Search engine optimization (SEO) and PPC (pay-per-click) marketing are both very popular amongst webmasters looking to promote their websites. Both have ups and downs as you can imagine. So which is best and what should you go for? While the answer depends on your goals, for most people a combination of both will likely produce the greatest results. SEO and PPC are very different animals and because of that, they each have their areas in which they will always be dominant regardless of how well established (or not) your website is.
SEO is usually seen as the long-term Stallworth, with the ability to bring high volumes of traffic on a consistent basis if you keep your site up-to-date and continue to produce strong content. There are many websites which owe a majority of their sales to conversions from organic search. And this makes sense because organic search is really the key service that Google and other search engines provide to their customers and they work tremendously hard to make sure that their algorithms offer the most relevant results to their users. If you get high traffic from competitive keywords naturally, that means that the search engines think you are doing something right and offering their users something that they want, and in most cases of lasting traffic gains through this source, that is true.
PPC, on the other hand, is more about the competition and how many resources you are willing to spend in the short-term to outrank them in ad slots. It is important to note that PPC ads often look different, but that they are often also in prominent positions regardless of who is ranking for the organic top slots. This is why it can be a complement rather than a competitor of typical SEO. The top three results on any given results page are typically ads, followed by the organic results. Due to this, they tend to get a lot of clicks just as the top three organic results do too, especially with the role that “ad blindness” often plays. You can see why it is important to do well in both to maximize your traffic potential.
A strong long-term strategy should involve investing the right capital on targeted ads to allow you to gain highly-specific traffic from Adwords ads combined with a solid content base, on-site SEO, and off-site presence which will allow you to rank well in the organic spots as well. Overall, the combination of both can be tremendously effective in helping you corner a large part of the traffic for any given keyword. To do well in both will certainly take time, but the return can often be easily worth the investment.
The key thing to remember is that there is some level of experimentation that is needed with both PPC and SEO. With PPC, this period of trying different things is typically and should be shorter. Once you find things that work, stick with them and maybe make only small changes- try A/B testing if possible to get a scientific view into what differences might help you optimize. When it comes to SEO, you need a varied approach and one in which it is important to try different things, especially off-site (although within the realm of staying white hat- black hat tactics are a surefire way to end up in Google’s bad graces sooner or later). On-site, you should focus on having great content along with improving the user experience and sticking to principles that Google and others say that make websites favorable for search and mobile. This experimentation period will naturally be longer, but ultimately you should find the right equilibrium here as well.