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SEO vs. PPC Debate -- Which Do You Prefer?

gibbons-kevin
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SEO or PPC, which is better? That was one great debate at SES London which included excellent arguments from the SEO camp, followed by a strong defense for PPC – before Fantomaster decided that there's no need to worry about the rules, as black hat is the way forward!

There's a growing divide between online marketers who enjoy organic search and those who prefer paid search. So what do your preferences say about you?

Do you enjoy hours spent analyzing search terms and bidding on long-tail PPC keywords that squeeze an extra 20 percent return out of your budget? Or do you prefer to add lasting value to a Web site over the long term, gradually building authority through clever content and inching your way to the top of the natural search results?

If you work in optimization, chances are you do both each day. But which do you find harder and what does that say about you?

Here are my thoughts. Be warned, these are generalizations and clearly not everyone will conform to the below.

More Creative vs. More Analytical

Based on the teams I've worked with, the individuals who most enjoy organic optimization are more creative. They can take a holistic approach to the Web sites they work on and often help produce creative content such as blog posts, viral/social media marketing material, and landing page copy. It can be laborious, but they stay interested.

On the other side of the divide, those who prefer paid search tend to be more analytical and naturally mathematical. These people tend to enjoy watching for patterns and working to take advantage of these patterns. They can find the minutiae of SEO frustrating.

Long-Term Planners vs. Risk Takers

Where will the site be in a year or longer? That's the kind of question an SEO fanatic ponders, while the colleague who prefers PPC may find it hard to see beyond next month's returns. This slower, steadier approach can add lasting value to a site – value that wouldn't immediately die off if the budgets were cut, so these people bring longevity to their clients' Web sites.

Although PPC fanatics enjoy watching for and analyzing patterns, they also love the thrill of a risk that pays off. Sometimes they'll rely on their intuition and take a gamble with a budget – risking part of it to increase an employer's returns. Slower, steady on-site optimization leaves these folks cold.

Works Well With Others vs. Needs to Focus

Brilliant SEO workers often enthusiastically engage with other members of a company, especially PR staff. They're always trying to rope people into getting involved, whether through setting up corporate Twitter accounts, representing the company in forums, or writing guest blog posts. Some SEOs find it hard to keep out of other promotional work (e.g., e-mail marketing) because they want to add some SEO benefit to other teams' work – but often it's just their natural interest in marketing coming out.

While SEOs are veering off in all sorts of directions, those who prefer PPC are far better at focusing on one problem and giving it their full attention. They like finishing jobs and will often be the driving force behind a project's completion. However, they don't want to waste time on some tasks, so they may lose interest in a project that doesn't bring fast results.

The Online Team Your Business Needs

Perhaps you can tell a person's strengths from which aspect of optimization they find easiest. Creative, long-term planners with the patience to gradually build authority and presence tend to be great at organic SEO, while analytical-types with an instinct for risk may thrive more at PPC.

A well-rounded optimization professional will be able to perform strongly in every area. However, employers should try and balance their teams, to make sure they have insight and intuition in all areas of optimization.

But how do you factor this into your recruitment? An applicant with half a brain won't respond entirely truthfully to the question, "What are your weaknesses?" They will, of course, come up with an answer that makes them sound good.

So, you need to dig deep in your interview. Ask what projects they have most enjoyed working on to date, find out what they would recommend various Web sites focus on as an online strategy. Find out where their enthusiasm lies, because that's where their strength is.

How to Recruit a Search Marketing Team

It's better to have staff members who are strong and passionate in one particular area rather than merely acceptable across all the required skills. That means you need to pay attention and make sure you're recruiting the right mix of people. Otherwise, there's a real risk that the team becomes heavily weighted towards one aspect of search engine marketing and then clients would suffer.

After all, it doesn't matter how brilliant the work is if you only cover half the ground because you'll never achieve more than 50 percent of a Web site's potential.

For a well-balanced search team, ideally you'd look to have a mix of people with analytical skills, social media creativity, client/account management experience, link building know-how, and a bit of technical SEO brilliance. That way you should be well set up to cover everything even your most demanding clients want to throw at you.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York from March 22-26, 2010. Approximately 5,000 marketers and search engine optimization professionals attend SES New York each year to network and learn about topics such as PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more. SES New York will be packed with 70+ sessions, multiple keynotes, 100+ exhibitors, networking events and parties. Your customers, colleagues and competition will be in attendance -- will you?


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