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Social vs SEO vs PPC – An Online Marketing Heavyweight Shoot out – Part 1!

Today a work colleague and I (ok, it was Andrew) were having a lively little Skype chat discussing the pros and cons of the various types of online marketing services Adster offers, and the strengths and weaknesses of each. It all stemmed from digging into 2 very common customer phone calls – the first of which is:

I’m interested in Online Marketing, but am not sure what to expect, how much to spend, or how to prioritize my spending…

Of course, being the ‘classic’ SEO’er I am, I vehemently declared good old fashioned SEO as my personal favorite choice for our clients. “SEO down the stretch has proven itself time and time again” I blabbered on, furiously exporting PDF’s out of Google Analytics to prove my point.

Andrew of course, with his direct sales background immediately defended PPC. “Google Adwords is fast. It’s effective. And it’s easy for a customer with very little technical ability to understand. You pay the money, You show up on top of Google. Boom.” The kid makes a good argument.

And hey, let’s not forget Michelle and Nate on Social Marketing. While they were not part of the conversation (the nerve, not being on Skype 22 hours a day), I’m sure they would point out how important it is for a business to have a solid reputation online, and engage their customer base. “Social is the Future of Search”, they would surely claim. Hey – the direction Google is headed with Google+, it’s hard for even ME to argue that.

So. Where does that leave us? More so, where does that leave YOU, standing ever more reluctantly with your Credit Card closely guarded.  How SHOULD you allocate your online marketing dollar? Is this crazy stuff actually going to work? And if so, when??

Perhaps a comparison? Or maybe…just maybe – A heavyweight SEO vs. PPC vs. Social Shootout is in order?

Hells yes!

Everybody Loves Line Graphs

So, because visual aids are so much fun, I decided to map out ‘visually’ what happens over time in each of the scenarios, and how each ‘group’ of online services effects your businesses reputation, reach and overall ROI over time.

The Contenders Make their case!

seo vs social vs ppc

Dave and SEO:

Well…as you can see by the graph, this is why SEO is an initial hard sell. It’s up. It’s Down. It’s all over the dang place.

Typically, SEO is a slow burn – we really don’t start seeing major action happening until after 6 months. We’ve found (as evidenced by researching many different clients’ analytics), that this is where the ‘trust’ starts to happen in the eyes of Google, and Content Marketing along with sustained Link / Citation building tend to have an exponential effect. This is typically where we make the client a believer, and Dave gets his self righteous arrogance on. It is, most would agree, pretty annoying.

Near the end of this curve, we do notice a bit of a decrease in the growth trend, as we tend to hit the ‘saturation’ point as far as local traffic goes (ie: being ranked well for multiple important search terms, etc). While growth is still possible, ever increasing resources must be applied to keep ‘squeezing’ traffic, and the typically ‘unbelievably good’ ROI begins to look a little more ‘good’.

Andrew and PPC:

Boom! As soon as  a campaign is setup, the traffic (and interested prospects) show up. PPC is popular for a reason, because it’s results are immediate, visual, and tangible. Shazaam!  Andrew performs an amazing spinning back kick and yells out loud – “Told Ya!”

This line shows steady, even growth over the duration of the year, as refinements to the campaign such as negative keywords, conversion optimization, etc are used to improve overall performance. New competitors, of course, can influence cost, so expect the odd ‘blip’ here and there.

Overall Prognosis? Predictable.

Cool.

Michelle, Nate and Social:

The apparent low man on the Totem pole. The investment in Social really provides very little to no tangible ROI for the first 3 months, at which point a small (and marketable) audience is ideally established.  From there, this line again shows slow, steady growth throughout the year with no real marked deviation.

Except at the verrrrry end of course. That Curve looks to be trending up, doesn’t it?

It has long been hypothesized (and even confirmed, by those in the know) that Social Media as an influencer in all things online is for real. While engaging your new and existing customers in a social forum shows your company’s ‘human’ side, there’s little doubt that all those ‘tweets’, ‘likes’, ‘pins’, ‘plusses’ and other social shares will be what powers Internet 3.0 (or, whichever version lives 2-3 years from now).

Let us assume that at some future date with flying cars and teleportation, that Nathan and Michelle are thoroughly amused by their unparalleled vision and freakish crystal ball gazing ability. I see them wearing robes, for some reason.

The Catch – and Part Deux

But hold on. What’s been illustrated above of course, is only half the story. What happens when we…dare I say it…stop. It is part two of our discussion and a phone call that goes something like this:

Our Online Advertising has worked well, but let’s ease off the gas and take a break for a while…

It happens to us (and hundreds of other online agencies) every day. A client indicates that while extremely impressed with the work we’ve done, they’re ready to ‘take a break’ from online advertising for a few months. The horror.

How WILL this scenario play out?

Check it out in part deux Here!