In a direct comparison between PPC and SEO, PPC is more measurable and directly quantifiable. SEO efforts are generally more complicated, and therefore their results can be seen as more ‘abstract’, but that doesn’t mean SEO isn’t measurable or quantifiable.
For example, in a PPC campaign, you would generally go through an initial research and testing phase, where you would focus on the following:
- 1. Finding the right keywords to bid on.
- 2. Creating the best messaging for click-throughs.
- 3. Optimizing the landing page for conversions.
A set of these tests should result in a campaign, or set of campaigns, that will produce a Return on Investment (ROI) that fits your marketing goals.
After the testing period, you’ll already know:
- The Cost Per Click (CPC) of the keywords you’re bidding on
- The Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) you can expect from your bids
- Your Cost Per Lead (CPL), or cost per acquisition (CPA)
Once you have the “formula” down, the measurability of PPC makes it easy to understand its value, and forecast results – aka, you know how much you need to spend in a campaign in order to get a single lead, and how much profit you will make in contrast to what you’re investing. You can then use this data to run profitable campaigns, quantifying your results.
With SEO, there isn’t really a formula that can be applied to all keywords and SEO campaigns you’re running. SEO is generally a big game of search intent matching and providing the right information the user is looking for, which can be difficult to quantify and scale without personalizing content for each keyword.
SEO rankings are also not only based on the quality of your content and targeted keywords, but also on your general topical authority, as well as the quality of your website.
Learn more about this topic here:
Having said that, SEO efforts can still be measured to identify patterns that you can scale, for example:
- Finding questions customers frequently ask about your services and products (and that your competitors haven’t answered)
- Identifying keyword gaps with your competitors, and then working on specifically creating content to close those gaps
- Combining SEO with CRO efforts and measuring conversion data to identify what kinds of offers visitors from organic traffic are responding the most to
If you’re planning on running both SEO and PPC campaigns, you can even cross-link learnings from the two channels to improve their performance. Read more on that subject here:
But with SEO, measuring your return on investment can be much harder than with PPC. If you’re lucky, you can invest in an SEO campaign only once, and receive authority over a handful of first-page rankings that lasts for months. Other times, you will hit a period with SERP changes and algorithm updates, that will make your website bounce from position 3 to position 15 and back every other week.
With the complexity of the channel, the math can become difficult:
- There is no direct link between an effort and an investment and an instant result, such as number of keywords in → number of leads out.
- Each piece of content can also rank for dozens of hundreds of keywords that you did not directly target.
- There is nothing comparable to “ad spend”.
- There is also no way to predict CTR confidently until you rank in the first three positions.
- In turn, you can’t confidently predict what your cost per click or cost per lead are.
Using monthly keyword volume estimates, you can estimate the number of impressions you’ll get if you rank on the first page for a keyword. And, in that fashion, SEO is also theoretically always quantifiable: as long as you keep producing content that targets any low-competition keywords with search volume, you will see increases in impressions and clicks month-over-month.
However, not all traffic increases are relevant to your business. It’s important for your SEO efforts to target your potential clients and customers, as well as drive engagement as opposed to just informing your target audience without any call to action.
At Fire&Spark, we call that SEO for Revenue, not Just Rankings. Learn more about SEO for Revenue here:
Contact Fire&Spark for a free analysis of untapped SEO opportunities for your business.