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by OppGen

A fairly common question those who are learning about digital marketing strategies ask is, “Which one is better: SEO or PPC?”

That’s not a simple question to answer. It’s one that’s actually complex and fairly nuanced, and at the end of the day, it really depends on several factors.

First, let’s review some of the basics of SEO and PPC before pitting them against one another.

 

What are SEO and PPC?

Both SEO and PPC are digital marketing strategies that rely on using search engines like Google and Bing.

 

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing a website and its content to rank higher on relevant search results for certain keywords. The end goal of SEO is to have pages on your website rank high on search engine results pages (SERPs), ideally on the first or second page.

To do this, you need:

  • a fast website that works well on mobile devices
  • your business’s name, address, and phone number listed in local directories and Google My Business
  • relevant content that is valuable to your target audience and includes keywords phrases they may search for
  • positive reviews, social media accounts for your business, and a link-building strategy

When all of these things are combined, search engines take notice and will push a website higher in the SERPs, making it more likely to be found and viewed when prospects search for relevant keywords.

This means you’ll have to research keywords and phrases and how difficult they are to rank for using a website like ahrefs or SEMrush, both of which allow you to track current SERP rankings as well as where your website and its pages are located on SERPs. Staying up to date on new industry findings and creating content around that information can also be a way to rank well.

Also, SEO is heavily dictated by search engine algorithms, and these algorithms change and update every so often. Search engines, with Google in particular, will not disclose the changes, leaving SEO experts to have to experiment and guess why the SERPs rankings change.

 

What is PPC?

PPC is an acronym for “pay per click,” which is a type of digital advertisement that incurs a cost whenever a prospect clicks on the ad.

PPC has two main forms: search ads, which appear on search engine results pages (SERPS); and display ads, which are visual banner ads that are shown on certain websites that either have relevant content or take a user’s search history into account.

PPC involves a keyword bidding process that will determine where your ad is placed on the SERPs (i.e., the top or bottom of Page 1 of a Google search with a search ad) and the cost per click (CPC). Bidding too low on keywords can result in a less visible ad placement, but too high can drain your budget. PPC allows you to set a budget and won’t go over that budget. But when that allotted budget is emptied, the search engine will stop displaying your ads.

PPC ads can be displayed only to people in specific locations during set times of the day. You’ll also select how specific the keywords you bid on have to be in order to match a search. This is called a match type.

There are three match types:

  1. Broad match: Displays ad when keyword is used and includes variations
  2. Phrase match: Displays ads when someone searches for your exact keyword phrase or close variations of that exact phrase
  3. Exact match: Displays ads only when searchers enter the exact same keyword(s) into the search engine, in the exact order if it’s a phrase

Google also has an option that prevents your ad from being displayed when the connected keywords include certain words. This feature conveniently prevents prospects who aren’t seeking your services from being able to click on your ad and essentially wasting the cost of that click.

With PPC, you want to make sure you’re helping the right prospects find your business at a CPC you can afford while also being competitive enough for those prospects to find your ad. 

 

SEO vs. PPC: What’s the difference?

Before getting into what the differences between SEO and PPC are, let’s talk about the similarities first.

  • Both SEO and PPC are digital marketing strategies that rely on search engines like Google and Bing
  • Both of them can increase website traffic for your business, which has the potential to turn into actual foot traffic into your business’s physical location
  • SEO and PPC have the ability to create brand awareness
  • They also both rely on keywords, but in pretty different ways

Now, regarding the differences between the two:

 

SEO is organic; PPC is not

When we say that SEO is an “organic” strategy, we’re not talking about it being untouched by chemicals or anything considered “unnatural.” In this context, organic simply means it is unpaid. SEO does not require you to pay a search engine for a better placement.

PPC, on the other hand, requires a financial investment. After all, PPC stands for pay per click, which explains how the payment system of these ads work.

 

PPC is a form of paid advertisement; SEO is not

At the most basic explanation, PPC requires paying a search engine to place your business’s advertisement in an ideal position. PPC is a bit more complicated than that, because a keyword bidding system determines where the ad’s placement.

SEO is not a form of advertising you pay a search engine for. SEO is entirely on you to ensure your website is the best quality it can be in just about every regard: speed, accessibility on mobile and desktop devices, and the quality of the content you create and upload to your site, as well as the keywords you want to rank for. It doesn’t require a single cent, though we recommended that you invest in a keyword research website like ahrefs or SEMrush, both of which can give you an idea of how difficult it can be to rank for certain keywords.

 

PPC is better for the short-term

SEO takes more time and effort to optimize and get the results you want.

Although it isn’t instant, PPC does get quicker results, and once you get a grasp on how it works and how to better optimize it, you’ll see even more results, potentially at a lower cost per click.

 

SEO builds credibility and trust

Nearly 40% of people are more likely to click on an organic search result link than a search ad because, well, that top link on Google isn’t paid for. That means it is a trusted resource that earned its place on the first page, and that’s why they’ll click on it. They trust Google to pull up the best results, and those best results are on Page 1 for a reason, and those are the sites that get more traffic.

Building up credibility and trust through your content and business reviews is a must with SEO, and though it is a lot of work, it will reward you with more leads as you boost your way up the ranks.

 

Which is better: SEO or PPC?

Neither PPC nor SEO is necessarily better than the other. It really depends on your business’s goals and needs, as well as the industry you’re in.

The following breakdown of pros and cons of both SEO and PPC can help you better determine which one is best for your business:

 

SEO pros

  • Helps local prospects find you
  • Builds credibility and trust
  • Increases organic traffic
  • Sustainable
  • Higher clickthrough rate (CTR) than PPC and more clicks than PPC (at no cost!)

 

SEO cons

  • Long-term strategy that takes time and effort
  • Results not instant (may take up to 6 months or more to start seeing results)
  • Never-ending effort to create the best content and user experience
  • Requires keyword research, staying up to date with search engine algorithm updates

 

PPC pros

  • Intended to generate leads from local prospects
  • Fast results
  • Targets more specific audiences
  • Gathers prospect and lead data
  • Easy to test ads to maximize CTR
  • Not affected by algorithm updates

 

PPC cons

  • Costs more in certain industries
  • Not the most sustainable strategy
  • When budget is empty or you decide to stop doing PPC, ads stop displaying and the number of leads will drop

 

We believe that SEO and PPC compliment one another, and when combined as part of a digital marketing strategy, they can achieve the best results.

While PPC can give you a good starting place for getting leads, it is not a good sustainable long-term option. If you decide to stop using PPC, then there’s a very good chance that you may stop getting leads.

If you utilize SEO while you’re getting leads through PPC, you can slowly begin to build a more steady influx of traffic that will also pull in leads, and at no cost to you.

 

Not sure if you need PPC or SEO or both? Contact us for guidance on the best options

Depending on your industry, advertising budget, and business goals, SEO or PPC may be better for you than the other; or it could be that both digital marketing strategies are worth the investment.

At OppGen, a digital marketing agency, we work with many different and highly specialized businesses in a number of industries to help them generate more leads. We offer both SEO and PPC services, and we can help you determine which strategies are most effective for your business.

Start today by filling out our free digital audit, or contact us for more information.

OppGen Team
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SEO vs. PPC