what is better?
As an online marketing expert, one of the most common questions I get asked from Seattle business owners is after having a website what is better to invest in, search engine optimization (SEO) or advertising?
Is it better to pay for traffic to your site through ads or to optimize your SEO so eager customers who are searching for what you have to offer can find you?
And, if you can only choose one to focus on and invest in, will SEO or advertising give your business the biggest return on investment?
Through my many years of experience in digital marketing and local advertising, and in doing this for my businesses for the last seven years, I have come to the conclusion that by far dollar-for-dollar it’s best to first invest in SEO before investing in advertising…And I will tell you why.
Here in Woodinville, for example, you can pay for physical advertising like billboards on HWY 522, in local newspapers and door-to-door mailers. In Seattle, you have similar options. You could spend a fortune on radio ad spots, local TV, billboards, local magazines, coupon books, mailers, door-to-door flyers…The list goes on and on.
In each case, you are spending to let everyone know you exist. Many of whom will never become your customer. This broad way of advertising is becoming less and less effective as customers change their buying strategies.
30 years ago customers in Seattle would find you through the Yellow Pages, word of mouth referrals or broad ads like the ones mentioned above. If your business wasn’t in the Yellow pages, you didn’t exist. Fast forward to 2017. If your website isn’t in the top 2 or 3 on Google, you don’t exist to your customer.
Studies have shown that depending on your industry, between 30 and 50% of clicks go to the first link in an organic search, meaning the customers who clicked through to the websites below the ads on a google search. Third place gets an average of 7 to 11% of clicks and second place gets between 10 and 20% of traffic. That is a huge drop from first!
If your website ranks #11 on a given search, you will only receive 1% of organic traffic. The farther your website is from the top, the less organic traffic you will receive. Organic traffic is the most desirable traffic, and I will explain why.
Let’s step away for a moment from talking about clicks and traffic and start talking about real people. You are an established business in the Greater Seattle Area. You serve great customers. You love your community, and you give a damn about your reputation in the Pacific NorthWest and the quality of the work your company provides.
You want your customers to be happy. You want to attract clients that make your day. You know the ones. The best customers Seattle has to offer. You want to draw them in, so they chose your business over your competitor.
You want local customers to come to you instead of driving farther away to be serviced by your competition!
Right now, at this very moment, you are losing customers. They are searching for what you have to offer and then driving to Shoreline, Lynnwood or that company in Seattle to get what they could get from you! And all because your website isn’t showing up at the very top of the search.
This is why you need SEO. So the eager customers that are ready to buy find YOU first and not your competitor.
Geographically we in the Greater Seattle Area are in a unique position. We are so close to all these other neighborhoods that our local customers are willing to travel to another area to get what they want.
In working with local businesses, I have heard many cases where customers traveled as far east as Redmond or Bellevue, up as far as Everett or as south as Tacoma.
But, if they find what they want close to home they would rather not brave the traffic. They would rather shop locally. We just need to get them to find you at the top of their Google search when they are ready to buy!
Let your competitors spend tens of thousands of dollars in wasteful advertising. If you focus your efforts on SEO, you won’t have to pay for ads because 50% of traffic will come straight through your door just for being at the top of Google.
What would that kind of traffic look like for you? If you had a 30% increase in customers because your SEO placed you at the top of the local Google search? That kind of jump in traffic would mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional profit. You would have had to pay a small fortune for ads to achieve the same result!
I know several businesses that only pay for ads and if they stop paying they stop generating new sales. With proper SEO, your investment can mean years of increased sales.
Right now the most common online ads to buy are through Facebook and Google Adwords. And if you’re in the service industry, there are websites where you can pay a hefty fee for local leads. I know an excellent local tree service that will pay upwards of $36 per lead. They are lucky to close one in four.
When paying for broad advertising, you are not targeting customers who are ready to make a decision and buy. You are paying to cast a wide net and hope you catch a few fish. Even when you use the features that Facebook has to “target” your ads to potential customers in your area
Now, you might be thinking “But, it’s beneficial to pay for local advertising so I can increase my brand awareness and let my future customers know I exist.”
You are advertising to those who may never become your customer. And you are paying to have your brand be recognized to customers that might come in your door months from now. But for brand awareness ads to be effective, you must keep doing them so you can keep your brand within the awareness of your future customer until they are ready to buy and then they will seek you out.
But, there is no guarantee that when they do seek you out on Google, they actually chose you over your competition. You might have spent thousands of dollars on ads to send your customer to your competitor! Because your customer went on Google to find you and found your competition first.
That’s right, if your competitor is using SEO they are going after the search terms people are using to find you. For example, if you are ABC Winery in Woodinville and your biggest competitor is XYZ Winery down the street, XYZ is likely to go after the same keywords used to find you, like your name, ABC. Then, when people search ABC Winery, they see XYZ Winery in the #1 spot on the Google search and yours is down at #4. Statistically, we know they will click through to XYZ instead.
This is another reason why in 2017 SEO trumps Ads for local businesses
In summary, if you spend your marketing budget on ads and not SEO you are paying a lot of money to cast a wide net through Ads. There is no guarantee you will actually be seen by a customer that is ready to buy right now.
Essentially it’s like going to Tulalip Casino and putting $10,000 on black at the roulette table. A total crapshoot. You might lose everything and not attract a single client, or you might get some. No way of knowing if you will make your money back until after you have placed your bet.
With SEO you make your website seen to those who are ready to buy and are looking for a business to chose from. The closer you are to the top the better.
Spending to create local brand awareness through ads doesn’t guarantee customers come to you. You can buy ads for a whole year only to have those customers chose whoever is ranked higher in the search when they are finally ready to buy.
So even with the world’s best ads, you could be spending money to send traffic to your competitors if the competition is using SEO and you are not.
I know it seems confusing. When I had first grown my business big enough to spend money on marketing I was frozen with fear. I had analysis paralysis! Spending money on SEO seemed complicated and shady. Ads seemed expensive with no guarantee of success. I wanted to invest my marketing dollars in the best plan of action that would return the greatest profit and grow my company.
Like Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary says on the business minded TV show Shark Tank “Money is my military, each dollar a soldier. I never send my money into battle unprepared and undefended. I send it to conquer and take currency prisoner and bring it back to me.”
When I sent my soldier dollars out to maximize my SEO, I saw a whole army come back to me in the form of new great customers! With SEO my traffic went from almost nothing to thousands of clicks. After looking at what it would have cost me to buy that traffic through ads, I knew that SEO was the right decision.
I am passionate about helping local businesses grow their marketing and maximize their business’s potential. That is why, when you fill out the discovery form below I will do some research for you, and then we can chat. I will be able to see and share with you what kind of an impact my SEO service will do for your business. Let’s get you to the top of Google and have you experience the 30+% increase in beautiful organic traffic.
If you still have questions just fill out the form and we can chat. I only want to work with businesses that I know SEO is the absolute right investment and I will let you know right off the bat, based on my research and experience, if my service will give you the results worth your investment today.