PPC vs SEO: Which is Better for Your Business? (Why not both?)

ppc vs seo

If you want to grow your online presence and attract more customers, you need to invest in digital marketing. But which strategy should you choose: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or search engine optimization (SEO)?

PPC and SEO are both effective digital marketing strategies that can help you grow your online presence and attract more customers. However, they have different advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider before choosing one or the other.

In this post, we will compare PPC and SEO in terms of:

  • How they work
  • How much they cost
  • How fast they deliver results
  • How long they last
  • How they affect each other

By the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of which strategy is more suitable for your business.

How PPC and SEO Work

PPC and SEO are both forms of search engine marketing (SEM), which means they help your website appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs) when people search for keywords related to your business.

However, they work in different ways.

PPC is a form of online advertising where you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad. You can create ads on platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, and more.

The main benefit of PPC is that you can target specific audiences based on their location, demographics, interests, behavior, and keywords. You can also control your budget, schedule, and bidding strategy.

The main challenge of PPC is that you need to create compelling ads that stand out from the competition and persuade people to click on them. You also need to optimize your landing pages to convert visitors into customers.

SEO is a process of improving your website’s visibility and relevance for organic (unpaid) search results. You can optimize your website for SEO by:

  • Conducting keyword research to find out what your target audience is searching for
  • Creating high-quality content that matches the search intent and provides value to your audience
  • Optimizing your website’s technical aspects, such as speed, mobile-friendliness, security, and crawlability
  • Building authority and trust by earning backlinks from other reputable websites
  • Measuring and analyzing your performance using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console

The main benefit of SEO is that you can attract free and consistent traffic from search engines, which can lead to more brand awareness, credibility, and loyalty.

The main challenge of SEO is that it takes time and effort to rank well for competitive keywords. You also need to keep up with the changing algorithms and best practices of search engines.

How Much PPC and SEO Cost

PPC and SEO have different cost structures and return on investment (ROI).

PPC The cost of PPC depends on several factors, such as:

  • The platform you use
  • The keywords you target
  • The competition level
  • The quality score of your ads and landing pages
  • The bidding strategy you choose

Generally, the more popular and competitive the keyword, the higher the cost per click (CPC). For example, according to WordStream, the average CPC for the keyword “insurance” in the US is $48.91, while the average CPC for the keyword “coffee” is $1.38.

The ROI of PPC depends on how well you manage your campaigns and optimize your conversion rate. For example, according to Google, businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on Google Ads. However, this may vary depending on your industry, product, and profit margin.

The cost of SEO depends on whether you do it yourself or hire an agency or freelancer. If you do it yourself, you may need to invest in some tools and resources to help you with keyword research, content creation, technical SEO, link building, and analytics.

If you hire an agency or freelancer, you may need to pay a monthly retainer or a project-based fee. According to Ahrefs, the average monthly retainer for SEO services in the US is $2,819, while the average project-based fee is $1,908.

The ROI of SEO depends on how well you rank for relevant keywords and how much traffic and conversions they bring. For example, according to BrightEdge, 53% of all website traffic comes from organic search, while 40% of revenue is captured by organic traffic. However, this may vary depending on your industry, niche, and competition.

Cost Factor SEO PPC
Initial Setup Low to medium Low to high
Ongoing Maintenance Medium to high Medium to high
Cost Per Click Free Varies by keyword, platform, and competition
Cost Per Acquisition Varies by industry, niche, and conversion rate Varies by industry, niche, conversion rate, and profit margin
Return on Investment Long-term and sustainable Short-term and temporary

marketing specialist comparing data

How Fast PPC and SEO Deliver Results

PPC and SEO have different timelines and expectations when it comes to delivering results.

PPC can deliver immediate results as soon as you launch your campaigns. You can start showing your ads to your target audience within minutes or hours. You can also track and measure your performance in real-time using tools like Google Ads or Facebook Ads Manager.

However, PPC results are not permanent. They depend on your ongoing budget and optimization. If you stop or pause your campaigns, your ads will stop showing and your traffic will drop.

SEO can deliver long-term results, but it takes time and patience. You can’t expect to rank well overnight or even in a few weeks. It may take months or even years to see significant improvements in your organic rankings, traffic, and conversions.

However, SEO results are more sustainable and lasting. They don’t depend on your ongoing budget and optimization. If you stop or pause your SEO efforts, your rankings may not drop immediately or drastically.

How Long PPC and SEO Last

PPC and SEO have different lifespans and durability when it comes to maintaining results.

PPC results are short-lived and temporary. They last as long as you run your campaigns and pay for your clicks. Once you stop or pause your campaigns, your ads will disappear and your traffic will vanish.

PPC results are also volatile and unpredictable. They can change quickly and frequently due to factors such as:

  • Seasonality and demand
  • Competition and bidding
  • Algorithm and policy updates
  • Quality score and relevance
  • User behavior and preferences

SEO results are long-lasting and permanent. They last as long as you rank well for your target keywords and provide value to your audience. Even if you stop or pause your SEO efforts, your rankings may not change much or at all.

SEO results are also stable and consistent. They don’t change as often or as drastically as PPC results. However, they can still be affected by factors such as:

  • Competition and innovation
  • Algorithm and quality updates
  • Content freshness and decay
  • Link quality and quantity
  • User behavior and feedback

How PPC and SEO Affect Each Other

PPC and SEO are not isolated strategies that work independently from each other. They are interconnected and interdependent, and they can have a significant impact on each other’s performance and outcomes.

By understanding how PPC and SEO affect each other, you can leverage their synergies and complementarities to create a more effective and efficient digital marketing plan.

Here are some of the ways that PPC and SEO can influence and enhance each other:

PPC can boost SEO
PPC can have a positive effect on SEO by:

  • Increasing brand awareness and recognition: PPC ads can help you reach a wider and more targeted audience, which can increase your brand exposure and recall. This can lead to more organic clicks and conversions, as people are more likely to trust and choose a familiar brand over a unknown one.
  • Testing different keywords, headlines, descriptions, and offers: PPC ads can help you experiment with different variations of your keywords, headlines, descriptions, and offers, which can help you find the most effective and relevant ones for your audience. You can then apply these insights to your SEO strategy, such as optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, headings, and content.
  • Driving more traffic to your website: PPC ads can help you drive more qualified and interested visitors to your website, which can increase your engagement signals, such as dwell time, bounce rate, pages per session, etc. These signals can indicate to search engines that your website is valuable and relevant, which can improve your organic rankings.
  • Generating more data and insights: PPC ads can help you generate more data and insights about your audience, such as their demographics, interests, behavior, preferences, etc. You can use these data and insights to optimize your website performance and user experience, such as improving your site speed, navigation, design, layout, etc.

SEO can boost PPC
SEO can have a positive effect on PPC by:

  • Increasing organic visibility and credibility: SEO can help you rank higher in the organic results, which can increase your visibility and credibility among your audience. This can improve your quality score and lower your cost per click (CPC), as search engines reward advertisers who provide relevant and high-quality content to their users.
  • Providing valuable content and information: SEO can help you provide valuable content and information to your audience, such as blog posts, guides, infographics, videos, etc. This can enhance your landing pages and increase your conversion rate, as you can offer more value and solutions to your visitors’ problems or needs.
  • Earning more backlinks and social shares: SEO can help you earn more backlinks and social shares from other reputable websites and influencers in your industry or niche. This can expand your reach and exposure to new audiences who may be interested in your products or services.
  • Generating more leads and customers: SEO can help you generate more leads and customers who are already interested in or searching for what you offer. This can increase your lifetime value (LTV) and profitability, as you can build long-term relationships with loyal customers who may buy from you repeatedly or refer you to others.

Which is Better: PPC or SEO?

The question of which is better: PPC or SEO, is not a simple one to answer. It depends on various factors, such as your business goals, budget, industry, competition, and target audience.

Both PPC and SEO have their own strengths and weaknesses, and they can work together to create a powerful and effective digital marketing strategy.

To help you decide which option is more suitable for your business, let’s look at some of the key differences and similarities between PPC and SEO.

Differences Between PPC and SEO
PPC and SEO differ in the following aspects:

Cost: PPC requires you to pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad, while SEO does not charge you for organic clicks. However, PPC can also have a lower cost per acquisition (CPA) than SEO, depending on your conversion rate and profit margin.

Speed: PPC can deliver instant results as soon as you launch your campaigns, while SEO can take months or years to rank well for competitive keywords. However, PPC results are also temporary and depend on your ongoing budget and optimization, while SEO results are more lasting and sustainable.

Control: PPC gives you more control over your targeting, budgeting, scheduling, and bidding options, while SEO depends more on the algorithms and quality standards of search engines. However, PPC also requires more monitoring and management than SEO, as it can be affected by various external factors.

Visibility: PPC can help you dominate the SERPs by showing your ads above or below the organic results, while SEO can help you rank higher in the organic results. However, PPC ads can also be ignored or blocked by some users, while SEO results can also be pushed down by other features, such as featured snippets or local packs.

Similarities Between PPC and SEO
PPC and SEO share the following aspects:

Goal: Both PPC and SEO aim to drive more traffic to your website, generate more leads, and increase more sales. However, they can also serve different purposes depending on your marketing funnel stage, such as awareness, consideration, or decision.

Relevance: Both PPC and SEO rely on keywords to match your website with the search queries of your target audience. However, they also need to consider other factors, such as search intent, user behavior, and content quality.

Measurement: Both PPC and SEO can be measured and analyzed using various tools and metrics, such as impressions, clicks, conversions, cost per click (CPC), cost per conversion (CPA), return on ad spend (ROAS), return on investment (ROI), etc. However, they may also use different methods and platforms to collect and report data.

Final Thoughts

There is no definitive answer to which is better: PPC or SEO. It depends on your specific situation and needs.

However, a general rule of thumb is to use PPC if you want fast and targeted results with more control over your budget and campaigns. Use SEO if you want long-term and organic results with more credibility and authority.

Better yet, use both PPC and SEO if you want to maximize your online presence and visibility. By combining the benefits of both strategies, you can create a holistic and synergistic digital marketing plan that can help you achieve your business goals.

Remember: PPC + SEO = SEM success!