SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay-per-click advertising) are today’s most common forms of digital marketing. When it comes to staying ahead of the competition, both of these strategies offer lots of benefits. However, many companies wonder which is better — SEO or PPC?
We have answers to this and similar questions in this SEO versus PPC guide. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between SEO and PPC, the pros and cons of each, which approach is better, and whether you should use the two together. Let’s begin!
SEO vs. PPC — Key Differences
PPC and SEO differ in two critical ways: pricing and position. PPC ads appear above organic listings in search results, but you must pay for each click. Conversely, SEO traffic is free, but your website always appears beneath paid ads.
In the following section, we’ll further discuss each approach’s benefits and disadvantages.
PPC — Pros and Cons
Using PPC advertising, you can display ads on search engine results pages in the sponsored results section. You are charged a fee each time one of these results is clicked.
The advantage of PPC over SEO is that it can start appearing on the first page of search results immediately, so you can get instant traffic to your website.
A PPC campaign’s ranking is determined by three things: the landing page a result points to, the ad’s quality score, and most importantly, how much you bid on keywords.
PPC offers the following advantages:
The main benefit of PPC is that it allows you to rank above your competitors in most search engines. Competitive bidding on keywords relevant to your business will ensure this. It is as simple as paying to be at the top of the SERPs.
Whenever you launch a new website or company, you want to get your name and site out there as soon as possible. In the short-term race between SEO and PPC, PPC is faster. You can also use this method for special promotions or events that require exposure but can’t be planned months in advance.
A PPC ad allows you to choose which page the user is sent to. You can ensure that the visitor sees the most relevant information by having control over the landing page. You can test the ads you display to determine which works best, which landing page converts the most visitors, etc.
Your campaign can be paused at any time if the budget runs low, and you can select which keywords to bid higher on and how much you want to spend per day. The ads can also be placed and displayed at the location you choose.
There are several disadvantages to using PPC, including:
When the money stops flowing, the PPC ads stop appearing.
Although PPC can be affordable, it is possible that you will not have the budget for it — especially if you are a startup or small business. It’s a matter of paying money to have your company found online, which can affect your marketing budget.
Although you can control a PPC campaign’s budget, costs accumulate, and you may spend more money than anticipated. A PPC campaign’s success depends entirely on the amount of money you invest. You may have to pay a lot of money if the keywords are highly competitive, which could quickly drain your budget.
Many people dislike ads or do not trust them for whatever reason. Because all PPC listings have the “ad” tag, some people refuse to click on them even if they respond to their search intent.
SEO — Pros and Cons
A search engine optimization strategy involves traffic from “free” or “organic” listings. In contrast to PPC, the search engine optimization process is like a marathon, where the results of your efforts will take some time to show.
To improve your website’s organic search ranking, you modify or enhance it.
Your listing position is determined by factors such as the relevance of your content and the popularity of your links, but changes don’t happen overnight. Search engines like Google and Bing use approximately 200 SEO ranking factors to determine how they rank your website in their results.
Here are some advantages to using SEO:
Through SEO, your site can reach new customers without spending any money on advertising directly. Essentially, this is free targeted advertising. In other words, your prospects actively search for you rather than the other way around, which makes them much more likely to convert.
It takes a few hours each day (or week) to create new pages for your website based on keywords relevant to your business. For example, if you own a bakery, you might want to target a keyword such as “best pastries in [your city].”
As you create more pages, you will be more likely to engage and attract new customers, which will help your business grow.
Implementing SEO best practices — such as creating quality, keyword-rich content and developing a solid linking profile — will yield results that will last for years. It will take SEO years to reach the peak of its return on investment. You will continue to attract customers as long as your site remains active.
Unlike PPC, search engine optimization allows you to use long-tail keywords — three- to five-word phrases that define a more specific search term. For example, if someone searches for “video games,” their search intent is not exactly clear-cut.
On the other hand, someone searching for “pc games under 20 dollars” is likely much further along the funnel. By providing content that targets this particular search intent, you’ll be able to attract more relevant traffic.
SEO has several disadvantages, including:
If Google releases new algorithm changes (which it does quite often), your hard work to get your website on the first page could be completely wiped out. This is likely the most prominent downside of an organic search engine optimization strategy.
Compared to PPC’s instant results, SEO’s time lag can be seen as a disadvantage. The time it takes for rankings or traffic to increase varies, but you’ll rarely see results in less than 1–3 months. The amount of optimization needed depends on the keywords you plan to target and various other factors.
Furthermore, you will have to handle everything yourself if you don’t wish to hire an agency. This means months of effort with little initial reward. Even if you hire an agency, it may take a few months to see results.
SEO, PPC, or Both?
There are advantages and disadvantages to SEO and PPC, but if you have to choose one, you should probably start with search engine optimization. The ROI of SEO is greater than that of PPC. This is because SEO can produce long-term traffic and revenue for your website at a much more cost-effective rate than PPC.
That said, using SEO and PPC together is best when you have the budget and capabilities. Search engine optimization is best suited for long-term goals that require specific, low-competition keywords whose results will last as long as your website is up and running.
You can use PPC for short-term goals and to target high-competition keywords that aren’t suitable for SEO.
When you combine them, you get the benefits of both with minimal drawbacks. Implementing an SEO strategy takes time, and running PPC ads costs money. The combined ROI will, however, make up for the negative qualities, at least partly.