PPC or SEO? The Ultimate Search Marketing Battle - SES San Francisco

Good morning peeps. Can you believe we've reached the final day of SES? That's nuts! But here we are on Day 3. It's my last day guest blogging for Search Engine Watch and I would kill for a good hand masseuse right about now.

So, PPC or SEO? This has to be a loaded question, right? Still, everyone likes a good fight.

Mark Jackson (Vizion Interactive) is the moderator come referee, with fighters Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz), Melanie Mitchell (Digitas), Thomas Bindl (Refined Labs GmbH), and Benu Aggarwal (Milestone Internet Marketing) taking up their corners.

The fight has already started as to who is going to go first. I think I'll hide behind Rand on this one. Swig down your caffeine as this fight is about to start.

Benu is up first. She's gunning for SEO.

Benu says you cannot build a strong house without a good foundation. SEO is the foundation. This is where she sees the maximum return and the most unique visitors in the long haul.

If you do your SEO right, you'll own Google in standard and universal results. That's what we all want, right?

Melanie is up next. She wants everyone to get along. It isn't either/or, but rather 1 + 1 = 3. There is a 32% uplift when you use both. Today, however, she's siding with PPC.

PPC is a quick and easy way to own the space and to support short-term promotions, rather than waiting around for your SEO results to show. It also allows you to own the full experience, from the keyword to the message to the landing page, unlike SEO.

Another reason not to like SEO is because bad things can happen. An example is Toyota: The news results on the Toyota recall started owning the SEO results, so they focused efforts on PPC to address the negative news.

Delta wondered whether they needed to use PPC on their branded terms as they were already Number 1 in SEO, so they did a test: They pulled back 50% of their PPC spend and saw significant decreases in revenue. PPC actually took away from SEO.

Melanie says PPC and SEO does not cannibalize each other. The lesson is don't fight, but let your campaigns complement each other.

Why you should use a Holistic Search Strategy

- Using PPC and SEO will provide significant lift for each listing than only appearing in one or the other
- Ability to reach the entire search audience
- Increased revenue from the non branded searches
- More efficient budget allocation of PPC campaigns based on natural results

Here comes Rand. He doesn't want to get along with PPC. He says SEO vs. PPC is like Spain vs. North Korea in the World Cup. Rand's tip of the day is to focus efforts on video SEO as you can achieve page 1 results relatively easily.

PPC may have 1.2x SEO's conversion rate, but who gets more traffic? SEO gets 7.3x more clicks compared to PPC.

Marketers spend more on PPC; it's a proven channel. Only 10% is spent on SEO but what this means is that 10% of search marketing spend is focused on where 90% of the clicks come from. He'd rather be putting his time and money in SEO, where it's less competitive.

He finishes up with a below the belt blow by saying PPC is not a competitive advantage because it's for simpletons. SEO is hard and requires actual skill! Nice.

Finally, Thomas is up. He's calling SEOs a bunch of liars and is backing PPC because it's cool and it makes money. PPC people are also nicer!

Why PPC is Necessary
- Full flexibility of budget and spend
- Adjustments on short notice
- Results are quicker to achieve
- No or only small changes to website required
- Various targeting options to ensure happy visitors
- Full transparency

However (if you must), he says PPC and SEO can be used together:
- Data generated can be exchanged for optimization
- Remove space for bad reputation
- SEO helps for AdWords Quality Score
- Big PPC spend helps getting answers from Google (on SEO)
- Less space for the competition

Great discussion. Round one is over and the panelists kiss and make up again.

This live blog post was written by guest blogger Imelda Khoo. Imelda is the E-Marketing Manager at Tektronix, responsible for global SEO, PPC and social media. Imelda blogs at SEM Booty and is also on Twitter @imeldak