Organic vs. PPC

Filed in PPC Advertising, Searcher Behavior, SEO by Matt McGee on December 21, 2006 0 Comments

This started out as a silly debate because a PPC proponent took some ignorant swipes at the SEO crowd and got a reaction from some SEO quarters. There was no point in posting anything about it because I saw no value in the debate and no reason for small business owners to care. Well, the debate has continued and even gone up in intensity and now there’s finally something of value to come from it, which I’ll link to in a moment.

First, the background, in this order:

1. David Pasternack of doesn’t like SEO. It’s a one-time fix, he says.
2. Kevin Lee, also of, agrees. PPC ads are more relevant, he says.
3. Many SEO folks call them out, none better than Greg Boser. (The “frogs” reference is to the Did-It mascot.)

And, finally, Gord Hotchkiss hits a grand slam with this big picture take on the whole debate.

Our research shows that a very interesting interaction takes place with the researcher versus the purchaser in that Golden Triangle real estate. Both users look at the top sponsored ads when they appear. They both look at the organic listings. Frankly, there’s not a lot of difference between the scan patterns. But it’s where they click that makes the difference. When they’re ready to buy, based on a recent eye tracking study, about 45% click on top sponsored, and about 55% clicked on the top 1 or 2 organic links. Almost a 50/50 split, FOR THOSE THAT ARE READY TO PURCHASE. But when we look at the other 85%, the ones doing research, EVERYONE OF THEM clicked on the organic link. And in the test, the same site appeared in both spots, so relevancy of the destination was equal. As long as users want organic links, organic optimization continues to be important.

Please do read the full post on Gord’s blog, it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a long time and goes beyond organic vs. PPC by addressing searcher behavior, user interface issues with Google, Yahoo, and, and much more.

In the end, if David and Kevin want to tell their clients to ignore SEO and focus on PPC, that’s great. That’s less competition for the rest of us, and more opportunity to gain new business when those clients wonder why their competitors — ones with a more rounded approach to search marketing — are winning.

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