In last week’s Why We Still Believe in SEO post, we talked about SEO and PPC being teammates, working together to help businesses beat their competitors.
This week, I want to dive into that relationship further, addressing questions such as:
- What is each channel’s strength?
- Does one have a better ROI than the other?
- How exactly do they fit together?
These are important questions that deserve consideration in light of today’s search engine landscape. In the eyes of many local businesses, and even many digital marketers, organic opportunity is seen as shrinking.
As I’ve heard the argument go: Why spend countless hours trying to earn visibility that’s not even guaranteed, when you could just pay for a sure thing?
Let’s take a look.
Is SEO or PPC better for law firms?
I get this question a lot, and it’s totally fair. Many law firms (or any local business, for that matter), especially those with limited budgets, can’t always afford to do everything. They’re not necessarily questioning the merit of either channel. They just want to know which is better for them.
Comparing SEO and PPC: Major benefits and challenges
Attorney SEO and PPC are closely related – they sit right next to each other in search results, sometimes indistinguishably! However, the advertisements that are placed on search engine result pages (SERPs), although Google aims to make these as relevant as possible to each particular query, are not the same as the search results themselves.
As different but adjacent channels, it’s important to understand the key benefits and challenges presented by each.
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If we had to distill this into an elevator pitch for each channel:
- SEO is a method of earning exposure at all phases of the buyer’s journey so you don’t have to pay for all your traffic, but it takes time to achieve visibility.
- PPC is a channel that offers you immediate exposure for money-making keywords, but you’ll lose the visibility the second you stop paying.
If I was a business owner, I wouldn’t want to have to pick! You can see how each plays an essential, complementary role in your overall marketing strategy.
SEO vs. PPC Statistics
There are plenty of statistics out there surrounding SEO and PPC, but to me, these are some of the most compelling and create a pretty clear picture of the landscape:
2-3% of Google searches result in PPC clicks, while 40-62% go to organic [Moz]Insight: Far more people click on organic than paid, but this at least in part can be attributed to the fact that most queries are informational, rather than transactional. People research before they buy.
60% of people can’t distinguish between paid ads and organic results [VARN]Insight: While some savvier searchers bypass ads in favor of “real” results, many searchers still do not know the difference and will click on the result that best matches what they were looking for, regardless of whether it was paid for or not.
For many local-commercial queries (ex: “[city] + [service]”), organic search results still receive the highest amount of clicks (50.8%), followed by local/map pack results (32.3%), and PPC ads (14.1%) [Bright Local]
Insight: Even on transactional queries were ads are shown, many people still prefer organic and map results to PPC ads.
So which is better?
Is cardio or strength training better? Same as the debate between SEO and PPC, it depends on your goals and your current situation.
If you’re just starting out, you only have the time and resources for one, and you need to get leads/cases right away, do PPC (but I would still at least get a search engine optimized website). Once you become cash positive, start investing resources into proactive SEO strategies for long-term growth.
Another scenario in which I’d recommend PPC is local businesses who want to rank organically outside of their physical location. Searches with local intent (the searcher wants something near them) produce highly-localized SERPs. If your law firm isn’t located in the city where searchers are looking, it’s unlikely Google will serve up your business organically, so I would recommend PPC.
How PPC and SEO work together
Each channel has its merits, but did you know that PPC and SEO can actually make each other better?
Various studies, like this one from Seer and this one by Julian Connors, reveal how click-through rates are actually higher on both paid and organic results when both an ad and an organic result are shown on the same page.
If you want to squeeze more traffic out of your page 1 visibility, combining SEO and PPC is the way to go. And with more SERP features being added every day, there are more chances than ever to get this exposure – multiple times in a single result.
Query: “Denver divorce attorney”
- 4 PPC ads
- 3 map results
- 10 organic results (4 of which are directories)
- 3 more PPC ads
Aim to show up in the ads, map, organic, and even on page 1 of the directories that are ranking for the said keyword, and you’ll get more traffic from search than you would have with any one of these features in isolation.
Does PPC traffic help SEO?
Some wonder if there’s a direct SEO benefit to running PPC ads. That’s an unequivocal “no.” See this statement from Google:
However (there’s always a “but” in digital marketing, isn’t there?), there are plenty of indirect benefits PPC can have on SEO and vice versa, such as the CTR lift we just talked about. These indirect benefits are where this myth comes from.
Some of the indirect benefits PPC and SEO have on each other include:
- Searchers may be biased to those with multiple page 1 listings. Seeing both a PPC and organic result for a website on page 1 of search results can bias a searcher to choose that business over others who just showed up a single time.
- Past exposure to a brand, regardless of channel, can bias a searcher to a business. Searchers who have previously seen an organic result for a business are more likely to click on that business’s ads, and searchers who have seen advertisements for a business are more likely to click on that business’s organic results.
- Paid exposure brings the increased awareness that can lead to organic attention. You can pay for an ad or a press release and not get any direct SEO value from it, but that paid exposure can draw attention, and that attention can organically result in things like links and mentions, which do affect SEO.
What do people spend on PPC vs. SEO?
The literal dollar amount you spend on PPC vs. SEO is entirely dependant on criteria that are unique to your business and goals, such as:
- How competitive is your market? (locale and service)
- How close/far are you to hitting your targets? Are you near where you want to be? Or is there a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between you and your goals?
- How long have you been doing digital marketing? And what was the quality of those past efforts?
In general, cost increases in proportion with market competition and goal difficulty.
But there’s another side to the “what does it cost?” question that doesn’t get nearly as much attention, and that’s cost over time.
Let’s review the two channels again:
- PPC = pay per click. You’re paying for every click on your ad / searcher sent to site.
- SEO = paying for someone to do the work of optimizing your website so you can earn traffic instead of continuously paying for it.
With PPC, you’re paying for the clicks themselves. With SEO, you’re paying for the work. Think about what that does to your customer acquisition cost (CAC) over time.
With PPC, you have to keep paying for visibility. With SEO, once you’ve earned placement, you don’t have to keep paying for your website to stay on page 1 (stagnating, the cost of inaction, and the changing SERP landscape is a conversation for another day). With proactive optimization, you’ll hopefully start ranking for more and more keywords. When you increase potential clients (website visitors) without increasing the investment it takes to procure them, you can lower your CAC.
Cover more search engine real estate for maximum results
If you found this article through organic search, there’s a good chance you’re a law firm looking to grow your practice. SEO and PPC are the complementary channels your business needs for both long-term and immediate wins.
Juris Digital has used these strategies in tandem to help law firms like yours succeed. Take a look at what some of our clients are saying:
- “They’ve successfully framed our law firm as a trusted authority online, which has resulted in a steady increase in case sign-ups.” – Kirk McCormick, Esq.
- “They’ve definitely improved the bottom line value that I get from my websites.” – Andrew Flusche, Esq.
- “We have been very impressed with the results they’ve been able to deliver.” – Andy Gillin
To learn more about how SEO and PPC can help you get more, high-quality leads that translate into valuable new cases for your law firm, get in touch!
Juris Digital has helped hundreds of law firms bring in consistent, quality new cases from search engine optimization and pay-per-click strategies. Ready for more and better leads?