How to Split Your Search Marketing Budget Between PPC And SEO

Image of scales with moneyMost businesses are aware that PPC and SEO work best in tandem with each other. Where some people come unstuck is how to apportion budget in such a way that gets the most out of both search marketing activities.

I like to use the somewhat superficial metaphor of ‘looking good’ to describe how SEO and PPC work together, since we live in an increasingly appearance-focused world. Looking good generally involves two aspects – maintaining your intrinsic health and fitness (SEO), for example via a gym membership, purchasing healthy food etc. And the second aspect is spending money on cosmetic facets (PPC) like make up, clothes, pampering – even plastic surgery at the extreme end of the scale.

Health and fitness involves a long investment before you see results, whereas cosmetic enhancements are immediately obvious – so it is with SEO and PPC. Money spent on SEO will see a gradual increase in traffic, whereas PPC will see an immediate one. On the other hand, the second you stop PPC, your traffic will drop right off, whereas with SEO your efforts will continue to generate traffic after you’ve stopped investing. All of this affects the decision-making process behind dividing up your search marketing budget.

How should you divide your search marketing budget?

Many businesses tend to split their search marketing budget at around the 60-40 mark in favour of PPC. However this budget split will vary hugely from business to business- there is no ‘one size fits all’ rule. Here are a few of the variables that will affect optimal PPC/SEO budget split:

  1. Website with solid natural traffic
  2. Website with poor natural traffic
  3. Mostly low value items for sale
  4. Mostly high value items for sale
  5. Business has great social following
  6. Business has poor social following
  7. Business is new
  8. Business is well established

The great thing about SEO is that once you have the groundwork laid (upgrading a website and/or optimising pages, images and text), maintaining the SEO is less expensive – just paying for optimising new pages and images, refreshing keyword research and so on. So businesses with an established web presence and strong natural traffic should probably weight their budget in favour of their PPC, monitoring the results over time to check the budget split is still working well for them.

It’s similar when considering ‘social’ SEO – when a business has a strong organic social following, click throughs will be high anyway without the need for lots of ‘natural’ follower gathering. Then you’re in a position to spend more on ‘social’ PPC (paid social posts and ads), which will further increase your audience and traffic.

When a business has a new or poor website with very low natural traffic then a significant investment needs to be made in the SEO – in this case the business may prefer to spend 80, 90 or even 100% of the search marketing budget on SEO at first in order to nail the fundamental basics. It makes sense to scale back on PPC as, if the website is technically poor in SEO, it probably also gives a poor user experience which will negatively affect conversions from all traffic anyway.

Businesses primarily selling low cost items may find that they get less of a return from PPC owing to the comparative cost of the clicks. And depending on purchase volume, businesses with high value items might find the profits from PPC higher, therefore justifying a higher proportion of the search marketing budget.

The best route for any business is ‘trial and error’. If you’re still not sure where to start, you could benefit from setting your budget at 60% PPC and 40% SEO, then experiment with varying this over time.

Read more: 12 Ways You’re Wasting Your PPC Budget

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