SEO vs. PPC – How to Figure Out What Your Business Needs

Man trying to decide SEO vs. PPC.


To increase the visibility of your website in search engine results, the two main strategies you can consider are search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

And while the end goal of each is essentially the same, marketers often struggle to choose which strategy will work better for them, because both PPC and SEO have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

There are two key differences when considering SEO or PPC. The first is that paid ads appear at the top of the page, above the organic listings influenced by SEO. The second is that traffic from organic via SEO is free, whereas traffic from PPC has a cost for each click. In many cases, SEO and PPC work best when integrated and strategically aligned.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving a website’s online presence. That means when someone searches for a dentist in their area, the dental practice that comes up first in the search results has performed the best search engine optimization. In fact, those top results you see on the first page of Google have the most optimized websites. Reaching the first page takes a lot of work and an extensive process, requiring consistent effort over many months. SEO improves a website’s rankings over time until it reaches the top.

SEO tells searchers (potential customers) and search engines who you are, what you do, where you’re located, and why you’re the best in your field. Adweek reports 81% of people conduct an internet search about a product or service before making a purchase. Search engines like Google like to show results with user intent in mind, so they use algorithms that help the search engine deliver the results searchers look for. So if your client’s website isn’t optimized for the search engine algorithms, they will miss out on potential customers and new business.

Why SEO Works

Strategic advantage. Visibility in organic search is not quick or easy — which is a good and a bad thing. Once you have established yourself in the organic results, your competitors can’t simply buy their way in (assuming you have done things the right way). This can provide a strategic advantage over the competition if they are relying on paid search.

  • SEO helps build credibility and authority
  • In the long run, SEO increases brand awareness
  • SEO helps bring in sustainable traffic
  • 82% of marketers report that the effectiveness of SEO is on the rise
  • It brings in over 25% of organic searches for a keyword
  • It can bring in 15x as many clicks as those from PPC

What is PPC?

Pay Per Click or PPC, is instant. Once you start running advertisements on Google, you will be able to see your site at the top of Google’s search results (even above the organic results) but there is a catch – you have to pay for it. Your ad campaigns can give you instant results. However, it is limited to how long your campaign will run.

Why PPC Works

Speed. While developing good organic visibility can take time, a PPC campaign can be created in days and ramped up in weeks. There is no faster way to get in front of customers at the very moment they are primed to buy than paid search engine advertising.

  • Brands can make $3 for every $1.60 spent on Google Ads
  • PPC offers quick results
  • PPC provides highly-targeted traffic. Through this, you can reach out to very specific consumer segments
  • Can increase conversions by targeting commercial keywords in buyer-oriented campaigns
  • With PPC, it easy to scale up quickly. You can bid higher to make your ads more prominent
  • So which is better? There’s no definitive answer to this question, as both strategies can work effectively – if you know how they work. For the best results, it’s best to combine the two and adopt an integrated approach.

In an ideal world, you should have both SEO and PPC in your marketing mix. They both have pros and cons and work best when supporting each other synergistically. Where you can get SEO and PPC working together, you will often be able to drive results that are greater than their component parts.

  • The benefits of running SEO and PPC together include:
  • Keyword and conversion data from PPC can be fed into organic search (SEO).
  • The total volume of traffic can be increased by targeting clicks in paid and organic for high-performing keywords.
  • High-cost keywords, high-volume or low-converting (yet still important) keywords can be moved from PPC to organic search.
  • A/B testing of ad copy and landing pages can be fed into your organic listing and landing pages.
  • Remarketing allows you to stay in front of visitors after an initial touch via organic search and customize messaging around their engagement with your site.
  • Test your keyword strategy in PPC before committing to long-term SEO strategies.
  • Target users at all stages of the customer journey from research to comparison to purchase with commercial keywords.
  • Increase confidence and awareness by having both strong organic and paid visibility.

In our experience at Cool Nerds Marketing, an integrated search strategy that looks at both SEO and PPC is the optimal approach. Results are improved in each channel by utilizing both paid and organic. This will not be right for every business, but for high-growth, aggressive marketing, you will want to develop a holistic search engine strategy rather than look at SEO or PPC in isolation.

Sources: AdWeek, AdAge, Boostability, Search Engine Land, LYFE, Social Media Today

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