SEO vs. PPC is a non debate for B2B Marketing. To secure maximum quality leads, cheaply, is all that matters.

The ongoing debate on the greater of conversion effectiveness between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click (PPC) is a non debate for B2B marketers.  If the objective of B2B marketing is to secure quality leads for the sales team, at the lowest possible cost, then all that matters is delivering the maximum quality-lead impact to sales with the highest return on investment.  Below I will share some thoughts on how marketers can change the framework of the debate by asking different questions of their Paid Search and Organic Search strategies.

On May 26th, we wrapped up our second HiveFire B2B marketing webinar and our first on B2B Organic Search performance. You may access and download the webinar here.   During the webinar, we shared a HiveFire customer success using curation to automatically deliver Search Engine Rank improvements across the evolving, long tail of industry keywords. At the end of the presentation, I received the following question from an attendee: “Are there any statistics that show that B2B customers click on organic search listings more or less than on PPC advertisements?”

It was a great question and I found some statistics that I think may let us frame the question a different way: “Assuming that both SEO and PPC were equally effective in driving online conversions, what would impact the choice of using more of either strategy?”

  • In 2006, Websidestory (now part of Omniture) studied the conversion rates between Paid Search and Organic Search.  Their results of the effort are below:

Median Order Conversion Rates at Business to Consumer E-Commerce Sites (Jan.-Aug. 2006)
Marketing Channel                                  Conversion Rate

Paid Search                                                3.40%
Organic Search                                           3.13%
Source: PRNewswire & Websidestory/Omniture

Thus, if Paid Search is slightly better than Organic search, how do these methods compare on cost?

  • In 2009, Forrester
    highlighted that Paid Search is growing increasingly expensive and increasingly hyper-competitive for online marketers.

Average Cost Per Click in 2003: $0.29
Average Cost Per Click in 2009: $0.47
CAGR on Cost Per Click: 17% – 26%

However, here’s the kicker:  In order to still be considered a competitive marketing channel, B2B marketing conversion rates must increase with, or, surpass the growth in the cost per click of between 17% and 26%.  “Because few advertisers are able to improve conversion rates by 26 percent in one year, this increasing cost per click will lead directly to falling ROI”.  Source: Forrester Research

Thus, when we attempt to maximize the return on the limited marketing dollars invested, paid search is not cheap, but is becoming increasingly expensive and hyper-competitive for all companies.  If the objective of B2B marketing is to increase quality lead generation to the sales force, cheaply, then would Paid Search impact the “cheaply” or “hig ROI” requirement?  Should we not encourage marketers to seek cheaper, yet similarly effective alternatives?

Search Engine Optimization Marketing or Organic Search is possibly a cheaper option with about the same, effectiveness as Paid Search.  However, it too can become expensive without tools to help automate the process of producing and curating relevant content quickly and effectively.

Curating relevant industry content around customer-focused topics of keywords can help marketers increase their organic search rankings, and drive quality lead conversion, without breaking the marketing budget and engaging in hyper-competitive, Paid Search, strategies with well-funded competitors.  It may also take B2B marketers out of the SEO vs. Paid Search debate and allow them to effecitvely maximize marketing dollar ROI.