on. For now, let's consider some logical points that illustrate how PPC and article marketing differ.
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Search engine result pages display more listings than PPC results, which does have a psychological effect on the user. For some users seeing ten search results (each one relevant to the search) is enough to convince them that there is enough web information on the subject and that "fishing" PPC ads might not be necessary.
The catch is that in order to actually rank in the Top 10 SEO results for your keyword, you have to have relevant website content, not to mention technical prowess in HTML coding. Search engines will be focusing on their proprietary algorithms, or the most relevant websites based on the search term queried. There is no "bribery" here, whereas in PPC, it is quite the opposite: whoever bids highest for each word usually gets the top listing. A quality algorithm definitely plays a part in PPC, but in the end money talks. In article marketing, we haven't quite come to the point where "money talks". The best websites still win the search engine contest and that is an important factor to consider in your marketing campaign.
Even PPC proponents will admit that PPC is largely style over substance. With PPC advertising you are trying to grab attention in just a few loud and occasionally obnoxious words. You direct the user to a carefully crafted page that "sells" the idea. This operation contrasts with article marketing, which doesn't necessarily sell an idea on a single page, nor does it grab attention with a few words. With article marketing, there is an entire article waiting for the visitor, which uses a methodical and "indirect" approach. Assuming you are listed in the Top #10, your listing means that the search engine agrees that your website is the best authority on the keyword subject - for the time being. People in a hurry or on a whim will probably click on PPC. People on a mission will be looking for relevant content on their chosen keyword.
Therefore, the question now becomes which methodology works better for your business? Are you appealing to the fast clicker or the thoughtful user? Let's now consider two sources of statistics for a clearer view of the issue. First, one in favor of article marketing, the next in favor of PPC.
In Favor of Article Marketing
Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D. and principal founder of the Nielsen Norman Group researched the behavior of users who found search engine results pages and noticed some trends. Forty-two percent of users selected the #1 search listing for their result, leaving 58% that selected another Top 10 Result. The #1 site listed held the majority of clicks. This indicates that almost two thirds of Internet users were not content to choose even the #1 listing on a natural SEO search. That means that these users (and the majority of all users) are actually using independent judgment in deciding what links are most relevant to their needs.
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Other related statistics (with sources from ComScore, Webxico, iProspect, SEOResearcher and Hotchkiss, Garrison, and Jensen) concluded that 77% of search users choose organic listings over PPC ads. There were also studies that suggested organic click-through generated 25% higher conversion rates than equivalent PPC click-through.
In Favor of PPC Advertising
Now to be fair, we have to consider some advantages that PPC advertising has. The best feature PPC has is that it gets instantaneous results. SEO advertising takes time, especially if you have a new website just submítted to the all of the major search engines. Yes, this can be frustrating. PPC brings you immediate traffic and sometimes brings in thousands of users. Seeing your Alexa ranking take a drastic jump certainly pumps up your adrenaline!
ComScore recently published statistics in favor of PPC, stating that their studied users had an 18.3% click-through-rate on "paid" search results versus a 4.3% click-through rate for organic search results. The conversion rate was also higher according to ComScore, stating that PPC had a 1.4% versus SEO's 0.6%.
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The Real Issue: Longevity
However, the downside here (even if you didn't contest these suspicious results) is that instant and high volume traffic is, frankly, cheap and not as exciting as it first appears to be. Remember that when you use PPC ads you are making a pitch and capitalizing on your audience's curiosity. When that curiosity fades, they forget your website - especially if it's just a glorified advertisement. PPC campaigns can also be costly and time consuming when you consider your duties as a manager.
Another problematic scenario with PPC is that they have no staying power - unless of course you have thousands of dollars a month to blow in this recession. With article marketing you get more quality traffic, and perhaps more importantly to you, you earn customer trust over time. Internet users aren't stupid, the popularity of Yahoo Answers notwithstanding. Most users know that PPC ads usually aren't relevant to their search - they're just there because someone is consistently paying to get noticed.
You can consider article marketing as an investment that continually pays all through the life of your company (or until you shut the website down) since it generates traffic forever. You can easily spend thousands a month on a brilliant PPC campaign and soon run out of money, meaning your ads go extinct. Therefore, we can conclude that article marketing does have specific advantages over PPC, which are intrinsic because of the differences in operation.
• Article marketing generates traffic forever
• Article marketing improves your natural SEO ranking and backlinks
• Article marketing establishes trust - you appear as a professional in your industry
• Article marketing doesn't cost you extra on top of fees spent on websites, landing pages and superfluous domains
How About Return-On-Investment?
ROI is another key issue, as short-term and long-term profit must equal out. Article marketing, by some authorities appears to have a slower ROI -(especially if you make revenue on CTRs). However, studies suggest that organic ROI is more consistent than PPC. Consider some independent research conducted by popular blogger Gord Hotchkiss who explained the situation in crystal clear terms. Let's say you have 50 high traffic search terms. Now for these 50 terms, there are 2.8 million searches being launched in a month. If statistics like ComScore's are correct and unbiased, that translates to 456,000 visitors thanks to PPC and 153,000 visitors thanks to article marketing.
The total cost of those 456,000 PPC visitors would amount to over $500,000 with an average CPC of $1.18. Even if you work with an SEO company that charges top dollar ($10,000 a month, let's say) you're still paying $10,000 compared to half a million. That means article marketing's virtual CPC amounts to $0.07. Even if you apply PPC's higher conversion rate, 3,647 converted visitors, you are paying $147.08 for each individual person. Compare that to 611 visitors you earned through article marketing - you are paying $16.37 for each visitor. And in doing so, you are also earning a higher quality of customer and generating traffic until the end of days.
Does your final ROI number take into account your total expenses? Absolutely! While both methods of advertising have their place online, when it comes to earning quality traffic, article marketing gets the last word.
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