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Updated: August 10, 2022

Traffic Jam: SEO or PPC for Ecommerce, Which Is Better?

Both SEO and PPC are highly effective digital marketing strategies for eCommerce. They bring in website traffic and boost sales, yet their functions are frequently confused. To clarify misconceptions, we'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of PPC and SEO and how they should be integrated into your digital marketing strategy.
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SEO vs PPC

Understanding the distinctions between SEO and PPC ads will give you a strategic advantage when marketing online. In fact, it can make or break your digital marketing strategy.

What Is SEO?

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization and refers to the process of improving the quality of a website and the quantity of relevant traffic from search engines.

SEO includes a package of SEO services that target unpaid (organic) traffic, with the aim of getting web pages to rank in the top spots on search engine result pages (SERPs).

It used to be based on keywords (the phrases that internet users search for online). However, today, there are over 200 ranking factors.

The volume of targeted traffic a website receives, as well as its reviews, and credibility determine how high or low it ranks.

SEO consists of four aspects: on-page, off-page, technical and local SEO. Each has to be adequately taken care of to improve a website’s organic search results.

If done correctly, with the help of marketing specialists, SEO can be a powerful method of driving eCommerce sales.

What is PPC?

What is PPC?

PPC ads or pay-per-click is an advertising model that only charges advertisers when users click on their paid search ads. It offers online stores the chance to advertise their products on websites, in emails, and on search engine result pages.

Most online stores use PPC advertising to increase sales. However, for PPC ads to be successful, you have to invest time and effort into creating appealing landing pages with strong calls to action.

There are only a limited number of advert slots on Google’s organic search results, so competition is fierce. This is where bidding comes into play. You can bid on specific keywords or keyword groups to secure an ad space for important terms relevant to your business.

The price depends on your chosen keywords and your competitors. It can be anything from $1 to $50 and more! If other advertisers are competing for the same keyword, the cost will increase.

A keyword with a low search volume, but high interest from advertisers will drive up the price for each click. Just like SEO, keyword research is imperative to the success of your PPC marketing campaigns.

While there are several types of PPC ads, the most popular are paid search ads. These are displayed at the tops of SERPs, whenever the ad’s targeted keywords match a user’s search query. Paid search has a whopping 200% ROI!

Which is Better, PPC or SEO?

PPC vs SEO

This question is misleading because you need both. SEO is a long-term digital marketing strategy that takes time to yield results, but it is an absolute prerequisite for any marketing success.

The point of all digital marketing efforts is to direct as many users as possible to your eCommerce platform. If your platform or website is not correctly optimized, it will not be present in search results, nor will it offer a pleasant user experience, both of which are detrimental to business growth.

SEO has a compound effect. So, when you start ranking for keywords, you will continue to do so, as long as you perform maintenance now and then, and follow digital marketing best practices.

PPC, on the other hand, is a short-term advertising strategy. Unlike SEO which requires upfront capital to get started, with PPC you have to continuously pay for results. As soon as you stop injecting marketing budget into paid ads your traffic dries up.

Therefore, SEO is a must for long-term success and PPC is a great addition to market products and improves brand visibility over a specific time, like season specials, for example.

Both SEO and PPC work well with each other. For instance, SEO can affect the number of clicks your PPC advertisement receives. Multiple studies suggest websites with strong organic search results increase their click-through rate for PPC ads on the same SERP.

How to Choose Between SEO and PPC for Your Ecommerce Store

We’d always advocate for starting with SEO and then implementing paid search campaigns as soon as you have an adequate PPC budget.

Search Engine Optimization for Ecommerce

SEO advantages

Implementing an SEO strategy is an excellent way to boost organic listings and website traffic. It improves brand visibility and gets your online store to rank higher on organic search results.

An exceptional SEO strategy with relevant keywords converts visitors into buyers. Hiring a digital marketing agency can help you develop the right kind of website and convey a compelling marketing message that encourages customers to do business with you.

How much you spend on SEO depends on your business’s needs. There are many free tools available on eCommerce and web hosting platforms that can enhance your SEO efforts. Just be aware that complex digital marketing needs, especially those of eCommerce will require the help of marketing professionals.

SEO has several advantages:

  • SEO is 24/7. Organic search works every day, 364 days of the year. You don’t have to start a new campaign, only monitor and tweak when and if necessary.
  • SEO is a cost-effective way to improve profits. SEO has a high ROI. Additionally, clients who find your site through organic search and not via ads tend to invest in your business and stick around for longer.
  • SEO is an effective long-term solution. Over time, SEO efforts compound and continue to yield worthwhile results. For instance, most websites that rank within the Top 10 organic search results are roughly 2+ years old.

Of course, there are some negatives too:

  • SEO is a lengthy process. It can take between three and six months to start seeing results. So, if you need a quick boost of traffic, SEO isn’t the quickest way to get it.
  • SEO requires modifications. Google likes to alter its algorithm, and you need to be ready to adapt to the latest changes. To be fair, these don’t happen every day, but you should keep tabs on updates. Moreover, because SEO is to do with optimization, you will also need to tweak on-page SEO when keyword popularity wanes.

Pay-Per-Click for Ecommerce

PPC advantages

Paid ads are designed to target people who are already searching for products and services similar to yours. Because they are precise and laser-targeted, they can substantially increase brand recognition.

The more you spend on paid advertising, the more potential customers will see your ad. You’re also able to spend as little or as much as possible. Given the specificity of paid ads, it’s also possible to tweak them in real-time to ensure you get the best results.

To sum up, here are the benefits of paid ads:

  • Instant results. PPC provides short-term results more quickly than SEO. Although, the way it performs over the long run is a different issue. If you want your results to last, you have to keep spending.
  • Effective targeting. It is possible to run campaigns focusing on specific areas or platforms, as well as target audience preferences—basically almost anything you can think of!
  • Valuable data. PPC is an extremely data-driven way of advertising; therefore the data collected is valuable to the growth of your company. It helps shape future campaigns and can reveal insights into a specific type of customer journey.

So, what about the negatives?

  • You have to invest money. If you don’t have the money to invest in the PPC campaign, you won’t receive the benefits. In fact, you can’t run even a short PPC ad campaign without paying for it.
  • Poor performance. There are numerous reasons for this ranging from poor keyword choice to ad blockers. More and more customers choose to disable ads on premium services like YouTube, for example. There is also another web-based phenomenon known as banner blindness, which occurs when viewers see banner ads so often, that they neglect to notice them.

An Integrated Approach to Ecommerce Marketing

Whether you are developing international campaigns or targeting a local audience, the best strategy is to utilize both SEO and PPC.

Many business owners use Google Ads during the initial launching stages to ensure an immediate surge in traffic that helps to get things going while they wait for SEO results to kick in.

The benefits of running SEO and PPC together are this: Keyword and conversion data from paid ads can be utilized in organic search (SEO). You can also increase the total volume of traffic by targeting clicks in PPC and SEO for high-performing keywords.

Other advantages include:

  • Moving high-cost, high-volume or low-converting keywords from PPC to organic search; to ensure you still rank on search engines for these terms.
  • Testing your keyword strategy in PPC before committing to SEO;
  • Targeting users at all stages of the sales funnel with commercial keywords;
  • Remarketing to ensure leads derived from organic traffic remain engaged with your store; and
  • Increasing the overall effectiveness of your marketing strategy.

Here Are Our Recommendations:

If you’re tight on budget then SEO is the best option. There are enough resources online for you to learn how to do it yourself if you have the will and time. However, technical SEO aspects always require expert help, so you will need to hire a specialist at some point.

A small eCommerce business owner might be able to execute some SEO strategies with moderate success, but if you’re a retailer with a large inventory and loads of web pages, this task becomes exceedingly more challenging.

Therefore, it’s better to hire an agency and not to waste time or risk implementing a sub-par strategy that can set back sales by a couple of months. And often, for new businesses, the cost of making poor decisions is unaffordable.

On the other hand, if you want to sell as soon as possible then a PPC marketing strategy will work better. It’s short-term and less affected by algorithm changes, and you’ll experience results immediately. Essentially, if your ads are optimized correctly with the right keywords, you’ll see results within hours, especially if you make use of Google shopping ads.

To give you a real-life example:

If you’re a small business or start-up in a well-define niche, you might not have the budget for paid advertising. Your SEO strategy could easily boost online visibility and local and organic search results. SEO won’t break the bank, and when do start to rank, your traffic will be consistent.

However, if you are looking to compare with the likes of major retailers like Amazon or Macy’s then you will struggle to outrank them in organic search results, and you can use PPC to launch a brand awareness campaign.

So, it comes down to short vs long-term results, as well as your type of business and industry.

The questions you should ask are: are you wanting to improve your overall digital marketing strategy? Or do you just need to launch a quick campaign to get rid of surplus stock? Or do you wish to advertise new products or specials?

If you seek long-term success, we suggest taking a look at our marketing and web design services. With over a decade of experience in growing eCommerce businesses, our specialists can take care of everything from website development to your PPC strategy and eCommerce SEO.

After all, we can tell you from firsthand experience that a comprehensive digital marketing plan which includes SEO and PPC is the most effective strategy. Positive results of one strategy directly contribute to the effectiveness of the other.

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As a full-service digital marketing and web design company, we provide clients with a 175% increase in web traffic, on average, when they partner with us. Contact us today, and we’ll happily discuss how you can make use of both channels to boost revenue and sales for your online store. Even if you decide not to work with us, you’ll come away with good knowledge of PPC and SEO which you can immediately apply to your current marketing plan.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you would like to discuss your project, reach out to our specialists.

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About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.
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