When it comes to digital marketing, there’s an ongoing debate about which is more effective. Thus, the creation of PPC Vs. Content Marketing Explored.
This scenario happens for people who want to justify a marketing approach or method based on a specific competency, profession, field, or career.
When asked, “Which is more effective: content marketing or PPC?”
One may say: “I tried content marketing, but it didn’t work. So I switched to PPC, and my business grew by 300%. PPC is more effective than content marketing.”
Another person may argue: “I used to think PPC was the best way to get traffic. But after I started using content marketing, my sales increased by 300%!”
I have an issue with both scenarios because each are trying to prove better than the other.
Instead, how about leveraging both? I hope you get the gist of the story.
Let us look at it this way.
For a marketing professional selling a particular service like PPC, SEO, or content marketing, the need to justify the worthiness of a specific marketing approach, strategy, or method is understandable.
But as marketing managers or business owners, you don’t care about the approach, method, strategy, or tactic.
All you care about is ROI, sustainability, and ethicality. (A few others may not even think of considering the last item. LOL.)
- ROI: What did you get in return from the money you invested into the business?
- Sustainability: Can the approach or strategy assume or foster the business’s longevity?
- Ethicality: Is the method or process in accordance with professional standards and best practices?
PPC vs. content marketing: now what?
Both strategies have proven successful in their own right, but knowing which one to use can take time and effort — in short, experience.
This article will explore the differences and similarities between PPC and content marketing. We’ll examine the benefits of each approach and ultimately help you decide how to approach your business with the standpoint of which strategy is best for your business.
You may have doubts, concerns, or questions. We aim to address them in this article.
Here are concerns and questions you may ask yourself:
- Should I invest in PPC or content marketing?
- Knowing PPC is expensive, will it generate enough leads to justify its cost?
- Knowing content marketing is more affordable, will it produce the same ROI as PPC?
- Which is more profitable for my business?
- Which one is easier to execute?
- Which one is easier to scale?
- Do I have the budget to run both PPC and content marketing?
- Is there a cost-efficient approach?
The following sections will provide descriptions and comparisons of some essential terms. You will also find the benefits and limitations of each strategy: PPC and content marketing.
If you feel like implementing our recommendation without needing to go through the entire article, head straight to unleashing the advantages of complementing PPC and content. Try it yourself.
What is PPC?
PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click. Google, Bing, and other search engines use PPC as an advertising solution.
PPC (Pay Per Click) means you only pay for an ad if someone clicks on it when using the term strictly. Yet, there is more to it.
Sometimes though, you may hear PPC interchanges with CPC.
In this context, I’d like to reserve PPC as a type of paid digital advertising where advertisers pay a certain amount when their ads are clicked. In a PPC campaign, the advertiser only pays for the ad based on the ad’s number of clicks.
Though there are different types of PPC advertising, I’d like to focus more on the following criteria:
- It is for customer acquisition, not simply brand awareness.
- It is keyword targeted, not behavioral-targeted.
- The cost per click directly results from the engagement, not an impression.
- It is more contextual and not guesswork.
- Lastly, let us focus on Google Ads, as Google has the lion’s share of leading search engines.
With that said, I want to avoid the rabbit hole of proving whether display ads are a type of PPC or not.
Others may argue they are entirely different, and others may also insist that PPC is the umbrella of all paid advertising.
Let us leave it there for now.
Benefits and advantages of PPC
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is an effective marketing tool, providing businesses with a powerful way to quickly reach their target audience.
Here are some additional benefits:
PPC is a great advertising strategy for businesses of all sizes.
To run a PPC campaign, you don’t have to be a multi-million dollar company.
In fact, during the mid-2000s, I remember one of the famous marketing buzzes for PPC was something like, “Go head-to-head with big businesses regardless of your size.”
It allows a business to set up advertising campaigns quickly.
All you need is the Internet, a computer, and the platform to set up your campaign. You have Google Ads for that.
It can target potential customers more effectively.
“PPC is an effective way to get your message to the right audience quickly and efficiently.”Anonymous quote
You can target your prospect using keywords.
This capability gives you the ability to contextualize your efforts quickly.
Additionally, PPC can easily integrate lead generation techniques by offering incentives such as discounts, special offers, and coupons. You get to know what makes your customers tick.
You can receive feedback on your PPC efforts in less time than other advertising archetypes.
It provides detailed metrics on the campaign, which you can review to refine your campaigns and increase the ROI over time.
“PPC is a powerful and effective tool for driving targeted traffic to your website – use it wisely and reap the rewards!”Anonymous quote
PPC has a broad reach to grow your online business presence and tap new potential customers.
Imagine getting customers across the globe. That is, if it makes sense for your business.
Lastly, PPC isn’t affected by algorithm updates.
How effective is pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
“PPC is a great way to drive targeted traffic and connect with potential customers – it pays to invest in the right strategies!”Anonymous quote
Here are some stats you may not know about:
Search ad spending is expected to reach $191 billion by 2024. (Statista)
This stat suggests that PPC is effective because businesses are spending money, unless everyone else is simply throwing their money.
41.4% of online advertising revenue goes to paid search. (Statista)
This stat is another reason we want to focus on paid search in this article.
50% of web users can’t tell the difference between paid and organic search results. (WebFX)
Because of too much advertising bombardment, some people tend to have mental ad blockers. That is to ignore what they can identify as advertising during browsing. Fortunately, only 50% can tell the difference between paid and organic search results.
Additionally, 75% say paid search ads make it easy to find information. (MarTech Series)
What are the challenges and limitations of PPC?
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a very effective way to bring targeted traffic to your business. Still, there are some challenges and limitations that businesses should be aware of when using this method.
Firstly, PPC can become expensive if not managed correctly.
With the right strategy, you can get great ROI from PPC. It’s crucial to clearly understand how much money needs to be spent to generate the desired results. Without proper knowledge and experience with PPC campaigns, businesses may pay more than they intended, leading to poor outcomes.
This challenge is why others prefer to concentrate more on the nature of their businesses and leave their marketing campaigns to PPC experts and specialists.
Secondly, it still takes time for a PPC campaign to produce tangible results.
This means a decent amount of conversions. Despite getting the metrics in an hour, it does not prove that your campaign is faring well. Typically it takes a week to a month for the machine learning to give you considerable results. However, it requires much lesser time than other marketing forms or methods like SEO.
Lastly, PPC won’t improve your organic search rankings.
So if you stop paying for the ads, Google stops showing them to potential customers.
But here is something to think about, and I have been talking about this in my inner circle.
The old hand pumps require you to pour water into them to fetch some water.
PPC requires traffic to fetch traffic. However, Google says that traffic is not a ranking factor.
Data from SEMrush states that direct traffic is the top-ranking factor these days. Somehow direct traffic proves a website’s expertise, authority, and trust.
With that in mind, will PPC traffic eventually turn into direct traffic, assuming you have quality content? And if SEMrush is right that direct traffic is a ranking factor, will it affect your rankings?
Again, it’s something to think about.
To end this section, let us consider that PPC won’t improve your organic search rankings.
PPC marketing strategy
Creating a PPC strategy may seem daunting at first. But it can be broken down into several easy steps that any business can use regardless of size or budget.
The first step is to know your target audience.
You should already have this by now upon starting the business.
- What are your customers’ pains and concerns?
- What problems do they have?
- What solutions are they trying to find?
Then the second step is to know your unique value proposition (UVP).
Again, you might already understand this by now upon starting the business.
- What can you or your business offer to resolve the pains of your prospects or customers?
- How can you address these concerns better than other competitors?
- What makes your solution different?
The first two steps above may not be directly related to PPC. Still, they are crucial to creating a successful campaign that can address the actual needs of your customers. Eventually, keeping them loyal to your business after the first or initial contact/purchase.
The aim is not just to sell them but to keep loyal customers. Therefore, the importance of the foundational steps: target audience and value propositions.
Now that you have identified your customer’s need, desire, pain, problem, or want — you can research and identify keywords. These are specific keywords relevant to your product or service, your target audience, and UVP.
Finding the right keywords is the third step.
You can do this using the Google Ads keyword planner. You need a Google Ads account to use the keyword planner. Creating an account is FREE.
I won’t give detailed step-by-step instructions on selecting the right keywords for your campaign, as this is not what the article is about. But here are some tips from Google on how to use the Keyword Planner tool effectively.
Step 1: Go to your Google Ads account. Sign up if you don’t have one.
Step 2: Go to the keyword planner.
Step 3: Select Discover new keywords.
Step 4: Select between Start with keywords or Start with a website.
I suggest you do both alternately. Keyword research is a taxing process if you really want to get the most. It involves brainstorming and thinking out of the box. If you entrust everything to Google, you’ll end up competing for very generic keywords with everyone else.
Step 5: Weed out unnecessary keywords. Contextualize your keywords.
This section is where your UVP and target audience come into play. Step 5 includes analyzing and choosing appropriate keywords.
Finding the right keywords is crucial to your overall success.
If you love to know more about how to do detailed keyword research, leave us feedback via the comment section or contact us. And we will find time to create that article.
The last step is to make your ad campaign.
Here is the process of creating a Google Ad campaign. Google regularly updates its documents, so follow the steps here: Create a Campaign.
Monitor and tweak your campaign regularly, but not too frequently, to ensure that your ads can reach your target audience effectively while staying within budget.
It takes time for the machine to learn about your campaign. Your task is to monitor that the machine is learning quickly what your business is about without throwing unnecessary money into it during the process.
This phase requires a balancing act between waiting and tweaking your campaign. It requires prudence.
How much does PPC advertising cost?
Though PPC advertising is a great way to attract more customers and grow your business, carefully consider the associated costs before jumping in. Knowing how much PPC advertising will cost is essential to understanding an adequate budget and plan for executing your campaigns.
The cost of your PPC campaigns generally depends on a few factors, like the keyword competition, the platform you’re using, and the industry you’re targeting.
Please see the avg. cost per click, avg. cost per lead, avg. CTR, and avg. conversion rate per industry:
As you can see, the figures vary greatly from industry to industry.
Popular keywords can be expensive, while low-competition keywords may only cost a few cents per click.
The cost also depends on your chosen platform. Google Ads tends to be more expensive than Bing Ads or Facebook Ads but offers higher quality leads due to the ability to target based on a user’s search intent.
I’ve created a bar graph below. Purple represents the average CPC, and pink represents the CPM:
The data is from 2021, but I believe it is still relevant. According to TopDraw, the information is based on the average industry costs for every major online advertising platform broken down by average CPM and CPC.
When doing a PPC campaign, I suggest you use a marketing or sales funnel.
A marketing funnel may appear costly initially because you must run several campaigns at one point in time. Nonetheless, they will cost less in the long run and will be more effective as they are targeted and contextual.
Since this article heavily focuses on Google, you can read the article Facebook Ads: Create a Sales or Marketing Funnel if you’d like to run FB ads using a marketing funnel.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is another type of marketing that involves curating, creating, and promoting your online material or content. Content marketing heavily depends on content strategy.
These materials or content can be in the form of blog posts, infographics, images, videos, or social media posts.
The intention of content marketing is not to sell. It intends to stimulate interest in your customers or prospects on what matters to them.
Furthermore, it is to showcase your expertise and authority on the subject matter and gain your readers’ trust.
It is a very subtle way of persuading your reader to be loyal customers.
In my experience as a website owner and content marketing service provider, it is worth the effort and wait.
Content marketing is a long game.
“Content marketing is a powerful tool for building meaningful connections with your audience.”Anonymous quote
Content marketing is not just about creating content; it also involves distributing your content to channels where your customers are and optimizing your content for search engines.
A bit of SEO might be involved, but this is not the core of content marketing.
Content marketing is about the quality of content—the substance of what you offer to your readers.
Yes, SEO may help. But it isn’t content marketing.
The core of content marketing goes back to understanding your target audience and UVP. From knowing your customers’ pains and concerns, you address them by creating content that would solve their problems or uplift their situations. This foundation is the essence of content marketing.
But note it is about something other than your products and services initially. It is about helping your readers or customers.
Though we won’t deny that eventually, we hope to have them as loyal customers.
“Content marketing is a powerful tool for creating an engaged, loyal customer base. Leverage it to build relationships and drive sales.”Anonymous quote
Does content marketing involve keyword research?
In essence, No.
Know your customers’ pains and address them. It needs brainstorming. But not keyword research.
In fact, at the heart of keyword research is brainstorming. Keyword research without brainstorming is not as contextual as when you do brainstorming from the very beginning.
Brainstorming puts you in your customers’ shoes. It takes you to their concerns and pains so you can address them with real, sustainable, or long-term solutions.
If you want to be super detailed with the process, do SEO. Find the right keywords so your customers can find your content when they seek information.
Likewise, do keyword research to make the most of your content marketing. So it is potentially a yes if you want to get the most out of your content.
The benefits and advantages of content marketing
I hate to repeat myself. Yet content marketing is invaluable for businesses looking to expand their reach, build relationships with customers, and increase sales in the long run.
Content marketing is paramount for the following reasons:
In content marketing, businesses can create and distribute relevant content to target audiences through various digital platforms, including blogs, social media, email campaigns, and more. In my opinion, this is the least of all the benefits. But this can also exponentially increase your traffic and branding if you get the other aspect right. That is quality content formulated for your target audience.
It builds trust and bridges the gap between your business and your customer by offering relevant content your customers need.
It builds your reputation, expertise, and brand.
The interactions and engagements by your readers on your content are great feedback mechanisms that reveal their needs, wants, and concerns.
As you consistently write, your content grows over time, as well as your reach. If you write content on your website or blog, you get to keep the content forever.
Since content marketing is tedious and requires consistency before you can see actual results, not all of your competitors are doing it. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you want to know more about content marketing, check out the content marketing process.
The challenges and limitations of content marketing
Content marketing is not cheap, even if you write it yourself.
Yes, it is more affordable than PPC. But it is still not cheap.
What is your opportunity cost when doing content marketing?
Opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
How much are you earning per hour?
How much time do you need to write quality content?
For computing and simplicity, let us say you earn $30/hour. You need 10 hours to finish the article. Your opportunity cost is $300.
If you can hire a content marketing service provider for half the price, won’t you hire one?
Furthermore, creating high-quality content takes time and effort. It often comes at a high cost due to hiring writers, editors, graphic designers, website developers, etc.
You don’t have full control of all of your marketing channels.
This point is not an issue if you only use your website or blog for content marketing. However, suppose you submit to different platforms, third-party websites, or social media channels. In that case, it is common to hear people getting banned from their accounts or their content getting stripped.
Content marketing is a long game.
If you can’t wait, then do PPC.
PPC Vs. Content Marketing
The Internet has become a battleground for businesses vying to reach more customers and increase revenue. Two of the most popular tactics marketers use to achieve these goals are Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and content marketing.
Here are some points I’d like to use for comparison:
Short-term cost: is the cost high?
The cost may vary depending on your industry and your skill.
Certain industries are affordable. Generally, you need a reasonable amount of money to see a decent outcome. If you don’t have the knowledge and the skill, PPC costs may shoot up.
The cost is medium to high in the form of money, not time.
Medium: if you know what you are doing.
High: if you have no experience and dove into paying for advertising.
PPC (hire an expert):
The cost may vary depending on whom you hire.
Seasoned PPC experts obviously would cost more, but they can give you better results.
Note we are only talking about the cost here, not the quality of the result.
Content marketing (DIY):
You may not spend any money. But you lose a very valuable asset, your time. The time you spend on writing may be more needed in doing something directly related to the very nature of your business. If your business is baking cakes, will you spend your time writing about cakes or baking cakes?
I consider the cost medium to high in the form of time, not money.
Medium: if you have enough time and love writing about your products/services.
High: if you have other important things to do.
Content marketing (hire an expert):
Quality content marketing specialists are expensive. Yet, they are worth it. You’ll be very fortunate to find quality, yet affordable content marketers. The cost is high.
For PPC vs. content marketing, short-term cost: it’s a draw.
Note that we are not trying to compute which is more expensive. We want to know if the cost is high regardless of whether one over the other is more expensive.
Long-term cost: is the cost high?
PPC (DIY): medium to high
PPC (hire an expert): high
Content marketing (DIY): medium to high
Content marketing (hire an expert): high
For PPC vs. content marketing, long-term cost: It’s a draw.
Fast result: which can deliver more immediate results?
PPC: very fast
Content marketing: takes time
For PPC vs. content marketing, fast result: PPC is the winner.
Long-term result: which can deliver everlasting results?
PPC: pay to play (advertise). If you stop paying, your advertising stops.
Content marketing: You’ll reap what you sow in content marketing even if you stop writing.
For PPC vs. content marketing, the long-term result: content marketing is the winner.
Tweak as you go: can you adjust/change when needed?
The short answer is Yes for both PPC and content marketing.
For PPC vs. content marketing, tweak as you go: It’s a draw.
Metric: is it trackable?
Content marketing: Yes
Yes, both are trackable. PPC metrics are readily available, like in the Google Ads platform. Content marketing may require you to install Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. But in terms of tracking conversion, both PPC and content marketing may require the same amount of effort and time to have them implemented.
For PPC vs. content marketing, metric: It’s a draw.
The overall verdict: it’s a draw.
Content marketing should come out as the winner, as many bloggers claim. PPC advertisers may also claim otherwise.
Going back to the introduction of this article, why not leverage PPC and content marketing together?
I am not talking about running them together at the same time. We already know the cost is high running each separately.
I am also not talking about running them alternately.
Are you interested in how to do so?
Unleashing the advantages of complementing PPC and Content
You can run both PPC and content marketing side-by-side at a given time, anytime you have the budget. But this is not what this section is about.
In our illustration above, PPC wins for fast results; and content marketing wins for long-term results. They are tied in all the other factors mentioned.
So how can we leverage both without running PPC and content marketing simultaneously?
How about making use of PPC to work for content marketing and vice-versa?
With this approach, you don’t have to run a full-blown PPC campaign simultaneously or even alternately.
You can reap both of their unique benefits by complementing them.
Here is the rationale: I would prefer to buy the fruit from a reputable farmers’ market and taste it before planting it.
If it’s worth it, I’ll use the seeds of that exact fruit and start planting it. Then I’ll spend my days cultivating the soil, nurturing and watering the plant until its harvest. I’ll regrow the fruit over and over again from that initial seed.
The story suggests I’ll spend my time initially looking for keywords directly related to my UVP and target audience to be tested within PPC campaigns. If the keywords perform via PPC, only then are seeds planted to turn the keywords into content marketing assets.
Normally, I will choose about 3 to 7 keywords.
I will test each keyword separately for 1-2 weeks, one ad group per keyword.
Assuming you have a landing page or sales page to direct your PPC or content marketing traffic, we will use that same landing page to test each keyword.
Note we have yet to test conversions here. We are only testing the effectiveness of the keyword. How much traffic will the keyword bring to the landing page?
Once you have identified the top-performing keywords among the set you have chosen, only then is it time to use them for content marketing.
Note, though, that this tactic involves SEO.
The benefits of using PPC campaigns to determine which keywords are most effective for long-term content marketing strategies:
- You get to see fast results through PPC.
- By creating the content, you’ll reap the long-term effect.
- This tactic means you get to spend less via PPC for more profit.
In the same way, if you have been reaping the rewards from your content marketing, you can exponentially increase profits by creating a PPC campaign for it during peak season. By then, you already know the keywords that drive high-quality traffic to your content, page, or post.
There may be better tactics out there. This approach is what I am happy and comfortable with.
There might even be more decisive articles regarding PPC vs. content marketing waiting to be revealed.
While looking for other PPC vs. content marketing tactics, why don’t you try this approach and let me know?