If you’re an affiliate marketer, you’ll probably have faced one of the most common challenges: driving traffic to your website. This can be maximised through SEO or PPC; both strategies can bring results and each has their pros and cons. A good analogy would be to liken SEO to following a diet and exercise plan in order to lose weight, while PPC is akin to having liposuction. So which traffic source is better for affiliate marketing? As with most things, it will depend on certain factors.
There’s always been a debate about which is the more effective method. But before deciding for yourself, you should take into consideration that internet marketing, like every business, is constantly changing. Therefore, what could work for you today may not bring the same results tomorrow. A positive and flexible mindset is necessary for success whichever strategy you choose.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEO AND PPC?
SEO focuses on optimising your website and content so it can rank higher in organic search results for certain keywords in the search engines. It sounds simple, but the exponential growth in both content and competition makes this an ever more challenging undertaking.
In addition, because no one can be sure what the search engines base their algorithms on (the factors they use to prioritise websites), to achieve success with SEO requires knowledge, technical skill and a degree of experience.
PPC or pay-per-click traffic is quite self-explanatory; affiliates have to pay for their websites or ads to be displayed in a search engine’s or other platforms’ sponsored search results. The most common types of PPC are:
SEO PROS AND CONS
Before creating your traffic generation strategy, we’ll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
In terms of content creation, design and development, SEO requires a lot of work and is therefore time consuming. Progress is gradual rather than instant. However, you can expect a greater ROI because the results are more likely to last longer.
- Less expensive
- Better quality traffic leads
- Long-lasting effects
- Better long-term ROI
- High click-through-rate
- Better conversion rate
- Increased brand awareness
- Continual results and potential passive income
- Wider audience visibility
- Ranking depends on search engines’ changes in algorithm
- More effort and dedication required to achieve results
- Results are gradual and can take a long time
PPC PROS AND CONS
One of the main advantages of pay-per-click traffic is the time it takes to get results. If you set up your campaign correctly, you’ll see an increase in traffic almost immediately. Other significant benefits include the ability to target audiences and having full control over the scheduling of ads.
The concept of PPC is very tempting; the promise of high rankings for your site on top searches and instantly achieving conversions sounds perfectly straightforward, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Because your search result is going to be displayed as an ad, it may mean a lower click-through-rate as people in general, are suspicious of advertising.
In addition, the most popular paid traffic sources, such as Adwords, Bing Ads, and Facebook Ads, seem to be more strict with affiliate marketers. This could be for a variety of reasons, for example, the nature of the product, the type of affiliate website or the redirecting of affiliate links.
As an affiliate marketer, you also have to take into consideration that, unlike other businesses, if you manage to get a sale from your campaign, you will only receive a percentage of the total amount, so your return is going to be lower than for the average marketer.
- Instant results
- Targeted audience
- Ranking not subject to search engine algorithms
- Flexibility to manage campaigns
- More expensive
- Lower CTR
- Short-term ROI
- Cost per click depends on competition
- Not as beneficial for affiliate marketers
- Limited to affiliate programme and advertising T&Cs for profitable affiliate niches
DO SEARCH ENGINES GIVE PREFERENCE TO PAID TRAFFIC?
Most marketers want to appear in the search engine results because they know that’s where they’ll be found by prospective customers. So again, they have to decide whether to focus on paid or organic results to maximise their visibility in SERPs.
Since February 2016, Google has increased the number of paid listings above the organic results from three to four for highly commercial queries. The number of 4-ad blocks has now overtaken 2- and 3-ad blocks, and the graph below shows the percentage increase of 4-ad blocks during February.
This change has had an even greater impact on mobile searches which have now surpassed desktop searches, because users need to do more scrolling to view the top organic results.
Even though 4-ad blocks are not happening for all search keywords, the following images show how paid results can monopolise the top of SERPs for some high-intent keywords in both desktop and mobile searches.
If you are considering paid ads, you’d be advised to do some competitor analysis of the keywords you wish to target, research their cost and consider your resources.
There’s also a debate within the industry that search engines are not fully supportive of affiliate marketing paid campaigns and in many cases consider their sites to be spam. So it’s important to carefully check their terms and conditions for paid ads because the product you wish to promote may be banned or may not be fully compliant with their terms.
As an affiliate marketer, you also have to be aware of the advertiser’s terms and conditions regarding paid traffic. Sometimes you may not be allowed to send traffic to the offer directly or to bid on brand keywords.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PPC AFFILIATE MARKETER?
With PPC you will have to test different campaigns and ad variations to find the most cost-effective options. This means you may have to spend a fair amount of money to find the right combination before you start making a profit.
Most affiliate marketers focus on the SEO approach for driving traffic to their sites when starting out. This is because in order to run successful PPC campaigns, extra resources and a higher level of expertise are required. You will need to:
- Have the money to invest and possibly lose in the process
- Have intermediate to advanced understanding of keyword management, analytics, and digital media buying
- Be willing to take calculated risks
- Be prepared to fail or not achieve the expected outcome
- Have the patience to continually test different strategies and variations
- Act fast to stay on top of changing markets
- Be willing to be emotionally detached from your campaigns and focus on the profitability
TRAFFIC: QUALITY AND QUANTITY
Most affiliate marketers agree that you can achieve higher traffic volumes from organic methods. Put yourself in the visitor’s position for a moment. When you’re looking for something via a search engine, you will probably notice the paid searches first, however, as soon as you read the word ‘ad’ or ‘sponsored’ you’re going to put your guard up.
On the other hand, because users perceive top non-paid for search results as more credible and appropriate for their particular search category, organic traffic will not only be more likely to click through to your site, but they’ll also be more inclined to trust your website’s content. Trust and credibility undoubtedly mean a better click-through-rate which can later lead to conversions.
The jury’s still out among affiliate marketers on which traffic source drives the best conversion rate. Some claim that natural search traffic results in higher conversion rates while others assert the opposite.
In the case of MoreNiche affiliates who promote health, beauty and fitness products, our data shows that those who favour organic traffic have a better overall conversion rate. However, that doesn’t mean paid traffic won’t work, but make sure you optimise your landing page, and choose a profitable offer and effective keywords.
PPC can sometimes overtake SEO conversion rates, especially when targeting very specific sales-related search terms or for seasonal campaigns combined with precise ad scheduling.
HOW CAN YOUR AFFILIATE WEBSITE COMPETE WITH THE BIG SEO PLAYERS?
As an affiliate marketer you will want to focus on a profitable niche. It’s very likely that lucrative sectors will be extremely competitive and top searches will return big authority sites.
So if you want to focus on SEO to drive traffic to your affiliate website, your content strategy must be optimised to stand a chance of appearing in the SERPs. Your ultimate goal may be to become an authority in your niche and rank on Google’s first page, but while trying to achieve this, you can increase your chances of driving more traffic, by being aware of the characteristics of big authority sites and the advantages of smaller websites.
Some of the ways a new website can compete with the big SEO players:
- Focus on long-tail and comparison keywords
- Choose a very specific niche
- Pick smaller regions
- Create more customised content
WHY NOT USE BOTH?
Now you have analysed the pros and cons of PPC and SEO, you can see there are disadvantages to both strategies. What if Google changes its algorithm tomorrow? What if your advertising budget suddenly has to be reduced? So strategically it would be wise to minimise the risk and build on the advantages by investing in both methods.
Even if you decide to focus on paid traffic, making your affiliate website SEO friendly will give you an advantage. So it makes sense to include some search engine optimisation in your long-term affiliate marketing strategy.
In many ways, both SEO and PPC work hand in hand. Your optimised content can also help you collect valuable search data which will also benefit your website.
SO WHICH IS BETTER?
Now you’ve read this article, perhaps you can understand why at the beginning I used the analogy of losing weight through dieting or by having liposuction. The immediate costly fix versus the longer-term
Since PPC affiliate marketing requires more money and technical knowledge, most affiliates tend to start with SEO, and then boost their traffic profile with a specifically targeted PPC campaign as and when they have more budget to invest.
Also, because SEO focuses on the long-term, and optimised content is more beneficial for your visitors, I would suggest you always include it in your strategy.
In conclusion, as with many business tactics, there is no right or wrong and the answer is open to debate according to each person’s experience. Therefore, it’s important to define your goals, and consider your strengths and weaknesses before determining which will be the more effective traffic strategy for your business.
Have you been more successful with PPC or SEO? Please share your experiences and views with us in the comments section below!