How to Keep a Strong Digital Footprint

Establishing a digital foundation for your company’s website is mandatory for success in 2020, but throw in a pandemic that puts sales in jeopardy?  The answer is yes, or at least it is if the foundation is laid correctly.

What do I mean by this?  There are two main strategies involved in crafting a digital foundation:

  1. Pay Per Click (PPC)
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Each has its own unique strengths so where one is weak, the other tends to be strong.

Before we get too far into breaking each method down and evaluating their effectiveness amidst a pandemic, let’s make sure we have a grasp on the basics.

Pay Per Click Role in the Digital Foundation

What is pay per click or PPC?  It is a type of online marketing where companies pay a fee when their ad is clicked by a searcher.  It works kind of like a soda machine in that when you put a dollar in, you’re going to get something back immediately.  PPC is the same concept.  A company pays a search engine a small fee when a searcher clicks on it, and in return, the company instantly gets a visitor to their business’ website that may very well result in a sale.

When a searcher is looking for a keyword such as “corporate lodging,” Google will return a list of relevant results.  Pay per click ads are labeled and show up in the sponsored section of a Google results page or in a Google Ad.

While pay per click can seem like an easy way to make money, it takes a lot of research and know-how to build a successful PPC campaign that includes:

  • Keyword identification
  • Target audience identification
  • Ad relevance

As an added incentive for building a solid PPC campaign that is popular with users, Google may reward you by charging your company a smaller fee per click for what they deem as better quality.  Translation:  the more successful a PPC campaign, the more profits a company stands to gain.

The pay per click method is usually driven by a company’s sales department and provides instant gratification to the advertiser.  The problem is the second you have to cut the funding to your PPC for example like in a pandemic,  then what?  Well this is where we have said it for years that a strong, well-developed SEO presence is the long a long term sustainable strategy.   Let’s take a look at using SEO as part of a company’s digital foundation strategy and then revisit this point.

SEO Forms the Digital Foundation

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy that uses keyword-based content on a website to get search engines to rank it.  In other words, if done correctly, this could land your company’s web pages at the top of a Google results page which in turn can mean more clicks on your site that hopefully end in a sale.

An important distinction to note here is that Google and other search engines rank web pages, not websites.  This means that SEO driven content needs to be woven throughout your company’s entire website if you want more than one web page to rank.  The more pages a website has that rank, the better the odds are that a searcher will land on your website.

There are several components that make an SEO campaign successful:

  • Keyword identification
  • Keyword placement throughout the website
  • Creation of quality, useful content
  • User-friendly website, which is going to become more in the forefront here shortly
  • Knowledge of search engine algorithms

This sounds self-serving since my company performs SEO campaigns for clients, but I also find it to be true:  it pays to hire a professional.  We already have tools, knowledge, and manpower at our disposal that it would honestly take years for smaller companies to match.

It is worth touching on the fact that search engines do change their algorithms frequently.  This means that a digital marketing strategy you were using before may no longer be as effective.  A professional SEO company navigates the changes on a regular basis and can help clients navigate the situation with ease.

But what happens to SEO during a pandemic?  Will it sustain a company any better than pay per click efforts?  A quick comparison should answer all these questions and more.

How Did PPC and SEO Perform During the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic related lockdowns across the nation made it pretty clear exactly how PPC and SEO methods fare when companies are shut down for weeks on end.  In fact, many of us got a front-row seat for this lesson.

Here is a quick quiz about how your own company fared during the pandemic:

  • Do you utilize pay per click ads?
  • Do you utilize a solid SEO strategy?
  • Did you have decreased numbers of clicks on your website?

How did you do?  Keep those answers in mind as we compare the experiences of two small business owners below.

A member of a networking group I’m a part of a comment in a recent virtual meeting that the number of visitors to her website were increasing almost weekly before coronavirus.  However, with the establishment of stay at home orders, her numbers sharply dropped.

On the other side of the spectrum, I have a client who specializes in international travel whose business was severely impacted by pandemic traveling restrictions.  While sales were down for him, he did not notice a sharp drop in website traffic.

So why the discrepancy between these two businesses?

The member of my networking group was likely focusing her efforts on pay per click opportunities that were not combined with a focused SEO campaign.  While her company was closed for several weeks during the pandemic, the sales staff were not actively generating pay per click opportunities which, in this instance, equaled a drop in website visitors and online sales.

The owner of the travel agency focused his digital marketing efforts primarily on a quality SEO campaign.  The thing about SEO campaigns is that they don’t shut down during a pandemic.  All the SEO investments he made in his website before coronavirus kept his web pages also ranking at the top of Google’s relevant search results during the crisis.  Even if travel was not possible at that exact moment, people planning a trip a year from now are still able to locate his business online and engage. The SEO on this website kept the brand visible at a time when the need for visibility means the most

See the difference?  When companies are temporarily closed, there is no revenue stream to help fund pay per click opportunities even if the sales staff is still working.  Quality SEO put in place before pandemic lockdowns should ultimately result in a lesser change in website traffic.

Look back at the questions you answered about your own business during the pandemic.  Which scenario do you relate to more, my networking contact or my client the travel agent?  If you want to change your answer to that question, keep reading to learn about better ways to execute digital marketing inside and outside of a pandemic.

Which Is Better SEO or PPC?

Ideally, the sweet spot for companies is a combination of the two.  The reason is,  they complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses well.  Where one falls short the other succeeds and vice versa.  It might help to look at it this way:

Pay Per Click Strengths SEO Strengths

*Immediate short term yield                                         *Sustained long term yield

*Quantifiable                                                                *Continues even if company temporarily closes

*Pay only per click                                                        * Investment into SEO has long-lasting results

Pay Per Click Weaknesses SEO Weaknesses

*Not sustainable without continual income                    *Upfront investment of time required

*Works only when active                                               *Not as precisely measured

A word about measuring the success of these two campaigns is needed here.  Pay per click efforts are easily quantifiable since the click of an ad sends a searcher directly to your site.  SEO efforts are still measurable, but not in the precise way that PPC is.

When it comes to measuring SEO, think of it this way.  You own a toy store that is selling a new doll so you buy television ad time to let consumers know about your product.  After a month or two, the store says the dolls are flying off the shelves, but they are not asking customers if they are purchasing the doll specifically because they saw the ad.  So while they may not be able to track how many of the customers bought the doll because they viewed the ad, it is clear that the television ad campaign is impacting doll sales.

A little more food for thought.  The average person requires about seventeen marketing touches before they feel compelled to engage in a sale.  That is a lot of touches, especially for one person engaging in one pay per click ad at a time.  While SEO does tend to have a better shot at getting closer to those seventeen touches, a combination of the two digital marketing methods should cover all the bases.

Bottom Line.  Invest in a solid SEO strategy now with professional SEO service and digital marketing agency that also knows how to navigate pay per click opportunities.  It is like having insurance for your company’s digital presence even in the midst of the unexpected.  The pandemic should have taught some valuable lessons most of which that SEO is not an old technique or something people no longer do, because, in an unexpected event, it may just save your business.

Beth Guide

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Beth Guide

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