SEO v PPC: Which Is The Best Driver Of Website Traffic?

SEO vs PPC - What is the best tactic for you?

SEO v PPC: Which Is The Best Driver Of Website Traffic?

When it comes to driving traffic to your website, there are really only two options: pay-per-click (PPC) or search engine optimization (SEO).

While there are other online marketing channels (social, email, and display), SEO and PPC are likelier to drive large numbers of highly qualified visitors to your website. Of SEO and PPC, which is better?

The answer is dependent on your goals.

Short Term Goals: PPC

PPC is perfect for short-term testing or particular events as you can create an ad campaign in minutes and literally begin driving traffic to your website immediately. SEO, on the other hand, often takes at least 90 days to improve website traffic.

Long Term Goals: SEO

No digital marketing channel generates long-term traffic, leads, and sales better than SEO.

Search engine optimization is the best source of sustainable traffic to your website because it delivers (1) high-quality traffic with intent to buy and (2) increases ROI over time.

SEO vs PPC - What is the best tactic for you?

The latter benefit is key as to why SEO is a better long-term investment than PPC. According to a Covario study, last year advertisers paid 23% more per click than they did the previous year. The data shows that the cost to acquire each new visitor or customer via PPC is increasing and will continue to do so.

Higher PPC costs result in a lower ROI. We hear this from companies every day. PPC is not a sustainable traffic source in the long term because of the escalating cost per click. With SEO, ROI improves over time. Time and monetary investment does not increase from month-to-month but traffic, leads, and customers do.

SEO’s ability to drive traffic at a decreasing cost per visitor long-term makes it a much more valuable marketing channel than PPC. Studies demonstrate that, on average, SEO is 12% of a typical marketing budget and generates 14% of leads. PPC, on the other hand, is 8% of the marketing budget but only generates 6% of leads.

Marketing Spend closely tracks led generation rates

Long-term ROI is not the only thing that makes SEO so attractive to marketers. The fact that users trust organic listings more than they trust PPC also makes SEO more enticing. High search rankings imply industry authority and leadership, making searchers likelier to trust and click the website. In this way, SEO drives more high quality traffic.

When asked for the average percentage of leads converted to sales by marketing channel, marketers sighted SEO as the most effective marketing channel, with PPC coming in 5th place.

If your marketing goal is short-term, then PPC is a great source of immediate traffic, but if you want a traffic source that consistently drives high quality traffic long-term then SEO is the answer for you.

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Are Your Outdated SEO Tactics Costing You Traffic?

Are Your Outdated SEO Tactics Costing You Traffic?

“Eighty-nine percent of sites that ranked seven years ago are not ranking now.”
Marcus Tober
SearchMetrics
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
“that used to have at least one ranking in the past on keywords with at least a search volume of 10,” he checked to see how many of the domains still had at least one ranking. The conclusion? In the top 30 results, Tober found that “Only 11% [of these domains] are left!”

Via this historical data, we can see that 89% of websites that ranked in the top 30 positions on Google seven years ago no longer rank in the top 30 today. The big question is why?

While doing some technical website audits recently, it struck me that a lot of the websites that I am reviewing are seeing declining search engine traffic because of previous Search Engine Optimization tactics.

What is unusual about these sets of websites is that the SEO recommendations that were implemented were not black hat or spammy. They were part of the SEO Playbook at that time.

But a series of Google algorithm updates have not only negated these recommendations but are hurting the websites now.

Panda: Assigned lower ranking to “low-quality” websites. In other words, sites that provide bad user experiences because of low quality, poorly written content, or bad navigation move to the bottom of search results.

Penguin and SEOPenguin: Removed “over-optimized” websites that didn’t deserve high rankings. In an effort to boost SEO, companies would buy multiple website domains and then create websites with a blog or two that linked back to the main website. Google released the Penguin update to stop this practice and ensure good user experiences.

Hummingbird and SEOHummingbird: Adapted Google’s algorithm to manage smartphone searches and voice recognition applications. These major updates now comprise the new playbook for optimizing websites. If you want to rank well on Google queries, make sure you follow the new rules and drop outdated practices.

What are the outdated tactics that could be getting you in trouble today? Here are the three most common SEO tactics that I see hurting websites now:

1. Thin Content

An often-used SEO tactic was to focus on one keyword per page. So, if you sold widgets for example you might have the following pages:

● Widgets Main Page
● Blue Widgets
● Red Widgets
● Yellow Widgets
● Black Widgets

Often the only difference between the pages for Blue Widgets and Red Widgets were that one page contained the phrase “Blue Widgets” and the other contained the phrase “Red Widgets.”

Starting with the panda update, Google now emphasizes themes instead of keywords. Instead of having all those sub-widget pages, what Google is looking for is one main widgets page. Google’s algorithms are smart enough to understand that if you have a widgets page talking about the availability of various colors, then “blue widgets” and “red widgets” are key phrases that are related to that page.

I see pages today that rank and drive traffic for hundreds of keywords with many of the hundreds not actually on the page but related to the content of that page.

LOreal

For example, according to SEMRush, this page on the L’Oreal website ranks for 4,400 different keywords. 

As the L’Oreal page shows, it’s not necessary to flush a page with a multitude of keywords or have a multitude pages for variations of the same product. One page thematically appropriate can rev the right traffic from Google.

Thin or duplicate pages are one of the biggest reasons I see for declining search engine traffic. If you are retaining any of these types of pages on your site, now is the time to update and show Google that your site is worth a high ranking.

2. Page Speed

For years, website owners never paid much attention to website speed. Flash, slideshows, video, and parallax scrolling were all added to websites to make them more closely resemble magazines and TV shows.

But in 2014/15 Google made it clear that bloated and slow loading websites created a bad user experience, and page speed became a larger component in Google’s ranking algorithm, especially when it comes to mobile.

A slow loading page increases your bounce rate and lowers your organic rankings, resulting in less search traffic. How fast does your page load?

Pingdom Report

Check the speed of your website here . Does your website load in under 2 seconds?

3. Broken Links and Error Pages

A 404 or not found error is when a user (or search engine) clicks a link and lands on a page that no longer exists.

From a search engine perspective, 404 errors are wasted resources. But more importantly I have seen websites, like the one below, experience a significant decrease in search engine traffic after a jump in 404 errors.

404 Errors

And that makes sense. If you are Google and you keep crawling a website and finding pages that no longer exist, why would you put that site high up on the search results page?

The longer a website has been up the more likely they are to have broken links. And that is because over time employees come and go and product changes and website redesigns alter the URL structure. Have you experienced any of these over the last couple of years? If the answer is yes, what happened to those webpages?

Even on the best optimized website, users end up on pages that no longer exist. The key to a good user experience then is a useful 404 page.

Four ways to create a useful 404 page are:

 

● Tell visitors clearly that the page they’re looking for can’t be found
● Use language that is friendly and inviting
● Make sure your 404 page uses the same look and feel (including navigation) as the rest of your site
● Consider adding links to your most popular articles or posts, as well as a link to your site’s homepage as Moz has below:

Moz 404 Page Example

Whether or not your site has been impacted in a noticeable way by these Google updates, every site has things to clean up and to optimize in a modern way.

The sooner you understand why Google is sending you less traffic than it did last year, the sooner you can clean it up and focus on proactive SEO that starts to impact your rankings in a positive way.

Don’t let your site get bogged down by old school SEO tactics. Contact us today as see if your site meets Google’s Best Practices!

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The Sustainability of SEO over PPC

SEO vs PPC - What is the best tactic for you?

Sustainability of SEO Over PPC

In a previous post, we discussed the main differences between search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC), the two main web traffic drivers.

For short-term marketing goals, PPC is a great source of immediate traffic, but for a traffic source that consistently drives high quality long-term traffic then SEO is the best option.

One factor that makes PPC a difficult sustainable marketing channel is the steady increase in CPC as can be seen below. Some highly competitive keywords have seen their CPC more than doubled in the last four years.

We call this trend CPC inflation which is the gradual increase of average cost-per-click over time when other variables appear to be the same. It means having to spend more per-click just to maintain your average position or impression share.

That is why the sustainability of SEO makes it the most cost-effective driver of website traffic in the long run because it delivers (1) high-quality traffic with intent to buy and (2) an increase in ROI over time. No digital marketing channel generates long-term traffic, leads, and sales with a better ROI than SEO.

On average, SEO is 12% of a typical marketing budget but generates 14% of leads.

Despite having 8% of the marketing budget, PPC generates only 6% of leads. If you are spending more of your marketing budget on PPC than SEO, then your lead generation program is costing you traffic and revenue.

It’s not just the number of leads generated from SEO that makes it such an important inbound tactic it is the quality of those leads.

When asked for the average percentage of leads converted to sales by marketing channels, marketers sighted SEO as the most effective marketing channel.

That’s why Search Engine Optimization is a more sustainable and cost-effective driver of website traffic than PPC is in the long run. The longer you engage in good SEO practices, the lower the cost of driving each visitor to your website. No other traffic source does that.

Ready to integrate SEO into your business strategy? Contact us today!

  

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The $95,000 Linking Mistake

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The $95,000 Link Building Mistake

We own and manage a series of sports websites. From a four year period, we had a small team of linkers who worked on these sites daily—adding links, reaching out to other site owners, and engaging with sports fans on social media, forums, and other sports sites.

After four years of steady link building, we directed our focus away from sports and stopped our active linking and outreach efforts. In retrospect, this decision—made 20 months ago—was a huge financial mistake.

In the first four months using link builders, we generated $14,780 in revenue from our primary sports site. In the immediate four months after we stopped linking, our revenue dropped to $8,964. We suffered a 39% drop in revenue in just four months. Because this was our busiest time of the year, the full economic impact was partially hidden.

Over the 20 months since we’ve stopped our outreach and linking program, our sports website has generated $28,633 in revenue. In the 20 months before we stopped linking, our site generated $123,757 in revenue.

By stopping our outreach and linking program, we lost $95,124 in revenue! That is almost $5,000 a month!

What Is the Correlation Between Linking and Revenue?

1. Linking Affects Google Ranking Algorithm

While backlinks remain a vital Google ranking factor, effective link building encourages trust and popularity. According to Copyblogger, domain trust/authority represents 23.87% of Google’s ranking algorithm (source: neilpatel.com).

While many marketers and business owners depend upon social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a major component of Google’s algorithm is still link-based; the quality and quantity of your incoming links plays a significant role in where your website ranks for targeted keywords. If the quality and quantity of your site’s links suffer so too does your site’s ranking.

2. Link Erosion Negatively Impacts Google Ranking

Another reason why not having an ongoing linking and outreach campaign cost us $95,000 was link erosion. According to a report from the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, over the last two years, 19.85% of links had eroded, meaning that one in five links in existence on January 1st of 2018 were no longer active on January 1st of 2020. Link maintenance is a key factor for revenue upkeep.

3. Don’t Get Lost in the Pages

If you made our mistake and neglected link building over the last two years, the odds are high that at least 20% of your links have atrophied or disappeared. That change is enough to make you fall from a high ranking on Google to page three, four, or five—where nobody will see you or buy your product or service.

Don’t get lost in Google. Contact us today to fortify your links and keep you on page number one!

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Link Building: Why Big Agencies Are Wrong to Neglect It

Link Building

Add Your Heading Text Link Building: Why Big Agencies Are Wrong to Neglect ItHere

Several high ranking SEO people in big agencies have recently opinionated that content marketing has replaced link building and that link building services are no longer necessary.

I don’t think these agencies could be any more wrong. When Google announced the release of its newest algorithm called RankBrain a few years ago, Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google, offered insight into the new algorithm:

“RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”
Greg Corrado
Senior Research Scientist, Google

In an article, Corrado mentions that RankBrain has become the third-most important part of the Google algorithm.

What are the other two most important components of Google’s algorithm? Google won’t say, but it’s likely the other two are on-page (related to page content) and off-page signals (related to inbound links).

The original Google algorithm was heavily weighted toward the value (authority) of incoming links. Although this dial has been turned down slightly over the last couple of years, it is still a major factor in how Google ranks websites.

Which brings me back to the stance of some of the big agencies. These agencies believe that—because of Google’s high regard for brands, any content that a brand produces has a high likelihood of ranking well. And if that is the case why should anyone invest in link building?

Well, because first of all link building is not only about increasing relevance in Google. At its core, link building is about delivering your content directly to your target audience. With social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, online fan groups and forums, and smart phone apps, audiences are increasingly scattered across the net.

The importance of social media amplification cannot be stressed as we enter 2016. Social media is where your audiences are, especially the ones you specifically want to develop content for. That’s why social media amplification is part of link building, and that’s a big part of why link building is important.

If you don’t engage in link building (specifically across social networks), you are neglecting a huge opportunity to reach a sizeable portion of your target audience, and in turn—losing traffic, leads, sales, and conversions.

Don’t neglect your links. Contact us today, so we can link you to more traffic, more revenue, and more success!

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The Three Traffic Sources For Startups

Paid Earned and Owned Traffic

The Three Traffic Sources For Startups

I was recently re-reading Randall Stross’s book, The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School for Startups. Inside is a quote from Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham about growth rates for start-up

A good growth rate during YC is 5-7% a week. If you can hit 10% a week you’re doing exceptionally well. If you can only manage 1%, it’s a sign you haven’t yet figured out what you’re doing. A 5%-7% weekly growth rate is extremely aggressive but if you want your start-up to get traction in the market, it’s a good growth number to aim for..
Y Combinator Logo
Paul Graham
Y Combinator

The big question then is “how do you do that”?

There are three sources of website traffic for a startup. In order to be successful and meet Paul Graham’s growth target you need to master at least one of these, if not two of these traffic sources.

Rented or Paid Traffic

The first traffic source that most start-ups use is paid traffic. Paid traffic gives you time to allow your other traffic channels to grow and evolve. It allows you to get product market fit, find those those first customers and find out if you have product market fit.

The most common paid traffic sources are Google Adwords (PPC), Facebook ads, display ads, retargeting, paid influencers and paid content promotion.

With paid traffic you are able to contribute content and engage with the audience. You might be able to control the conversation, but you do not own anything else (data, relationship, creativity, etc. etc.). Hence the name rented traffic.

Without the initial steady stream of visitors from paid traffic, you might never get enough data to growth hack your way to success. That is why paid traffic is the most important traffic source for many startups. Over time, that might change, but it is rare to see a startup succeed who does not buy their initial visitors.

Owned Traffic

The second most common traffic source is owned traffic. Owned traffic is traffic from properties that you own. You own the customer relationships. You make the decisions around content, creativity and evolution. The more owned properties you have, the more chances you have to drive traffic to your website.

Examples of owned properties are websites, blogs and customer forums. Social media properties like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter can also be considered as “owned sites”.

One of the most overlooked owned traffic sources is your email list. You have total control over the timing of the messages you send to your subscribers. And when you click “send,” your messages get delivered straight to them.

The challenge for start-ups is that owned traffic takes time. It takes time to organically grow a following via social media or build an email list. That is why owned traffic is usually the second traffic source that startups tackle.

Earned Traffic

The third traffic source is Earned or influenced traffic. This traffic is online word of mouth, usually seen in the form of mentions, shares, reposts, reviews, recommendations, or content picked up by 3rd party sites.

It is traffic source that you cannot directly control. For example you cannot directly control whether people will “Like” you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, and then visit your website and become your customer. Nor can you control whether a a piece of content you have produced goes viral.

Earned traffic also includes organic traffic from search engines. Traffic from organic search is considered earned traffic as you cannot control how much traffic the search engines can send you. But like other influenced traffic you can impact this by following SEO best practices.

The challenge for startups with earned traffic is that it is too difficult to predicate, especially in the early stages. You cannot build a growth strategy hoping that you make it to the front page of Hacker News or Business Insider. That is why this is usually the third traffic channel that startups focus on.

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Why Great SEO Is Not “Set It and Forget it”

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Why Great SEO Is Not “Set It and Forget it”

In a great post by Drew Sanocki called “Here Is the AdWords Method That Is Helping My Ecommerce Clients Achieve *Epic* Growth,” Sanocki discusses one of the biggest mistakes that people make with PPC, which he dubs the “Set It and Forget It” strategy.

People who “Set It and Forget It” forget that search engine optimization requires constant and consistent attention. Search Engine Optimization  is not a rotisserie chicken and losing focus will result in a steady decline in traffic, leads, and sales.

“select keyword phrases, build out their Ad Groups, choose bids that get them a desired position, then move on to more sexy things like content marketing. These businesses ignore the fact that AdWords is a multiplayer game. … Your actions impact competitors’ actions. You change your bid, they change theirs — along with their ad copy, landing pages, CTRs, etc.”
Drew Sanocki

One of the most common mistakes I see with brands and small businesses is definitely related to setting and forgetting. Often these businesses stop SEO once their site is optimized. Though the initial optimization proves successful at first, sales, traffic, and leads dwindle as the site’s hard-fought rankings are lost to other more SEO-diligent websites. It’s often more expensive to ‘reacquire’ top rankings than it was to reach them initially, forcing CMOs and digital marketers to invest more resources to return to previous levels.

An ongoing SEO campaign is much more effective in the long-term for brands, and here’s why:

1. Searcher Demands and Interests Changes

The way people search has changed over the last couple of years due to the greater usage of smartphones and tablets. According to a study by BIA/Kelsey, mobile search volume will surpass desktop search in 2015.

The mobile movement is having a profound impact on organic search as users search differently on their phone than they do on their desktops.

Searches are more local with stronger commercial tendencies on mobile devices, while engagement is as much as 9% higher on tablets than desktops.

It is not just the B2C market that is being impacted by mobile. According to data from Scott Design, more than 1 in 3 US technology decision-makers read B2B content on mobile devices.

Continual optimization for words and devices that your target audience is using is necessary to compete in the digital age.

2. Google Makes Hundreds of Changes Every Year

CMO/Business owners who say that that they are in a traditional industry and that the words used to describe the products and services has not changed in years are not paying attention.

One of the main reasons that “Set It And Forget It” does not work with SEO is that Google changes its search algorithm 500–600 times a year. While most of these changes are minor, Google occasionally rolls out a “major” algorithmic update (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) that affects search results in significant ways.

Companies that are actively working with SEO’s are able to adjust to the algorithmic updates that the search engines make and can take advantage of the opportunities they present.

3. Links Erode

The third reason why an ongoing SEO campaign is better than “Set It and Forget” is because of link erosion. According to a report from the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, over a five year period (2008-2013) 44% of the URLs they monitored became inaccessible.

Their data showed that 256 out of 579 URLs in the sample no longer provide access to the content that was originally selected, captured, and archived by the Chesapeake Group. In other words, link erosion was 44.2% within six years.

Narrowing it to the last two years (2012-14) that link erosion was 19.85%, meaning that one in five links in existence on January 1st of 2012 were no longer active on January 1st of 2014.

So, if you have neglected your links in two years, the odds are high that at least 20% of your links have atrophied or disappeared. That change is enough to make you fall from a high ranking on Google to page three, four, or five—where nobody will see you.

That is why great SEO programs include active link building so that you can continually add new links to replace the ones that have eroded.

Summary

Great SEO is an activity that is constantly evolving with a dependency on the changes in searcher behavior, search engine updates, and competitor moves.

Companies that view SEO as “Set It and Forget It” will see their search engine visibility and traffic erode over time, but companies that engage in great SEO
will see increased visibility, traffic, leads, and sales from their website.

Ready to get started with some great SEO. Contact us today.

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Have We Seen the End of SEO Copywriting?

Have We Seen the End of SEO Copywriting?

It’s an interesting question. Is SEO copywriting dead? It’s something my wife and I discussed over the weekend. Type in “SEO copywriting” in Google, and Google’s Featured Snippet will state that

SEO copywriting refers to the art of writing copy that ranks well in search. SEO copywriting is relatively easy to do (if you have some experience), and it’s an excellent way to gain valuable web traffic without spending thousands of dollars on paid advertising.”

The key phrase from the Google Snippet is “ranks well in search.” Originally, the focus of SEO copywriting content was to rank well in Google by inserting a keyword X times on a page in specific locations – headline, first sentence, first paragraph, etc.

Rankings acted as the metric used for measuring the effectiveness of SEO copywriting.

But what the Google’s selected Snippet refrains from associating with SEO copywriting is a very important factor to a business’s success: the customer!

We have moved beyond one keyword per page of content. A single page can now rank for over 100 terms. Instead of keywords, we focus on themes.

While rankings used to be the metric of choice, clients today want that content to convert into leads, sales, and revenue.

As a result, the best content are narratives—customer-centric stories that show a common and relatable problem and offer solutions to that problem.

As the Featured Snippet relates, SEO copywriting is company-centric, speaking about features and benefits that matched consumer’s searches without relating to the customer on a personal level.

Is SEO copywriting dead?

Yes. I think that content development has evolved away from writing for search engine rankings to writing to connect with your audience.

This new approach is represented by companies like Contently who use these sorts of headlines to connect with their target audience.

Own Your Audience - Contently

Customers want stories, and marketing companies are finally recognizing that. What do you think? Is SEO copywriting dead?

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