Our clients often ask us about the difference between pay-per-click (PPC) marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is a digital marketing technique to drive traffic to your website via organic reach. PPC advertising is a search engine marketing strategy that increases your paid reach.

You can imagine the question that quickly follows. Clients want to know where strategy is better for their business. Like any complicated question, there’s no straightforward answer. When debating between PPC vs SEO for your company, understanding the benefits of both will help you develop a better digital marketing strategy.

Our focus in this article will be Google since they control the majority of the search engine market share. Read on to learn about these PPC and SEO and how they compare.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Before we compare these two digital marketing strategies, let’s start by explaining what each one is. Did you know that, on average, one-third of internet users scroll past the paid results and choose the first organic result displayed for their search query?

SEO is simply a strategy to help improve where your company’s website is ranked in search engines. Google determines your SEO rank based on a variety of factors. This includes backlinks, bounce rate, the keywords you’re targeting and more.

What is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising?

PPC, which stands for “pay-per-click”, means that the brand pays the search engine each time a user clicks on their advertisement. The way PPC advertising works is that digital marketers set up campaigns through Google Ads. Before setting up a campaign, they research keyword phrases that are likely to bring prospective clients to their website.

To set up the campaign, they write text ads targeting these keyword phrases and set a maximum bid amount in the platform. Whenever someone clicks on this advertisement, the company pays the search engine.

For companies with a small budget, it can be hard to justify spending money on attracting visitors when you can do the same thing for free with search engine optimization. It’s important to remember that there is a discrepancy to the quality of leads that reach your site via paid marketing versus organic search. According to 55% of B2B marketers and 65% of B2C marketers, PPC advertising is the most effective way of promoting content.

Benefits of SEO

One of the biggest benefits of SEO is that it increases awareness about your brand by putting it in front of targeted leads based on their search engines queries. Best of all, this comes at a much lower cost than PPC advertising.

However, it would be disingenuous to say that SEO is free. Even though there is no direct charge per click, developing your SEO still costs you in employee time. That said, if you can run successful SEO campaigns and rank for the relevant search terms, you’ll find that the ROI on organic traffic is better than traditional forms of advertising.

Another benefit of improving your SEO is that it improves your credibility. When users see that your website ranks highly, they assume that if Google sees you as a reputable and trustworthy source then they can as well. You can further enhance this with user reviews of your product or service on your website.

Benefits of PPC Advertising

So far it may seem like SEO is the obvious contender but there are distinct benefits to PPC advertising as well. One of the main benefits is the visibility of PPC advertising versus SEO. Paid ads take up anywhere from the first one to four spots. Even if many users are scrolling past the ads, you’re still increasing awareness about your brand.

For businesses that are selling products, PPC advertisements allow you to display visual product ads. One of the options in Google Ads is Product Listing Ads (PLAs) that display an image of the product along with the price. For consumers who are ready to make a purchase, these PLAs see a higher click-through rate.

Finally, setting up a PPC campaign is faster than improving your organic search rank. Whereas it will take months to see your website near the top of a search engines results page, a PPC campaign can be created and executed in just a few days.

As you can see, there are significant benefits to both strategies. Besides these benefits, you also need to consider the position your company is in.

Things to Consider Before You Settle the PPC vs SEO Debate

As with any business decision, there are internal and external factors that will affect the success of your digital marketing campaign.

Firstly, you need to research the level of competition and cost-per-click (CPC) for your industry. Use a keyword research tool such as the Google Keyword Research Tool to determine the search volume and popularity of keywords that are relevant to your industry. The key is to find search terms that receive a high volume of search queries but have a limited number of competitors.

Depending on your product, the first page of the search engine results page may already be dominated by the major players in your industry. For example, if you specialize in athletics wear, you will struggle to rank ahead of brands like Adidas, Nike and Lululemon.

Another external factor is the average CPCs for your industry. Continuing with the previous example, the average CPC for the keyword phrase “yoga pants” is $2.50. This means that a new entrant to this industry could compete with the major players by promoting their website through paid advertising campaigns.

On the other hand, some industries have considerably higher average CPCs. Some of the most expensive keyword phrases can even exceed $50 per click such as “business services” which has an average CPC of $58.64 or “lawyer” at $54.86.

Finally, you need to consider your advertising budget. You can run for a campaign for as little as $10 or $15 per day if your budget allows it. Even with minimal spending, PPC advertising gives you the tools to actively test your website and user behavior.

Consider Implementing PPC Advertising and SEO Together

Ultimately, the most successful strategy doesn’t come down to PPC vs SEO. The best option is to use these strategies together to build an integrated digital marketing campaign. When you use them together, you can quickly see what works and what doesn’t with your consumers based on the analytics in Google Ads.

Not sure where to start or don’t have the time to learn PPC advertising on your own? Contact us to discuss our Google Ads Management services.