SEO Chick Lisa B!tchsl*ps Google in SEO vs PPC Takedown

The English Speaking Union was the location of the “B2B Marketing Debate” (watch the video!) between SEO and PPC. SEO experts Lisa Ditlefsen, head of search at Base One and Andrew Girdwood, head of search at Big Mouth Media debated with PPC defenders Stuart Small from Google and Simon Norris from Periscopix.

With over £700 million being spent annually on paid advertising within search engines, pay per click (PPC) advertising is often seen as the easy way in to the top spot on search result pages. Easy to change, start, stop and completely transparent, Stuart asserted that PPC was a better, more targeted way to gain leads.

Stuart Small from Google mooted that with 85% of all B2B purchases starting in a search engine, paid search ads were vital to any business. Google sees 80% of searchers clicking on organic results, with 20% of all searches clicking on a search ad.

With SEO perceived as a “black art” taking time, expert knowledge and effort, both Lisa Ditlefsen and Andrew Girdwood tackled the issue expertly, mooting that organic results were often perceived as more directly relevant, with a lower overall cost.

With three times the interest in SEO, paid search ads just don’t generate as much interest. PPC is a “money eating machine” according to Andrew. “People don’t want to put more money in. For B2B campaigns SEO has a definite advantage over PPC.”

Lisa Ditlefsen spoke about how SEO is like buying a house and PPC is like renting. While initial costs may seem larger, SEO is by far the cheaper investment. A well optimised site lasts in the SERPs, while a poor site with PPC lasts only as long as the money.

Simon Norris mooted that organic results were manipulated by devious SEO methods. To counter, Andrew Girdwood argued that Google was excellent at filtering spam out of the index “Google does an excellent job at this. ‘Gaming’ the search engine is just no longer possible the way it used to be.”

Simon also claimed that Google is trying to increase the number of ads clicked on by searchers and that personalisation changes the ads shown based on user intention. “That is not true” said Stuart Small from Google. “Google is very careful about privacy and we do not change ads based on people being logged on to Google. That is completely wrong.”

At the end of the debate, search engine optimisation won. No contest really, considering who was fighting the SEO side ;)

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17 Responses to “SEO Chick Lisa B!tchsl*ps Google in SEO vs PPC Takedown”

  1. Matt Davies says:

    I can imagine Lisa and Girdy would have made quite the formidable team.

  2. Dave Davis says:

    I hate to disagree with Lisa (or do I?) but I think neither are wrong or right. In my opinion it is a HUGE mistake to “pick” one over the other to invest in as they both go hand in hand. For example, how do you know what keywords to optimize for? Wordtracker data? Come on!

    You need your OWN data. You need CLEAN data and you need ACCURATE data. The only way to get that is to use PPC. If you throw even just 20k at PPC for the first three months you will get a LOT of data on what keywords convert and what don’t. You get some really good ideas on user intent and quickly. This data can then be used for organic SEO efforts.

    SEO and PPC are not mutually exclusive. Anyone who thinks they are either missing out or not doing their job right.

    BTW, I know this was a debate and a one sided view was required. ;)

  3. Tony Payne says:

    I agree with Dave that they are not mutually exclusive. However I don’t know of any small business that can “throw even just 20K at PPC for the first three months” just to received data on what keywords convert.

  4. Dave Davis says:

    Tom, the value doesn’t really matter and as long as there is a positive ROAS there really shouldn’t be an issue. The value was just an example, of course this will vary. In a lot of markets it is almost impossible to spend 20k a month.

  5. I don’t know why people will still debate about choosing the one over the other… I am of the conviction that they are to be used together for optimum results.

    Tony, you don’t have to throw 20K at a campaign to collect meaningful data. A lot less can also do the job.

    The other thing is that while SEO is considered longer term and more permanent than PPC, it is a lot less flexible and less responsive to changes that ultimately happen with algorithms.

    If I had to choose a ‘camp’ it would be PPC not because I disrespect SEO, but because it allows me to be more proactive with how I market my business.

    That said, I can see a good point in SEO being a lot more beneficial in the B2B environment.

  6. Dave Davis says:

    Spot on Anita.

    With search marketing, things change so quick. For example, if a product you sell suddenly becomes the “must have” item of the season, by the time you optimise for organic traffic, the trend has passed and you have missed out.

    I wrote an article a while back “Seo and PPC should be friends” I think is appropriate to link drop here:

  7. Just to be clear – both Andrew and Lisa advocated a combined SEO *and* PPC approach. Notably they were outspoken about the need to combine the two whilst the other side of the debate did not say anything.

    Could be because Andrew went first and emphasised it, but Lisa went after Stuart so I don’t see why Simon didn’t say anything.

    Andrew and Lisa really BRILLIANTLY represented our industry.

  8. Dave Davis says:

    Ahhh, never actually watched the video ;) Any link to the whole thing?

    And is it just me or did I completely miss the verdict?

  9. Thanks for the write up :)

    Judith has already done us proud by pointing out that we both advised a successful combination of both disciplines. In fact I’m a great fan of PPC.

    Even though this was an academic debate I thought it was important to stress that the two should be used together. PPC eats through your money if you do it wrong but that doesn’t mean PPC isn’t very effective if you do it right!

  10. Dave and Tony, as Judith and Andrew already pointed out, yep totally agree its stupid to exclude PPC. And yes PPC is very valuable for keyword research and collecting data. In fact while I was sitting at this debate I was thinking I have just as many arguments for PPC and was shocked Simon and Stuart didn’t bring up some of the more obvious points. In fact if anything Stuart just talked about how successful Google is, DOH! And no offence to Simon but he only really did a pitch for his company.

    But if pushed, I would chose SEO ;)

    I really enjoyed the debate, it was fun. And I’m so glad Andrew was on my side, we rocked :)

    Here’s a link to the video from the debate

    I know, I sound like a politician…

  11. Michael says:

    SEO Vs PPC Round 1. Been ages since I saw a good verbose punch up on this subject.

    Would be good if both sides just worked more closely together each having benefits to the other. PPC can help inform your SEO startegy more than almost anything else I’ve used recently – espesically if what you are interested in is visitors that convert into sales rather than just visitors for the sake of visitors.

    Oh well hopefully in Round 2 we can see how if SEO and PPC work together rather than against each other clients can better returns.

    Am off to seek my own small holding in SEM utopia

  12. Oh and Dave, Me and Andrew won…of course :) Nothing to do with my threats to the audience ;)

  13. Matt Davies says:

    Brilliant, thanks for posting the video Lisa. Looking suave there, Girdy.

    The canapés look lovely.

  14. I was trying to be:
    1) Green
    2) Crinkled

    I think I did the cabbage thing very well!

  15. Matt Davies says:

    I think my favourite bit has to be at 2:03, you’re obviously having a good look a Lisa’s “notes”.

  16. Julie Joyce says:

    Matt’s observation is truly the funniest thing…

  17. Hmm this is an interesting discussion–why would anyone argue for one or the other. They all have their place. I don’t understand why so many people think PPC just eats money. I’ve never worked on a Google campaign that only loses. Sure there are some keywords that suck money like there’s no tomorrow, but you get rid of those and the good ones more than make up for it.

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