When we talk about building a business online and growing our website traffic, SEO and paid search (PPC) are the major sources we tend to rely on. 

Both search engine optimization and running google ads campaigns can be beneficial and has the potential to bring in 1000s of interested buyers to our website. 

But which one should a business focus on and what is the difference between SEO and Paid Search! Let’s look into them now. 

SEO and PPC : Overview

What is search engine optimization? Why do we need SEO?

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing the webpages in our website for organic traffic. 

Did you know that there were more than 360 billion searches in google in just the first four months of 2021? As more and more people start using search engines to look for solutions to their day-to-day problems, it’s important to get the attention of our potential customer in the early stages of their buyer’s journey. Makes sense right?

Search engine optimization enables us to outrank our competitors in the SERPs for all the relevant industry search terms and help serve our audience and get their attention.

With proper SEO strategy and effort, one could dominate the digital space and grow their business exponentially.

What is Paid Search (PPC) and why do we need it?

Paid search enables us to use Google ads to run campaigns (Search, display, shopping and more!) across all the google products with great targeting options to drive traffic to our website.

When we talk about paid search and google ads, many often refer to the search campaigns where we our URLs would be featured above the organic results in the SERPs like we see here

ppc and paid search
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With Paid search, we can rank in the SERPs like shown above.

We could get shopping carousels in the SERPs like this :

shopping ads : Paid search
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We could retarget our website visitors and display smart advertisements to them for repeated visit or upselling or just for brand awareness:

display ads : Paid search
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PPC definitely has some dimensions to it that SEO cannot offer. But again, paid search isn’t free like SEO but with proper optimizations, the ROI can be positive here.

SEO vs PPC : An Indepth Review

Let’s analyze the important factors and compare them against SEO and PPC to get a better understanding of it all

Quick Results : PPC

This goes without saying, SEO takes time. We cannot expect traffic immediately after a web page is published even if the page is highly valuable and relevant for some really good target keywords. 

Whereas with PPC, we can get quick exposure to some really important keywords which could drive sales quickly. 

Long term Growth : SEO

When we talk about long term growth and brand building, SEO should be the choice for your brand. 

SEO might be slow to grow but once the foundations are in place, and we start gaining authority and organic traffic, it’s like we are on auto pilot and the traffic just keeps flowing.

Any startup with a small budget for marketing should focus on SEO because of the endless opportunities they could fetch once the initial phases are over. 

Trust factor : SEO

Users focus on the organic search results 94% of the time. 

This statistic just proves the fact that people trust organic results way more than the ads. I personally think that this trend will continue and people will trust ads less and less as time goes by. 

Building a positive brand image might help improve click through rates from our paid ads and will also increase conversions. 

SERP Visual Real Estate : PPC

When it comes to SERP visual real estate, it’s really hard to compete with paid search especially because of the presence of Shopping ads.

Not just in SERP, but with display ads we could have posters and banners about our products and services in relevant websites as well.

With SEO, we can get featured snippets which gets most of the clicks and is better than any PPC ad type when it comes to Click through rates. But Visually, PPC wins over SEO!

Note : Visual Real estate in SERP gives us an unique opportunity to showcase our products even before the user has entered our website.

Brand Visibility and Reach : SEO and PPC

I have personally reached millions of people with both SEO and with paid search. The limit is endless in both of these methods. 

There’s no “relevant keyword” in our niche that we cannot rank for with SEO. The difficulty and the effort and time required to outrank and dominate a specific SERP might vary based on competition, but it is possible!

Similarly, with paid search we can literally rank in any relevant keyword and SERP. One major advantage here is, we can even show up when someone types our competitors’ brand name. This is not possible with SEO. Makes sense right?

So Technically Paid search wins by a fraction in this aspect.

Targeting : PPC

The only targeting we can do in SEO is keyword targeting. To try and categorize the keywords based on buyers journey and creating content specific to that so we could get their attention. 

The targeting options that we get via paid search is so much better than the SEO with custom audiences and with so much geographic and demographic targeting options.

Cost : SEO

The obvious winner here is SEO. Search engine optimization still does cost the manpower and the effort that goes behind it all.

Paid search can be expensive and get out of hand if we do not run the campaigns effectively with proper targeting and conversion funnels set up. SEO pays off in the long run and fetches us constant and consistent organic traffic to our website and it’s all free!

Quality Traffic : SEO

The quality of traffic that we receive from SEO is significantly better than paid traffic. SEO traffic had high intent and they trust the organic results way more than they trust paid results. 

Everyone notices that they are clicking on an ad and they will always have doubts before purchasing a product or a service. 

Difficulty : PPC

If you have to choose between SEO and PPC, you would have to take the efforts into consideration. Search Engine Optimizations requires careful research and In-depth accurate, valuable and engaging content with significant efforts put into backlink building and content creation.

Paid search isn’t very easy either. Since money is involved it might seem like a two step setup process but a lot of optimizations needs to be done in order to be cost effective an maximize CTR and conversion rates

Reliability : SEO

This is a personal opinion based on my experience in both SEO and PPC. People often say that organic results fluctuate a lot and aren’t reliable. Well, it is an SEO’s job to make sure that the content they publish is fresh and has a healthy SEO profile in order to continue ranking in the top results. 

SEO is very reliable when done correctly and opens up enormous growth opportunities.

Is PPC unreliable?

Not really. PPC is not unreliable but the fact that it involves money in order for it to function and will stop abruptly in its absence. The moment there’s some issues with the flow of money into the marketing budget, the entire business just stops. 

PPC or SEO?

Now that we have analyzed some important factors to take into consideration and how SEO and PPC fares in each of them, the ball is in your court. You could go ahead and put all your eggs in either one of these baskets based on the needs of your brand and business.

I have seen situations where startups need to grow their user base within a few months in order to get more investments and satisfy the existing investors.

Whereas I have worked with companies where organic growth is prioritized more than anything for its reliability and long term success.

We cannot just say one thing is better than the other in all scenarios

SEO and PPC : An Integrated Approach

It would make much more sense to focus on both SEO and PPC .SEO can be like the strong backbone that we can rely on when we run low on funds and PPC can be used intelligently to engage with existing audience and bring in new traffic by improving brand awareness and getting quality traffic from some niche targeted keywords.

Makes sense right?

FAQs:

  • Does PPC affect SEO in any way?

Running paid ads might help improve brand awareness and potentially just affect click through rates a little. So there is no direct correlation between PPC and SEO and google doesn’t improve organic visibility just because that website is using paid search.

So there’s just a small indirect correlation between them .

  • Is SEO hard ?

Not at all. From the outside it might seem like a lot of effort but honestly, if you just understand how google values content,then it’s just a matter of time before you could dominate the search results

  • How much does PPC cost?

There are so many factors that go into play when deciding the cost behind running google ads. The type of campaign we run, our targeting options, our ad copy, type of bidding and the competitors that bid against us for the targeted keywords : All of these comes into play here

Author Section:

Written By Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over four years experience in SEO and digital marketing building and running successful SEO campaigns for over 10 companies. He share’s the strategies and insights from his experience in this blog to help other SEO’s and content writer’s from around the world!

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