If you are looking for more traffic to your website, the main decision you have to make is whether to pursue free or paid traffic. “Free” usually means some type of SEO, and this takes a certain amount of time as well as knowledge.
Paid traffic, on the other hand, usually involves some type of advertising. There are pros and cons to both free and paid traffic and in this article I’ll be exploring the major ones.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of SEO
We will start off by examining some of the pros and cons of SEO. While this is often called free traffic, this isn’t exactly true. Many businesses outsource SEO services and have a regular budget for it. Even if you do all your own search engine optimization, you must invest your time. Either way, there is some investment involved.
SEO has become more challenging in recent years due to all of the changes made by Google. It is now essential to stick to ethical methods for optimizing your website, as the search engines will penalize you if you rely on underhanded (or black hat) strategies such as building lots of low quality links.
SEO will always be important for websites, even if the rules change over time. There are some definite benefits to learning how to rank your site with the search engines. These include:
Good for Reputation and Branding
Good for your site’s reputation and brand building. People generally place more trust in a website that appears high in the search engines, and has a good PageRank.
Long lasting results
You can get long lasting results. Some SEO strategies, such as releasing popular videos or syndicated articles can bring you benefits long after you submit the content.
Can be a low cost way to get traffic. As I mentioned, you always have to invest either money or time. If you’re low on cash, however, SEO can be a way to get started without investing money in advertising.
Now let’s look at some of the drawbacks of SEO.
Must keep up with search engines’ changes
You have to keep up with all the changes. If you do your own SEO, you have to pay close attention to what Google is doing from week to week. A couple of great websites to keep up to date with what’s happening with the search engines is Search Engine Roundtable, and of course Search Engine Watch.
Very risky if you were too reliant on the SEO traffic
There’s always the risk that your site will get hit by Google’s latest update. If you rely entirely on SEO for your traffic, there’s the danger that all of your traffic can disappear overnight.
Lots of hard work
Can be labor intensive. Many SEO tactics take quite a bit of time and energy (unless you outsource them).
The Pros and Cons of Paid Traffic
Now let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of paid traffic. This is really the flip side of SEO, as you avoid the pitfalls of “free” traffic but must contend with other issues.
Some of the advantages of paid traffic include:
Fastest to start
This can be the fastest way to get traffic. Sometimes, you can start advertising and see traffic within hours.
Forget about search engine policies
No need to worry about search engine policies. If you rely mostly on paid traffic, you can ignore Google’s updates. You also avoid the risk of having your site de-indexed or penalized.
Paid traffic, however, has some drawbacks of its own.
Paying for traffic is expensive
It’s expensive. You need a good budget to start advertising, especially if you wanted continuous traffic for long term.
You need to learn the tricks too
There’s a learning curve. Just because you’re paying for traffic doesn’t mean results are guaranteed. You may have to spend some money and do some testing before you discover which ads convert best.
Harder to build a brand
It’s harder to build your brand using only paid traffic. If you get most of your traffic from advertising, you probably won’t ever have an authority website, a high PageRank or other signs that make your site look trustworthy.
Which is Best – SEO or Paid Traffic?
There’s no final answer to the question of which type of traffic building strategy is superior. It really depends on your goals, preferences and budget. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
- If you want to get traffic without investing any money (or investing very little), it’s best to start with SEO.
- If you want fast traffic and have a little money to invest, you’re better off with paid traffic.
- Affiliate marketers who aren’t concerned with building their own brand also have a lot to gain from paid traffic.
- If you want the best of both worlds and have a certain budget, you may want to allocate some of that budget for SEO and some for advertising. That way you can get the benefits of both. You can also track your results and decide which approach is best for you long term.
Many businesses and websites use a combination of strategies to get traffic. Even if you get most of your income from paid traffic, it’s good to focus at least a little on content marketing to build authority and trust for your site.
Having some articles, videos, podcasts, slideshows or other content under your name is not only good for SEO, it gets your name better known. The same is true for guest blogging and blog commenting.
On the other hand, if you have mainly relied on SEO in the past and are getting frustrated with Google’s updates, you may want to experiment with paid traffic.
While we have been examining some of the pros and cons of SEO and paid traffic, it’s not necessarily an either/or proposition. You have to carefully look at what you have to gain from either strategy and decide where you want to focus.