seo vs ppc

SEO vs PPC: Choosing the Right Search Marketing Strategy

In the world of digital marketing, the battle between SEO and PPC has been a long-standing debate. Both strategies have their own merits and drawbacks, making it challenging to determine which one is the best fit for your business. In this article, we will provide an in-depth analysis of SEO and PPC, examining their pros and cons, and help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and goals.

Understanding SEO and PPC

To begin with, let’s define SEO and PPC.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It involves optimizing your website to improve its visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO focuses on organic, non-paid search results and aims to enhance the quality and relevance of your website’s content.

PPC, on the other hand, stands for Pay-Per-Click. It refers to online advertisements that you pay for each time a user clicks on them. PPC ads are targeted by demographics and keywords, ensuring that they appear in prominent positions on search results pages.

Now that we have a clear understanding of these two search marketing strategies, let’s delve into their respective advantages and disadvantages.

SEO: Pros and Cons

Pros of SEO

  • Awareness: SEO helps increase visibility on search engines, driving awareness of your business and attracting potential customers.
  • Branding: By appearing in search results related to your industry, you can establish your brand and build trust among searchers.
  • Credibility and Trust: Organic results are often trusted more than paid ads, giving your business a sense of credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Versatility: Organic search results offer various opportunities to present your business and engage with prospective clients.
  • Reputation and Reviews: SEO allows you to showcase reviews and build a positive reputation, further boosting trust signals.
  • Website Traffic: Higher visibility in organic search results leads to increased website traffic, providing more opportunities to convert prospects.
  • Cost-Effective: While SEO requires time and effort, it is generally more cost-effective than other marketing tactics.
  • Sustainability: Unlike PPC, organic traffic doesn’t disappear when you stop investing in it, allowing your business to thrive even with tight marketing budgets.
  • Not Paying for Every Click: SEO enables you to target users earlier in the purchase cycle without paying for low-conversion rate clicks.
  • Strategic Advantage: Once you establish your organic visibility, your competitors can’t simply buy their way in, giving you a strategic advantage.

Cons of SEO

  • Highly Competitive: SEO is a highly competitive field, making it challenging to rank for competitive keywords.
  • Busy Search Results: Search results are often cluttered with various types of results, including ads, knowledge panels, featured snippets, and more.
  • Ads Dominate: Paid ads often dominate the top positions on search results pages, reducing the visibility of organic listings.
  • Dominance of Titans: Many search results are dominated by major players like Amazon and eBay, making it difficult for smaller businesses to rank.
  • Hyper localized Local Results: Local results can be hyper localized, limiting the organic radius for businesses targeting specific geographic areas.
  • Content Development Challenges: Creating high-quality content can be challenging for smaller businesses with limited resources.
  • Complexity of Tactics: SEO tactics like link building can be difficult and confusing due to the abundance of misinformation online.
  • Algorithm Changes: Frequent algorithm changes can create turbulence and unexpected shifts in search rankings.
  • Information Overload: There is an abundance of misinformation in the SEO space, making it easy to waste time on ineffective tasks.

Despite these challenges, SEO can be a highly valuable and cost-effective strategy for improving your online visibility and driving relevant traffic to your website.

PPC: Pros and Cons

Pros of PPC

  • Targeting: PPC allows for laser-targeted ad campaigns, reaching potential customers based on demographics, keywords, and other parameters.
  • Speed: PPC campaigns can be set up quickly and ramped up in a short period, providing instant visibility to potential customers.
  • Position on the Page: Paid search ads typically appear in prominent positions on search results pages, ensuring maximum visibility.
  • Improved Ads: PPC ads offer more control and space for delivering marketing messages, allowing for more effective advertising.
  • Dynamic Ad Copy: Responsive search ads enable the creation of highly customized ads with multiple variations for split testing.
  • Visual Product Ads: Google Shopping ads provide visual representations of products, helping users make informed decisions.
  • Brand Visibility: Running paid search ads increases brand visibility, even if users conduct brand searches before clicking on your site.
  • Budget Control: PPC allows you to set a fixed daily budget, ensuring that you don’t overspend on advertising.
  • Agility: PPC provides flexibility and agility, allowing you to test new products, marketing messages, and campaigns quickly.
  • Marketing Intelligence: PPC provides valuable keyword and conversion data that can inform your SEO and other marketing efforts.
  • A/B Testing: Easily conduct split tests to optimize ad copy, landing pages, and call-to-action buttons for better results.
  • Stability: While PPC is not immune to changes, it tends to be more stable than organic search rankings, allowing for better management.
  • Cost: Contrary to popular belief, a well-managed PPC account can be a cost-effective way to generate leads for your business.

Cons of PPC

  • Expensive: PPC can be costly, especially for highly competitive keywords and industries.
  • High Competition: Commercial terms often have intense competition in PPC, driving up costs and requiring strategic bidding.
  • Constant Investment: PPC requires ongoing investment, as stopping spending leads to a decline in traffic and visibility.
  • Strategically Easy to Copy: Competitors can easily replicate your PPC strategy, increasing competition and driving up costs.
  • Easy to Start, Difficult to Master: While anyone can start a PPC campaign, achieving optimal results requires expertise and ongoing optimization.

Despite these drawbacks, PPC offers unparalleled targeting capabilities, faster results, and more control over ad messaging and visibility.

The Third Option: SEO and PPC

In most cases, the best approach is not to choose between SEO or PPC but to combine them in a holistic search marketing strategy. SEO and PPC can work together synergistically, maximizing your overall results. Consider the following benefits of running both strategies simultaneously:

  • Keyword and Conversion Data: PPC data can provide valuable insights for optimizing your organic search (SEO) efforts.
  • Geographic Coverage: PPC can complement SEO by targeting areas where your organic visibility may be weaker.
  • Increased Traffic Volume: Combining PPC and SEO allows you to target high-performing keywords with both paid and organic listings, increasing overall traffic.
  • Moving High-Cost, Low-Converting Keywords: By analyzing PPC data, you can identify keywords that perform poorly in paid search and optimize them for organic search.
  • A/B Testing Insights: Use PPC campaigns to test ad copy and landing pages, and apply the learnings to improve your organic listings and landing pages.
  • Remarketing: Retarget visitors who initially found your website through organic search with PPC ads, reinforcing your brand message and increasing conversions.
  • Testing Keyword Strategy: PPC can be used as a testing ground for keyword strategies before committing to long-term SEO efforts.
  • Targeting Users at Every Stage: With a combination of SEO and PPC, you can target users at different stages of the customer journey, from research to comparison to purchase.
  • Boost Confidence and Awareness: Having strong organic and paid visibility enhances your brand’s credibility and increases awareness among potential customers.

An integrated search marketing strategy that combines SEO and PPC can yield superior results compared to relying on just one approach. Start with PPC to drive immediate results while building up your organic visibility through SEO. Continuously optimize and adjust your strategy based on performance and business goals.

How to Make SEO and PPC Work For You

Rather than choosing between SEO or PPC, businesses can benefit from integrating both strategies to maximize their digital marketing efforts. Here are some ways to combine SEO and PPC for optimal results:

1. Create Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads allow businesses to reconnect with visitors who have previously interacted with their website. By serving targeted ads to these visitors, businesses can prompt them to return and complete a purchase or conversion. This strategy is particularly effective in re-engaging potential customers who may have abandoned their purchase journey4.

Retargeting ads example featuring Birchbox

2. Promote Website Content with Social Media Ads

While SEO aims to improve organic rankings, businesses can give their content a quick boost by promoting it through social media ads. This approach not only helps with content distribution but also has the potential to generate valuable backlinks and increase overall website visibility. Promoting blog posts, guides, reports, or case studies through social media ads can increase their reach and drive targeted traffic to your site5.

Social media ads example featuring Dollar Shave Club

3. Collect Data from Ads to Improve SEO Strategy

PPC campaigns provide valuable data and insights that can inform and enhance your SEO strategy. By analyzing keyword search volumes, competitor bidding strategies, and high-converting calls-to-action, you can optimize your SEO efforts more efficiently. Leveraging the data acquired from PPC campaigns can help you identify trends, refine keyword targeting, and improve overall website performance6.

SEO vs PPC Statistics

To further understand the impact of SEO and PPC, let’s explore some key statistics:


  • Google dominates the global web traffic market, accounting for over 92.47%7.
  • Approximately 90.63% of online content receives zero traffic from Google, with only 0.21% generating over 1000 visits per month8.
  • In 2020, 35.18% of browser-based Google searches resulted in an organic link click9.
  • Most website pages (99.2%) have less than 100 backlinks10.
  • Google processes over 5.6 billion searches per day11.
  • 64% of marketers actively invest in SEO12.


  • The Google Display Network reaches 90% of internet users worldwide13.
  • Search advertising spending was $144.8 billion in 2021, compared to $58 billion in 202014.
  • Over 27% of internet users worldwide use ad blockers15.
  • The insurance industry has the highest average monthly cost-per-click (CPC) in Google Ads search advertising, at $18.57 per click16.
  • The electronics industry has the lowest average CPC in Google Ads search advertising, at 77 cents per click17.
  • The average Facebook Ads click-through rate across all industries is 1.1%18.


Deciding between SEO and PPC is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each strategy has its strengths and weaknesses, and the right choice depends on your specific business needs, goals, and available resources.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of SEO and PPC, ask yourself the five key questions outlined in this article, and evaluate your unique situation. Remember that a well-executed search marketing strategy often involves a combination of both SEO and PPC, leveraging the strengths of each to maximize results.

Take the time to develop a clear digital marketing strategy, set realistic goals, and regularly measure your performance to ensure continuous improvement. With the right approach and a comprehensive understanding of SEO and PPC, you can drive targeted traffic, increase brand visibility, and achieve your business objectives.

SEO vs PPC: 5 Questions to Ask

To determine which search marketing strategy is right for your business, consider the following questions:

1. What Keywords Are You Targeting?

Identify the keywords relevant to your business and target audience. Understanding your customers’ needs, motivations, and search behavior will guide your keyword research process.

2. What Do the Results Look Like for Each Keyword?

Conduct a Google search for each keyword and analyze the search results. Take note of the types of results appearing on the page, such as ads, local listings, organic listings, and other features. This analysis will help you assess the competition and estimate the effectiveness of SEO or PPC for each keyword.

3. How Do the Results Vary by Location?

Remember that search results can vary by location, especially for local businesses. Use rank tracking tools to monitor your rankings in different locations and tailor your SEO or PPC strategy accordingly.

4. How Much Business Do You Need?

Consider your business goals and the amount of leads or sales you require. Smaller businesses targeting a local area may find SEO sufficient, while larger businesses might need a combination of SEO and PPC to generate enough leads.

5. What Do You Have More of – Time or Money?

Evaluate your resources, including time and budget. SEO can be done in-house with no direct costs, but it requires time and expertise. PPC offers quick results but requires ongoing investment. Determine which resource you have more of and choose the strategy that aligns with your situation.

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