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SEO or PPC? Which is best for new businesses?

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PPC or SEO - which is better?

This is a common question for new business owners in Singapore. Both routes certainly offer opportunities for growth, but deciding which one’s optimal for you isn’t easy.

And it only becomes harder when you consider the fact that most new businesses have small digital marketing budgets. Which strategy is more likely to give better returns?

We’ll try to help you figure out the answer to that today.

Fundamentals of PPC

Let’s start with the basics. PPC or pay-per-click advertising refers to a type of digital marketing where advertisers pay when people click on their ads.

There are several benefits to PPC if you’re a small or new business, including these:

  • It’s fairly simple to target audiences using PPC tools.

  • PPC ads are easy to set up, especially if you’re using Google Ads.

  • There are a lot of tools for setting up and managing ad budgets.

  • There are a lot of available PPC ad formats now.

There are downsides to it too:

  • A lot of primary keywords see big competition in ads (and thus, are costly).

  • Tinkering and fine-tuning your ad to react to data or developments isn’t easy if you’re new to PPC platforms.

  • There are a lot of editorial guidelines that may restrict your ad content or even reject it.

  • It can be hard to keep up with the ad budgets bigger rivals have.

Key Subtypes: General Ads vs Retargeted Ads

PPC text , pay per click cubes on wooden background

Two ad types you may hear about often when it comes to PPC are the general ad and the retargeted ad. It’s worth getting to know each one.

General ads are essentially ads aimed at your target audience or customers.

Retargeted or retargeting ads are still aimed at your target customers… but with a twist. They’re aimed at those of your target customers who’ve shown an interest in your offerings before.

Let’s say John is shopping for new shoes and ends up visiting your shoe website during his search. Unfortunately, he leaves your website without a purchase.

You can craft a retargeting ad aimed at people like John. He’s already visited your site, so it’s clear he already has an interest in what you’re selling.

He just hasn’t taken that final step (the purchase).

Your retargeting ad would appear in John’s browser when he’s visiting other websites that serve up ads. It would remind him of the shoes you have to offer and his interest in them, in a bid to get him to convert.

Infograph showing concept of retargeting ads

A retargeted ad can also come after a potential customer indicates interest in your business in other ways, take note.

For example, if a person clicks on one of your general ads to visit one of your landing pages, that person can be served one of your retargeting ads later on.

Since many customers take multiple moments of exposure to a product to buy it, retargeting ads are important in most PPC campaigns. They’re basically the follow-up nudges that can get a prospect to turn into a conversion.

How to Run a Successful PPC Campaign

Honestly, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for PPC. However, these are tips that have worked for us consistently, so we’ll share them with you:

  1. Choose high-volume, low-competition keywords - Doing this lets you still aim at your target audience while keeping PPC costs down.

  2. Be thoughtful about your copy - Don’t take the content for granted! Copy matters even in ads - some will say even more so here, as you’re paying for the space where you put the copy.

  3. Don’t forget about the rest of your funnel - PPC isn’t the end-all and be-all of the marketing funnel. Check out our guide to the marketing flow again as a reminder.

  4. Monitor your campaign - Like most marketing campaigns, a PPC one has to be tracked and adjusted for optimal results. Keep an eye on your metrics to see where you’re performing best, what you can tweak, and so on.

Fundamentals of SEO

Now it’s time to talk about SEO or search engine optimisation—we’ve talked quite a bit about it here before too!

SEO is the process of making a site more visible online. Usually, that means making it so the website is always in the first page of search results for searches related to its business.

Main holding phone, google search engine on screen.

So, say you have a website selling gaming keyboards in Singapore. SEO would try to ensure it’s one of the first websites people find on Google when they search for gaming keyboards in Singapore.

There are a lot of techniques that go into doing SEO, but usually, it’s all about making the site as relevant and useful as possible to your target audience.

And, of course, convincing search engines like Google of your site’s relevance and usefulness!

The 2 Types of SEO

Now, there are 2 types of SEO: on-site and off-site SEO.

On-site refers to strategies that you can implement directly on your website. For example, using the right keywords in your website’s copy is on-site SEO.

The same goes for creating content designed to tap into search intent. Search intent refers to why people (or your target audience) look for something, and it’s critical in SEO.

Abstract web line connection of color yarn from nail node to node. Networking, backlinking concept

Now, off-site SEO is related to this but takes place elsewhere. As you may have guessed from the name, it relies on strategies that occur outside of your website.

Link building, or the process of getting authoritative and relevant sites to link to yours, is an example of off-site SEO. Obviously, the links are on other people’s websites, so they’re happening off your own website.

The Most Important Thing to Remember about SEO

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If there’s anything you need to know about SEO, it’s this: it’s about the long game.

SEO movements don’t tend to happen overnight. Barring a truly radical algorithm update from Google, you’re not likely to teleport from Page 5 of your target audience’s Google search results to Page 1 after one day of doing SEO.

That’s why it’s important to invest in resources for SEO while knowing it takes time and sustained effort. There are no shortcuts, but it can be hugely rewarding when it works.


So, knowing all that, who wins in the battle of SEO vs PPC for small businesses?

Let’s start with the quick and dirty answer: PPC allows for rapid growth, but ends when you stop funneling in money. SEO offers longer-term growth and theoretically unlimited organic traffic that you don’t pay for, but takes time to build up.

Of course, there are nuances. You don’t need to go either-or on these things, which brings us to our real answer.

What We Recommend

1. Start a PPC campaign and do on-site SEO

Google Analytics - Front Analytics

Start a PPC campaign while starting on your on-site SEO.

Keep the PPC campaign running long enough to generate some traffic and get some return on your advertising investments. It will sustain you in the short-term even as you work on getting your long-term plan (the on-site SEO) in place.

Note that for the PPC, you can also extend to Facebook or LinkedIn Ads, depending on your target audience.

2. Work on off-site SEO

Depending on the customer base, you can do an SEO audit or keyword positioning audit. This will let you see what keywords you’re already ranking for.

You can use this as a base to work on for your off-site SEO. From doing intense link building to investing in social media, you can start building serious traction here.

3. Work on both SEO, PPC and other digital marketing campaigns

By this point, your website should already rank for certain keywords. Now you should continue your efforts so that you don’t lose your gains or let competitors overtake you.

You may want to extend your ranking for keywords through PPC, as part of that. You can also explore other options such as Youtube ads, influencer marketing, and other digital marketing methods to grow your business.

Get started on your SEO/PPC now!

Group of young confident business people analyzing data using computer while spending time in the office

And that about sums it up! As you can see, both SEO and PPC can offer definite gains to a small or new business. It’s all about figuring out which mix of them works best for you.

If you need help with that or anything else related to these topics, get in touch! Contact us for a chat for your digital marketing needs now.

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