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Internet Marketing 102

In my previous post, Internet Marketing 101, I explained the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. (If you missed that, I suggest you read it first before continuing.) In Internet Marketing 102, I’ll explain the pros and cons of each to help you decide which might be best for you.

PPC Pros and Cons

Pay-Per Click (PPC) ads have the advantage of getting you instant ranking. You can create an ad today and be #1 on the search results tomorrow… provided you are willing to pay top-dollar for the search phrases you want. For this reason, many marketers use PPC to test a product. You can create a short campaign, set a limit on how much money you’re willing to spend, and quickly know if there’s an online market for your wares.

And here’s another tip for product testing. More people use Google than any other search engine. (Over 90 percent of all searches are done using Google.) That means that if you’re serious about selling online and determined that PPC is the way to go, then you’ll want to use Google’s PPC program, AdWords. But because of the high volume of traffic, Google can command top dollar for their cost-per-click prices. So smart marketers test their product on Yahoo! instead, because their prices are more affordable and their ad program simpler to use than Google’s.

Another advantage of PPC advertising is that it’s do-it-yourself. I say that somewhat reluctantly, however, because in Google’s world, “do-it-yourself” doesn’t mean easy. One expert describes it as “not rocket science… but darn close.”

The only reason PPC is remotely do-it-yourself is because Google offers an extensive (and free) online training course to help you learn their AdWords program. (In case you were wondering, they don’t offer one for SEO, because they want to sell advertising, after all.) And while SEO may not be rocket science, it is computer science – and Internet marketing savvy, all rolled into one.

The disadvantage of PPC is that you’ll be bidding against similar companies for the search phrases, or “keywords,” you want… and the highest bid gets the best ranking. In a highly-competitive field, such as weight loss or work-at-home jobs, the cost of your keywords may simply be too high for you to see a return on your investment. Compounding this is that, if you jump in without really taking the time to learn how it works, it’s easy to lose your shirt.

SEO Pros and Cons

If the main advantage of PPC is instant ranking, then the biggest disadvantage of SEO is that it takes a long time – too long, in fact, if you’re testing a new product for marketability. Achieving top ranking in the natural results can take several months. But the good news is, once you’ve gotten a top ranking, it cost much less to keep you there than it did to get you there. Here’s where one of SEO’s main disadvantages – its initial high cost – becomes an advantage if you’re in it for the long haul.

SEO has a much higher cost to get started – anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 in your first year. But most experts will tell you that SEO is cheaper in the long run. Here’s why.

With PPC advertising, your costs will never decrease. In fact, they may increase as your keywords become more competitive. But that’s not the case with SEO. Most SEO companies charge an initial $2,000 – $4,000 to do keyword research and optimize your site’s code, structure and content. This is Phase 1.

Phase 2 is getting your site to begin to climb the long ladder to top ranking. To make this happen, a good SEO specialist will do things like write press releases and articles or create videos and distribute them on various sites across the web. They will also look for ways to get top sites to link back to yours. These help to improve your Page Rank. This phase may cost $300 or $400 a month for 6 to 8 months.

But once you get top ranking, they may only charge $150 a month to keep you there. So your first year investment may total more than $6,000, but Year 2 may cost you less than $2,000. And if your total online sales gross a quarter-million a year… well, you do the math.

I once met with the owner of a casket manufacturing company who was very successful selling caskets online with PPC advertising. But they were spending several hundred dollars a week to do so. In the scheme of things, even if they were spending $20,000 or $30,000 a year for PPC, they were still getting a return on investment. But if they could invest in SEO and ultimately reduce that to $2,000 a year, why wouldn’t they? (Which is why they were talking to me.)

That brings up another advantage of SEO. More people look at (and click on) the natural search results than the paid ads. So ranking high there may drive in more business over the long run than PPC.

To recap, PPC is great for achieving instant ranking and is more do-it-yourself than SEO, but it’s easy to lose your shirt if you don’t know what you’re doing. SEO takes longer and has a higher up-front cost, but is usually less expensive in the long run. But it’s much harder to learn than PPC, so it usually requires hiring an expert to do it for you.

But PPC vs. SEO is not always an either/or proposition. Many successful companies use both. The key is to measure and monitor both to be sure you’re seeing a return from each.

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