SEO vs. PPC: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably seen the phrase “SEO vs. PPC” come up a lot while perusing articles about boosting your website’s visibility and return on investment (ROI).

These two search engine marketing strategies are major players in the digital world, so it’s important to know what they are, the pros and cons, and how the two of them together can produce major results for your business. 


Before we dive into the whole “SEO vs. PPC” debate and whether PPC ads affect SEO, we first need to look at the two strategies on their own. Separately, the two can bring different benefits to your business. It’s important to understand how the two differ and how they can be successful individually before we discuss the benefits of PPC and SEO working together.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

If you’re looking to invest in a digital marketing strategy you can rely on to attract new visitors to your website, then SEO is for you. SEO involves optimizing and improving your website to improve its position in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Search engines like Google employ a variety of algorithms that scan sites for keywords and phrases. When a user searches a keyword or phrase, the search engine immediately starts combing through web pages that mention the search term(s) and arranges the results page based on what sites it deems the most relevant to the search term(s).

Keyword optimization is the key to getting your website to rank higher in search results. The more you naturally integrate a keyword into your page’s content, the more likely Google will see your page as relevant and helpful to users. Be careful not to use them too much, though, or Google could see it as keyword stuffing and lower your rankings.

Types of SEO

There are three major SEO types you should be aware of:

  • On-page SEO: Involves optimizing elements on your site like content, internal links, URLs, and tags.
  • Off-page SEO: Involves tactics off your site like brand and link building, social media, and citations. 
  • Technical SEO: Involves back-end site optimizations like improving page speed to help search engines crawl, index, and render your site.

When on-page, off-page, and technical SEO is successfully executed, they work together seamlessly to help your site achieve higher search engine rankings and increase organic traffic.

Benefits of SEO

You’re investing valuable money, time, and effort. That shouldn’t go to waste!

Lucky for you, it won’t because successful SEO implementation can improve your ROI. Leads generated by search engines have a close rate of almost 15%, as opposed to traditional methods like billboards, which only have a close rate of less than 2%.

When your site’s SEO helps you appear on the first page of search results, your site’s credibility grows in the eyes of consumers. When users enter a term or phrase into Google’s search bar, they’re trusting the search engine to filter out unrelated and unreliable sites and present them with high-quality results. It’s why 75% of Internet users never click on the second page of Google’s search results.

What is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising?

PPC advertising is a way of buying visits to your site rather than waiting for them to happen organically, like with SEO. It’s an extremely effective Internet marketing method, with over 90% of advertisers spending money on paid search ads.
With PPC advertising, advertisers bid for ad placement in a SERP’s sponsored links. These spots are highly sought after because they’re some of the first sites users see when searching a keyword or phrase associated with that link.

A screenshot of ads in the Google search results for tennis shoes

Each time a user clicks on your site, you pay a certain amount of money based on how much you bid for the ad spot. The higher your bid, the more likely you’ll see your ad pop up when looking up the related keyword.
When using PPC ads, though, it’s important to keep track of how much you’re paying each time someone clicks on your site. If you’re paying too much and not getting a large enough ROI, you could end up losing money from PPC advertising. That’s why tools like negative keywords are critical!

The great news is we can help you manage your PPC campaigns. As a Google Premier Partner, you can feel confident knowing we can optimize your spending and ROI! 

When embarking on a PPC ad campaign, consider these questions:

  • How much am I willing to spend on PPC ads? You always want to have a budget in mind for PPC advertising, so you can track your spend and ROI.
  • Are my calls to action (CTAs) converting enough consumers on my site to make this investment profitable? If you’re spending money on PPC ads but not making any conversions on your site, you could be losing money, meaning your PPC campaign isn’t profitable.
  • How long do I want to keep this campaign going? You don’t want to run your campaign forever, so give yourself a time frame for how long you want it to last (and make sure it’s doable with the budget you set earlier!).

Benefits of PPC

It can take a bit of time before you start to see the fruits of your labor with SEO, so if you’re looking for instant gratification, PPC is the digital marketing strategy for you. PPC advertising offers fast results that you can track.
After entering some information into the PPC advertising platform, like your bid and what audience(s) you want to target, you can have ads launched in minutes. When you’re running PPC ads through Google Ads, you can immediately track their performance through Google Ads Tools and Google Analytics.
You’ll get an in-depth look at everything from impressions and clicks, to conversion rates.
Knowing how many impressions your ad gets, or how often your ad shows up on a user’s screen, is important because it helps you identify if people are seeing your ads in the first place. Going even further, the number of clicks your ad receives, or how many times people interact with your ad to get to your website, can help you determine if you need to adjust your ad’s CTA.

These measurable results can allow you to scale up or scale down your efforts to achieve specific conversion goals.

SEO and PPC: The dream team

So, you’ve heard the pros and cons of SEO and PPC. Let’s do a quick recap: SEO improves your search engine rankings, but SEO results aren’t instant, and it can take time to establish your organic rankings. PPC helps you cut through the noise of competitors with prime-time ad spots, but you’ve got to be ready to spend some money to get that good ROI.
But what happens if you have both SEO and PPC working together? Well, we’re glad you asked! Instead of pitting the two against each other in the familiar SEO vs. PPC matchup, you can easily combine the two into a successful digital marketing strategy.
Take a look at some of the benefits you can enjoy when you forget the “SEO vs. PPC” debate!

Increased search results page presence

When you have PPC and SEO working together seamlessly, you’ll dominate SERPs. On one hand, your successful PPC bids will give you a top ad spot and make your brand visible to anyone who’s searching for a related term. On the other hand, your optimized website will organically show up as one of, if not the top result, in that same SERP.

Recovered search engine clicks

Because SEO and PPC will have all your bases covered in search results, you’ve now got a better chance at recovering any clicks you might have missed out on. If your optimized website doesn’t catch a user’s eye while scrolling, there’s a strong chance your paid ad could still reel them in. 

Expand your keyword usage with less risk

PPC’s quick turnaround time with campaign results allows you to test new keywords without running the risk of putting money and effort into it, just for it to not work out. With PPC, you can test a new keyword and monitor its performance before deciding whether to integrate it into your website.

P.S. If you’re looking to compare SEO against other strategies, check out our breakdown of SEO vs. CRO!

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