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E-Marketing Performance Blog

Q&A: With Online Marketing, Should I Start with SEO or PPC?

Web marketing questions about SEO, PPC, link building, social media, content marketingWhen it comes to Web marketing strategies, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. A question we hear often is:

Should I start marketing my website with search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC)?

The response from our three in-house experts was unanimous! You need both. Here’s why…

Stoney (@StoneyD): While both SEO and PPC results are displayed on the same search results page, they operate very differently (and independently) from each other. PPC can be set up much quicker and get results sooner than SEO can. But don’t let that make you think you’ll “instantly” get ROI out of it. PPC takes optimization before profits are secure. SEO, on the other hand takes along longer to work. My suggestion is, if you can afford it, get started on PPC right away to start bringing in profits sooner. While the PPC campaign improves, be working on the optimization of your website, targeting keywords, building links, growing your social base and improving conversions.

Craig (@craiggeis): SEO takes time to gain ground, so starting asap is important. SEO also improves site usability because it takes visitors into account. You need PPC because it helps fill the traffic void while SEO is ramping up. Together they generate a synergy effect on visibility and conversions.

Mike (@mflem25): There are going to be keywords up front that you know you want to rank for.  Begin both PPC and SEO for those keywords immediately.  Your long term goal is to dominate search results pages for keywords that work at growing your business.  The best way to do that is to have listings through both PPC and SEO.  Each reinforces the other, resulting in overall lift of visitors and conversions.  In fact, with the rise of universal search (including product listings, local listings, product extensions and the like), you can have more than two options for the searcher on a page, all with different messages.

After you’ve ranked well for keywords you know you should be hitting homeruns with, use PPC experiment data as intelligence for where to go next and how to proceed.  Since SEO typically takes 6-12 months to begin seeing significant results (if done right), here are some advantages that PPC offers that make it a channel you don’t ever want to leave behind.


  1. Results – You don’t have to wait to see if a keyword, landing page, message or promotion will work.  You know what is going on as soon as you get statistically significant data.
  2. Feedback – You’re target customers immediately tell you what keywords they are using to find what you offer, allowing you to customize the conversion process for their needs.


  1. Performance – Improvements in performance can be made instantaneously.
  2. Keywords – You decide exactly what keywords you show up for.  With SEO, pages can show for many unqualified keywords.  Also, how about the keywords you aren’t ranking organically for yet, but that are important to your business?  You can have a presence there at a profitable ROI.
  3. Landing Pages – You decide exactly what landing pages prospects using specific keywords land on.  With SEO, visitors on those same keywords may land on a variety of site pages.
  4. Location – You are able to geo-target your ads to customers to make them more relevant.  With SEO, there is no geo-targeting function.
  5. Position – You can decide to pay for any position on the page.  Although it’s not necessarily desired, you CAN test to find out what an optimal position is for you and stay there.
  6. Spend – You can immediately raise and lower your bids or budget depending on results and other outside factors of your business.
  7. Ad Messages – You can immediately test ad messages to see what resonates with your prospects better.
  8. Promotions – If you want to run a promotion, you can immediately gather targeted customers to that promotion.
  9. Special Situations – If something happens where you need to get a message out on specific keywords right away, PPC gives you this option.


  1. Keywords – Which keywords work and which don’t?  You want to know before you optimize your site organically for them.  PPC gives the added ROI of market intelligence.
  2. Landing Pages – Which landing pages work to convert which keyword markets?  PPC gives this too.
  3. Ad Messages – Testing ads is immediate and easy to do, giving you results based on data, not opinion.
Look for our Q&A posts about online marketing each month. Or, if you have a question you’d like to ask our team, just send it to [email protected]. We’ll be glad to answer via our blog.
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