No one is arguing the fact that you need traffic in order to be successful online. End of story. But where you get your traffic from; now that’s a debate that will rage for ages. Proponents of organic SEO claim that the cost per visit in the end is much less than from a more direct form of traffic purchase, primarily pay per click marketing. PPC management firms, on the other hand, claim that SEO is hampered by high entrance costs made worse by a lack of return.
The truth is, they’re both right.
Cashflow or Cash Efficiency?
The two competing economic drives for any entity — but they are particularly pressing for small businesses — are cash flow and cash efficiency. Think about it like a grocery store: you can buy a small package today for a small amount, but the cost-per-pound will be high; or you can by a big package today for a bigger amount, but the cost-per-pound is lower, so you actually save money in the long run.
In this scenario, pay-per-click advertising is like buying those small, high cost-per-pound steaks. You purchase 1.5 lbs. of meat for $4.98, and you’re happy to do it because you only have $10 in your pocket, so you can’t afford to pay less than $2.99 per pound. SEO is like buying a Family Pack — you buy 12 lbs. of meat for $15.78, and you’re happy to do it because you’re only paying $1.49 per pound.
Traffic Now or Traffic Later?
This works because, in PPC, you only pay when someone clicks through. That means, if your conversions are decent, you should make a sale for every 50 or so times you have to pay for a click — in short, you make your money as you spend it, so you have better cashflow even if your cash efficiency sucks.
With organic SEO, however, you’re essentially investing — you pay $400 this month for 3000 visitors that trickle in over the next three months. Your cost per visitor is quite low, but the cost is all up front and the income is all a long ways off. If you don’t have the financial backing to stay in business for those few months, SEO simply won’t work for you.
In short, the answer is that SEO isn’t actually better than buying traffic — not for everyone. Different business in different circumstances will find one preferably over the other, but neither is clearly superior overall.