A common question we get from clients is which method is best: paying for leads/sales via pay per click (PPC) campaigns, or cultivating those leads/sales naturally via search engine optimization (SEO)?

This question is very important, as it compares two of the most common digital marketing strategies: paid search and organic search.

What is the Difference Between SEO & PPC?

Before deciding on a digital strategy for your business, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two. Here’s a quick, basic breakdown – we’ll delve into the details of each strategy a bit later:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy that involves optimizing your website content so your website gets found in search results for specific keywords on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Pay per click advertising (PPC), on the other hand, involves paying for advertising space on search result pages for specific targeted keywords on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Which is Better: SEO or PPC?

It’s impossible to say that one strategy is better than the other, as they are both digital marketing efforts that, when executed correctly, can drive valuable traffic to your website and help you meet your business goals.

However, since each business is unique, there could be advantages to using one strategy over the other. The first step to determining this is to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each marketing strategy.

Improving Your Organic Traffic With SEO

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your website in order to improve your position naturally in the search results. This optimization can include everything from making sure the website utilizes clean code, adding search engine friendly content that appeals to both human readers and search engine bots, improving your link authority via inbound links, blogging, social media marketing, and more.

Advantages of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • SEO is long lasting. Once a site is properly optimized, it can maintain a high position in the search results, and continue to generate traffic, leads, and sales long after a PPC campaign has ended.
  • SEO is organic. SEO may ultimately bring your website more high quality traffic and better qualified leads over time, as many searchers subconsciously ignore the paid search results when searching on Google and skip right to the organic ones.
  • SEO offers improved credibility. Many users skip ads and trust organic results, so having your site show up in the organic results can improve your perceived credibility.
  • No cost per click. While developing organic visibility will take time and effort (read money), there is not a direct charge for each impression or click. This makes SEO a very cost-effective digital marketing strategy.

Disadvantages of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Organic traffic can be slow to achieve. An SEO program is often referred to as a marathon, not as a sprint. It can take months before your business sees any results.
  • SEO can be dominated by the “big guys.” If you are just starting out, and the keywords you wish to target are dominated by massive companies like Amazon, EBay, Zillow, or TripAdvisor, it can be very hard to compete organically.
  • A poorly executed strategy can hurt you. You will need to spend time hiring a knowledgeable team to do the job for you, as a poorly executed SEO strategy can drastically hurt your website visibility, credibility and be detrimental to your reputation.

Improving Your Traffic with PPC

Pay per click advertising (PPC), means you pay for space on search results pages for specific keywords on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. As the name indicates, you pay every time someone clicks on your ads.

Advantages of Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

  • PPC offers quick results. Unlike SEO, PPC has an almost immediate impact on your traffic, leads, and sales. These campaigns do still need to be optimized by a professional in order to maximize your results and reduce wasted spend, but you will often see the results from these optimizations much faster than with an SEO program.
  • Ideal positioning. Paid ads appear on the top of the page, before the organic listing to give your business improved visibility. On a mobile device, this means paid ads dominate the above-the-fold content, and users must scroll before any organic listings are even visible.
  • Visual appeal for products. If you sell a product, you can utilize visual shopping ads. Adding an eye-catching image to an ad can really improve the click through rate and is a feature not available in organic search.

Disadvantages of Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

  • Can be costly. Depending on your industry, competition, and targeted region, costs for a pay per click campaign can add up quickly.  If you have a small budget, a PPC campaign may not give you the results you are looking for. In the majority of industries, spending less than $25-$50 per day on clicks will mean you risk not receiving an adequate return on your investment
  • Pay to play. Once you stop paying, you lose the additional traffic and leads and will be back to relying solely on what you generate naturally.
  • Mistakes can be costly. If you do not know what you are doing, it is easy to find yourself paying for irrelevant traffic that will never convert.

Should I Use SEO or PPC To Market My Business?

Now that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of SEO and PPC it is time to determine which is right for your business. Since every business is unique, there are some important questions you have to answer in order to make this determination.

What are your marketing goals?

First and foremost, your marketing agency needs to know what your business goals are. Are you in need of immediate leads or sales? If so, an aggressive paid search campaign might be best for you. Or perhaps you are looking to break into a new market within the next five years. In this instance search engine optimization might be the best option.

Your business goals will give your marketing consultant a great starting point to determine what type of campaign is best, however more questions need to be answered in order to paint the whole picture.

How do you currently rank in the search engines?

Are you ranking on page one, page two, or maybe not at all? What keywords are you ranking for? Knowing how you stand currently can make a big impact on how you decide to proceed.

For instance, if you are not ranking at all, an SEO program could make a serious impact on your website’s traffic, leads, and sales. However, if you are currently ranking in the #2 spot and are wanting to drastically increase traffic to your site, and SEO program might not be your best option.

Or perhaps you are ranking well, but for the wrong terms. Or maybe you have ranked well for years, but have noticed that your positions are starting to slip. All of this information can help to determine how much opportunity there is to improve organically, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture.

Who are you competing against?

In addition to knowing how you currently rank, it is important to analyze the competitive landscape for PPC and SEO. Are you a small business trying to compete against the big tycoons like Amazon, Ebay, or Zillow? That program will look very different than if you are competing against other mom and pop shops.

For instance, if Amazon is dominating the organic results for a particular term you wish to go after, a paid search campaign might make more sense. Conversely, if there is a ton of competition on the PPC front, focusing on improving your organic rankings may have more of an impact.

What kind of budget do you have to spend?

Knowing what your budget is will be a determining factor in what digital marketing strategy you decide to move forward with. Can you afford to compete via a PPC campaign? SEO may be a better alternative if you are on a limited budget. If you have a healthy budget and your organic rankings look solid, a PPC campaign might give you the best results.

Consider an Integrated Marketing Strategy

To sum it up, neither strategy is better than the other across the board. It is important to analyze your unique business situation when making a decision between PPC or SEO.

Often however, the best solution isn’t either or, but rather an integrated approach. By combining SEO and PPC, your paid traffic can give you the increased leads you are looking for now, giving your SEO strategist time to optimize your site for a sustainable increase in organic leads in the future.

If you are ready to increase your marketing efforts, but are not sure where to start, our Digital Marketing Strategists are here to help!

Have questions about whether an SEO or PPC digital marketing strategy is right for your business? Give us a call at 518-743-9424 and we’d be happy to discuss the options with you and help you determine which is best for your business. 

Looking for more insight about SEO and PPC? The following resources are a great place to start: 

How Much Does Google Ads Cost? – Learn about the typical expenses associated with running a Google Ads campaign for your business.

How Do I Know if My SEO Program is Working? – Get the details on which key factors indicate that your organic digital marketing campaign is functioning effectively.

About Danielle Martindale

Dani Martindale joined the Mannix Marketing team in 2017 as a Digital Marketing Strategist. Dani holds a Bachelor of Professional Studies Degree in Management from Cazenovia College and joins Mannix after four years working as an in-house marketer. She is passionate about helping clients get found on the web in order to further their business goals. Her experience includes managing digital marketing strategies, SEO, Social Media, content marketing and PPC-including certifications in both Google Analytics and AdWords. When she is not helping clients get found on the web she enjoys competing in barrel races and gymkhanas with her horses and exploring the outdoors with her dogs.