As an SEO agency and PPC agency, we are often asked “Which is better, SEO or PPC?”. This isn’t a question with a straightforward answer. For us, it depends on a variety of factors including your current situation, your objectives, your industry and your entire digital marketing strategy.
If you are unsure which one will benefit your business the most, you are in the right place. In this blog, we will consider the pros and cons of each, provide insight into how they sit as part of your wider digital marketing plan and cover how to select the right channels for you.
SEO vs. PPC
There are essential differences to note when considering SEO and PPC. To start, paid ads appear at the top of the SERP, above organic SEO listings. Secondly, the traffic generated from SEO, known as organic traffic, is free. Naturally, it will take you time and money to be effective, but there is no direct charge for each click, unlike PPC.
Aside from that, there are a number of pros and cons for each channel that need to be considered in order to make a well-informed choice.
The pros and cons of SEO
Credibility and trust
Being visible around search terms and informational queries that relate to your business can do wonders for your credibility and branding. By consistently showing up in the SERPs for relevant keywords, you will become trusted by searchers which will help lead onto a purchase.
Similarly, with effective SEO tactics such as writing high-quality E-A-T content and establishing an impressive back link profile with Outreach, you can become an authoritative industry voice to influence your audience. Being organically visible helps to give your brand a stamp of approval as many users choose to skip ads and trust organic results more.
Did you know that approximately 70 percent of the links that people click on the SERPs are organic? While there are exceptions, you will likely generate more clicks from a highly placed organic listing than from a highly placed PPC ad.
We mentioned above that SEO traffic is free while PPC is paid, which is true. However, SEO requires a comprehensive understanding and continuous hard work to gain high-quality, free traffic from search engines. No matter what some agencies may say, there are no shortcuts. If you’re not familiar with how search engines work or don’t have the resource to ensure regular maintenance, working with an SEO expert would be your best option.
That being said, while SEO is not cheap or easy, it is generally a more cost effective and sustainable tactic in the long term, placing your business in front of potential customers in the SERPs to drive high quality traffic.
Paid marketing is like a tap – you turn it on, and traffic will flow. But the moment you turn the tap off (e.g. stop managing your ads or your budget dries up) your traffic will stop. Unlike PPC, organic traffic does not stop the moment you stop paying.
By developing an effective SEO strategy and investing in your organic traffic, it is easier to sustain your organic visibility when budgets are reduced in comparison to PPC. However, it’s important to remember that a decline in your organic visibility will occur if ongoing optimisation is not maintained. Once you gain higher visibility in the search engines, with effective management, you can enjoy sustained traffic to reap long-term benefits.
On the world wide web, there are countless new search queries entered every day. In order to capitalise on this, and maximise your presence, you need strong organic visibility for relevant keywords and phrases. With SEO, you can drive high-quality website traffic to specifically optimised pages, increasing the chance of conversion with content that satisfies user search intent.
It’s important to remember that organic traffic can also be related to informational or pre-purchase search queries. Although this is still valuable traffic, a more strategic approach may be needed to nurture these users along the conversion funnel
Organic traffic can be slow
SEO is a long term yet sustainable approach. As such, your organic channel can be slower to get going. If you are just starting out and your targeted keywords are highly competitive, you may need to adapt your approach.
To help with this, high-quality content assets are needed to achieve organic visibility. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the resource or know-how to produce insightful, optimised and rank-worthy content which is where an agency can provide support. Alongside content, safe and sustainable link building can bolster your efforts, adding power to your site and increasing your site authority. This, however, can be difficult to master and often needs expert guidance to get it right.
The pros and cons of PPC
High visibility in the search engines
PPC ads dominate above-the-fold content. Even if users choose to scroll past the ad without clicking, they will still see your brand name which will benefit your visibility. As such, running paid search ads can help build your brand awareness and industry reputation, helping you to be seen by the right people.
Creating strong organic visibility can take a while to develop whereas a PPC campaign can be created in a matter of hours. Once your campaign is approved, your ads will then be displayed meaning traffic can be generated fast. Really, there is no faster way than PPC to advertise to your target audience as they search online.
Unlike SEO, you can really narrow down your prospects based on data with PPC. Using paid media advertisements, you have granular control over the audience you target meaning you can tailor your content and promotional messaging to the users. This is particularly beneficial for time-sensitive offers such as seasonal promotions. Combining Google’s unique customer insights with Dynamic ads, you can display your ad to users who are more likely to interact with it. Organic is not able to be personalised in this way.
PPC allows you to control your budget on an extremely granular level. By determining exactly how much you are willing to spend per day for a keyword group, you can set fixed limits to ensure you never exceed that number, placing you in control at all times.
Although PPC is generally seen as more expensive than a high-performing SEO strategy, a well set up, well managed PPC account can be a low-cost way of generating leads. Plus, with detailed reporting and bidding strategy controls, accounts can be optimised to reduce wastage, minimise costs and increase your ROI.
PPC allows you to be reactive and adapt to a changing environment. As quickly as you can produce and display a new ad, you also have the option to tweak existing campaigns to maximise results. Easily reflect changes in weather, events and trends, all which may create opportunities that need to be seized quickly by your brand.
Test and learn
The testing capabilities of PPC means you can easily split-test ads, landing pages and CTAs to determine high performers. This data is great for informing and optimising your campaigns and it can also be applied in other areas of marketing, such as SEO.
In the same way it can also benefit the wider business. For example, if you want to test a new marketing message or gain feedback on a new product launch, a short PPC campaign can be run to gather valuable data.
Organic can be a turbulent landscape to navigate, competing against Google’s constantly changing algorithms. The PPC world does not suffer the same issues. As with any digital platform, there are changes but they are usually easier to manage and have less impact than organic.
How about SEO and PPC?
Considering the pros and cons of SEO and PPC, there simply isn’t a set answer to “SEO or PPC?” Instead, take stock of your unique business situation, objectives and budget. In some cases, using both channels in conjunction can produce the best possible outcome.
Some businesses are naturally more drawn to paid advertising over organic and vice versa. But, in many cases, SEO and PPC work best when integrated and strategically aligned, driving results that are often greater than the individual parts. Knowing your audience and what they want is key to understanding whether paid search, organic search or a combination is best for your business. There are many benefits to using both in conjunction:
- Two listings: 95 percent of all searchers click on one of the links in the first page of the search engine. If you are listed twice, there is more chance of you being noticed which means it is more likely someone will engage with your brand. Being visible both in and above the organic search results in the paid ads section is brilliant for building your authority and reputation – you instantly become more trustworthy and, most likely, ahead of your competition too.
- Support one with the other: Keyword and conversion data from PPC can be fed into organic search in order to optimise and improve performance. With impressive targeting capabilities, PPC is effective at targeting areas where your brand is not as organically strong. This allows you to balance budgets and invest where is needed so you are not competing with yourself. It also provides the opportunity to generate results at the same time as working on improving organic visibility, which lends itself to a longer-term strategy.
- Target customers at every stage of the journey: From research to comparison to purchasing, combining SEO and PPC allows you to target customers at different stages, guiding them to conversion. Remarketing can help with this by enabling you to connect with visitors after an initial interaction. For example, if a user engages with you via organic search, you can target them with PPC, customising their messaging based on their engagement with your brand.
- Save money: By transferring insights from one channel to the other, you can save yourself money. For example, high-cost, high-volume or low-converting keywords can be moved from PPC to SEO. By doing so, you can still generate traffic around these keywords without bidding on expensive terms for clicks.
In our years of experience, we have found an integrated approach to SEO and PPC works best. By developing a holistic strategy rather than looking at the two channels separately, results can be improved, increasing the awareness, authority and visibility of your business. However, we understand that using both may not always be obtainable and isn’t always the right fit. We can help you decide on whether SEO or PPC is right for you and which will drive the best results. Contact our team to speak more.