If you want customers to find your business, you have two basic options – you can invest your time, energy, and money into an organic strategy, or you can invest in a paid strategy.
This is true whether you are looking to get found on search engines, social media, or even via traditional means. In the former, you focus on generating business naturally through ways that do not involve spending money directly. These could include taking the time to show up in search results, people talking about your catchy new logo, or your social media followers sharing content on Facebook. In the latter, you essentially spend money to make money. Paid advertising applies when you are financing a search ad, promoting a post on LinkedIn, or paying to sponsor a local basketball team.
These two strategies are identified in the search engine world as Search Engine Optimization (organic) and Pay-per-Click (paid) or SEO and PPC, respectively.
In this article, we will explore the differences so you can choose wisely for your business’s unique needs.
SEO vs. PPC
When considering SEO or PPC, there are a couple of major differences. The first and most obvious is that PPC is paid. It’s worth mentioning that SEO is not always free, as we will discuss below, but it does not require any kind of direct exchange of money like PPC does. PPC ads have a cost for each and every click (or group of clicks) that your ad receives.
The next key difference is that search engines typically favor PPC ads. This means that, in the average search, you will see the paid ads first, then the organic listings. PPC ads are often a search engine’s main revenue generator, so it makes sense that they would prioritize them over something that does not make money. Furthermore, PPC ads tend to take up more “real estate” on the search engine results page. This is becoming increasingly noticeable over the past few years as SEO listings continue to lose more and more of this coveted space.
Ultimately, though, SEO vs. PPC shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. Both can and should be important tools in your digital marketing tool bag. In the following sections, we’ll go over the pros and cons of each and how to integrate them strategically to the benefit of each other.
SEO: Pros and Cons
To better understand the relationship between SEO and PPC, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- SEO is a long-term strategy. This is simultaneously an advantage and disadvantage of SEO. For one, SEO is not the correct strategy if you are looking to immediately increase leads to your business or generate brand awareness around a new product. But, if you are building a business that lasts and has staying power, SEO is the perfect strategy to scale alongside your business.
- SEO is cheaper than PPC. Because of the “pay to play” nature of PPC, SEO has a glaring advantage in that it doesn’t require any monetary investment. That is not to say that it is completely free, though. SEO takes time, talent, and expertise to implement properly — and these things rarely come without a cost.
- SEO Requires More Authoritative Content. People are funny in that they like to get information from people who know what they are talking about. So needy, right? Well, search engines have picked up on this, and if you do fail to create content that demonstrates competence, it is highly unlikely that it will rank for anything. All that to say, SEO is more than just writing a few words on a webpage and waiting for the cash to start rolling in. It takes a knowledge of the industry you are writing about but also an understanding of your audience. It is a delicate balance of book smarts and street smarts. You have to capitalize on the right keywords, but you also have to answer the right questions.
- SEO is considerably more technical. Something that many people overlook when talking about the pros and cons of SEO, especially SEO over the last 2-3 years, is that SEO requires not just a decent comprehension of content and copywriting but also an understanding of things like UX signals, mobile-friendliness, page authority, internal linking, HTML elements, analytics, accessibility, semantic and voice search, to name a few.
PPC: Pros & Cons
Pay-per-click advertising, commonly associated with Google Ads, is not without its share of advantages and challenges, either.
- PPC is really fast. SEO has a long lead time. It can take months or even years to see certain SEO results, whereas the proper PPC campaign can provide ROI in a matter of days and weeks. This is especially true if you are in an industry that does not have a lot of competition in the paid ad marketplace.
- PPC is great for running experiments. Are you thinking about adding a new service and want to test the market? Want to see how a refreshed headline works against your current headline? Concerned that a keyword might be a little too “niche” for your audience? Put a little money behind them and find out. Nothing provides answers faster or more definitively than a PPC campaign.
- Paid ads are very targeted. You are paying for the ads, and it stands to reason that you should be able to control who sees them, right? Well, this is arguably one of the best advantages of PPC over SEO. You can target your audience based on everything from location and demographics to behaviors and interests.
- PPC is not as sustainable as SEO. Like we talked about in the SEO section, PPC only works if you are shelling out cash. The minute you stop spending, your results tank. Furthermore, PPC is very market-dependent. In times of low competition and high search volume, such as a slow economy, PPC can be an effective prospecting tool. But, it does not take much for things to change. As the economy picks back up, ad costs increase, and so does competition. This alone could be enough to make your ads cost-prohibitive. With all of that in mind, PPC is a useful strategy to grow your business in certain seasons but may not be your best bet as a long-term solution.
- Ads lose effectiveness over time. When you show people in your market the same ad over and over, the likelihood of them clicking it does not go up and rather it actually can dissuade them from coming to your business. Ad burnout is a real thing, and it usually stems from not staying on top of your ad strategy.
SEO & PPC: A Match Made in (Digital) Heaven
While it’s easy to see where SEO and PPC might best serve your business, it is hard to imagine a fully rounded marketing strategy with one and not the other. PPC might be ideal for giving your product or service a head-start, but you will want to develop your SEO to build a consistent, stable foundation for your long-term business. Alternatively, PPC can provide quick, actionable insights that you can utilize immediately in your SEO strategy –insights that may have taken years to develop with SEO alone.
In other words, the question should not be about SEO vs. PPC but, rather, how you can utilize them in tandem to better your business. Unsure where to start? The team of digital marketers at PHOS is ready to help you better understand and utilize a combination of organic and paid marketing strategies to grow your business the right way. All you have to do is ask.