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August 23, 2006

What Comes First: PPC or SEO?

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SEO and PPC – many site owners will choose to use them in tandem, but when you’re just starting out, which should you focus on first? Creating a site that’s optimized or bringing in immediate traffic and revenue to your site?

According to a recent Wilson Web article written by iPlenus Solutions’ Director of Web Design Paul Schmidt, the answer is always PPC.

“By using PPC first, you can get traffic quickly, test the effectiveness of your website, and get an idea of its conversion rates. Once you are satisfied with the conversion rate of the website, you then reduce marketing costs by working on SEO.”

Paul outlines the steps necessary for running an Internet marketing strategy that will minimize both costs and risk.

  • Step 1: Plan your budget – One of the first steps of any project is to determine how much money can be allocated. Your budget needs to be large enough (Paul says $1,000 or more) to bring in enough traffic to “ensure statistically significant results”.
  • Step 2: Set goals – Your goals should exceed just bringing in conversions. You set goals for desired actions such as how many users fill out a contact form, how many phone calls you receive during the day or how many newsletter subscriptions you receive.
  • Step 3: Measure success – Once your PPC campaign in finished you will have quantifiable data to measure its success, something not attainable with straight SEO. If you didn’t meet the goals you set in Step 2, go back and make adjustments based on your data.
  • Step 4: Focus on SEO – By the time your PPC campaigns are optimized, you should have enough data to measure the effectiveness of your keywords and see what terms your SEO campaign should be focused on.

I agree that Paul’s method will give advertisers the ability to maximize profits while they’re working on their SEO campaign, but for site owners who do plan on doing SEO on their site, thinking of it as an afterthought may be a mistake. You wouldn’t want to miss out on some of the elements and advantages that come from designing your site with SEO in mind.

Why wait until you have already launched a PPC campaign to do your keyword research or to discover your competition? We recommend doing these things before you launch your site or jump into a PPC campaign. In fact, we recommend you do these things before creating your site.

How will you know what to name your pages, what tags you should be using, what you should be writing about or what kind of site architecture and navigation you’re going to use if you don’t do the research ahead of time? Working optimization into your design enables you to lay down the right framework for your site from the very beginning. Designing your site with no thought to SEO means you’re going to be playing catch up later on. There’s something to be said for doing something right the first time.

PPC has the potential to give site owners the most precise targeting for the lowest cost, but putting SEO on the backburner while you work on your PPC campaigns may be dangerous. Remember, optimizing your PPC campaigns won’t help tell customers what your site is about or what you can offer them. If your site is poorly optimized and poorly designed, why would you want to attract visitors to it in the first place?

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