Sometimes we online gurus can get a little too caught up in our own online world, and we forget that people have options — sometimes strong ones — that don’t (gasp!) involve a computer. After the entry we posted a couple of weeks ago about organic SEO vs. PPC, someone emailed us to ask how SEO compared not to PPC, but to an offline option: direct mail. Now, we’re not experts in direct mail. But we did a little bit of research and we made a few assumptions and I think we have a good baseline to compare from.
If you’re a small business, SEO can seem like it’s got a steep entry fee. After all, you can’t do SEO without a website, and websites can be expensive — a few hundred dollars is a big bite of a small business’ advertising budget, after all. Then you have to pay for a few months of SEO before the results really start to show. Then once you’ve ranked for a few choice keywords, you have to keep up the work to make sure a competitor doesn’t knock you off the block.
On the other hand, if you’re going to get into direct mail, you need quite a chunk of change as well. Not only do you need to hire a firm to design a killer ad for you — which can run a thousand dollars or more — but you need to rent the lists of addresses as well. Each list of 1000~2000 addresses costs about as much to rent as a month of SEO costs to have done, and you can expect about a 1% ‘conversion’ rate if you do everything well — so you’re spending a few hundred bucks to get between 10 and 20 customers into your store.
If you can make back that few hundred bucks off of those 10 or 20 people, you can have some good results off of direct mail. SEO, on the other hand, converts a bit better — generally 2-4%, and actually a little bit higher if you focus on local internet marketing specifically. You won’t get several thousand ‘hits’ all at once like you will with direct mail, but you will catch up with the total number of hits over a month or two if you play your cards right. In short, unless you really NEED those 10 or 20 customers through your doors in the next couple of weeks or you’re going to go under, SEO pretty clearly beats out direct mail as a form of advertising.