SEO vs PPC: Exploring Marketing Dynamics

illustration of seo vs ppc

Two especially popular marketing processes that thousands of businesses use are SEO and PPC. But is there a clear winner and how does each marketing strategy work? In this guide, I look at the SEO vs PPC argument, compare the two processes, and look at use-case scenarios where one might be better than the other.

To start, it’s important to understand that SEO aims to get website traffic organically from search results, while PPC aims to get traffic from paid searches. This is the core difference and while both processes cost money, PPC has a direct correlation between costs and results, whereas SEO is often less tangible.

Understanding SEO

SEO is the process of optimizing your website content so that your pages rank highly on search engines like Google when customers search for keywords relating to your business. This includes technical SEO (loading times, sitemaps, robots.txt files, etc.), on-page SEO (keywords, headings, alt-tags, etc.), off-page SEO (creating backlinks), and keyword research.

The aim is to make your website accessible and attractive to search engine crawlers and use keywords in such a way that makes your content appear in SERPs. You must also show Google that your content is appropriate and relevant and should be ranked highly on search results.

Pros

  • SEO has excellent staying power and once your strategies work you can expect consistent traffic for the long term.
  • Comparatively, SEO is considered to be the cheaper option if your company is working on a budget and has to choose either/or when calculating marketing budgets effectively.
  • SEO arguably has a gentler introduction and learning curve too and someone with relatively minimum experience can make a difference simply by adding keywords or creating backlinks for example.

Cons

  • The main drawback in the SEO vs PPC argument is that SEO usually takes longer to show positive results. It could take months before you start to see substantial gains in terms of SERP rankings.
  • Competition for keywords can be incredibly tough which means that oftentimes you have to start with low expectations are target low search volume keywords before tackling the money makers.

Understanding PPC

  • PPC stands for Pay Per Click and this is a type of paid advertising where the business pays a fee for every click or impression they get when their advert is displayed. Notable PPC platforms include Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Amazon PPC.
  • Companies have to create the ads and include items like headings, ad copy, and keywords. These ads then typically point to an optimized landing page that contains some type of CTA. PPC is an involved process that includes keyword research, bid management, ad creation, and ad monitoring.

Pros

  • One of the main benefits of PPC is that it works faster than SEO. Anyone can produce a PPC ad on platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads immediately compared to the slow-burn effect of SEO.
  • PPC ads allow for easier targeting too including specific demographics. Platforms like Google Ads have local targeting options which makes it easier compared to localisation in SEO.
  • Most PPC platforms allow for A/B testing and to try out multiple ad iterations in a short time period. This means you can perfect your ads quickly and get the best results. This type of fast testing and manipulation isn’t possible with SEO.

Cons

  • PPC costs can escalate quickly, especially in competitive industries where your average CPC is higher.
  • Over time, the effectiveness of PPC ads can dwindle too and people can get “ad blindness”. This means that PPC isn’t really a “do once and forget” type of marketing. Instead, you have to be creative and continually think of new ad campaigns which can be difficult.

When to Use SEO or PPC

Although I maintain that companies can run SEO and PPC campaigns side-by-side, there are instances where one process is better suited than the other and I have listed some common examples below:

  • For startups with a small budget: If you are just starting your business and have virtually no budget, PPC advertising probably isn’t the way to go. Some simple SEO processes can be done in-house and the initial cost compared to a full PPC campaign is minimal.
  • For new product offers or promos: Because SEO takes time to work and show results, a PPC campaign could be the better choice if you have a new product release or a promotion you want to push hard.
  • For relatively unknown products: If you have a niche product or service that people wouldn’t commonly search for on Google, PPC advertising is a better option with the right use of keywords.
  • For TOFU content: Top-of-the-funnel content where customers are simply learning or doing initial product research is ideal for SEO because typically they aren’t ready to make a purchase which is where PPC ads would come into play.

SEO and PPC Can Complement Each Other and are Not Mutually Exclusive

If you take one thing from this article, I want it to be that it doesn’t have to be one or the other in the SEO vs PPC battle. Many businesses use both practices successfully and indeed they often overlap and can complement each other. Integrated SEO and PPC solutions can be fantastic and help your marketing efforts shine.

Don’t look at your business processes in a vacuum. Instead, look at how PPC could boost your SEO such as promoting new content and creating more backlinks. And how SEO can boost PPC via things such as keyword research.

Article by:

Joshua George is the founder of ClickSlice, an SEO Agency based in London, UK.

He has eight years of experience as an SEO Consultant and was recently hired by the UK government for SEO training. Joshua also owns the best-selling SEO course on Udemy, and has taught SEO to over 100,000 students.

His work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, AgencyAnalytics, Wix and lots more other reputable publications.