Both pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) drive traffic to your website. What makes them different is how they are used to attract that traffic. They are not interchangeable terms, although you could use SEO principles in designing your PPC campaigns.
The main difference between PPC and SEO
PPC advertising is when you must pay to generate traffic. SEO targets organic traffic so visitors discover you for free.
You can see the difference when you run a search on a search engine like Google. On these search engine results pages (SERPs), the first results you see are paid advertisements, sometimes listed as “sponsored.” Anytime someone clicks on a sponsored ad, the business pays for that conversion.
Under the pay-per-click ads are organic results, which were presented and ranked based on their SEO. When someone selects a search engine result that is not an ad, the brand pays nothing for that click.
Search engine optimization is a series of purposeful practices used to help search engines present information to queries. Those practices, like keyword selection, can be integrated into the pay-per-click advertising shown on a search results page.
Will PPC or SEO benefit your business more?
Now that the digital world is saturated with content, being discovered as a new business is increasingly challenging.
When deciding if you should choose PPC or SEO to drive traffic to your website, it depends on your objectives, how competitive your marketplace is, and the situation with your business.
SEO takes time. By some estimates, SEO takes 1-2 years to start paying off. Can you wait?
PPC offers immediate results. In some cases, it can help with SEO because you’re driving traffic to the pages. Traffic helps boost your ranking and SEO.
Generally speaking, new businesses struggling to get discovered should definitely consider using PPC in advertising to fast-track discovery and web traffic. It can also be helpful if you have a hyper-local market that you wish to dominate.
Why Use PPC Advertising?
When a user runs a query on a search engine, they are presented with potential answers to their search. Search results can number from just a few hits to millions. Search engines prioritize what they show the user based on keywords, brand authority, and possible search intent.
A user must scroll to see all their possible search results and sometimes continue onto other pages. Since most users tend not to go very far down into their results, being presented as high up as possible is crucial for discovery.
This is where PPC ads have an advantage. PPC ads are presented “above the fold.” When a webpage loads, usually, not everything fits on the screen. The “fold” is an industry term for the bottom of the screen. “Below the fold” is what is loaded but is not displaying on-screen; it’s what you must scroll down to see.
You want to be seen first when a page loads, hence, “above the fold.” Placement here means even if the user does not click on the ad, they still see your message before they scroll.
PPC ads are a good way to build brand awareness.
PPC advertising on Google also gives you greater control over your message. Paid ads get more space to optimize their copy and their imagery. For organic results, you don’t always have the option to select your text and image displayed to the user.
Since you are paying for an ad, you can target who is exposed to your ads. Specific targeting maximizes your advertising dollars and provides a greater return. PPC ads are also quick to execute and adapt. These ads usually come with increased metrics that allow you to see the data and track their performance. Test different versions and quickly change the ads as you gain more marketing intelligence.
PPC ads are not always expensive. If your account is set up well and managed in a low-cost way, it can be used to generate business leads.
Why Use SEO?
Search engine optimization is about driving organic traffic to your website. These are visitors who click on your links and visit your website that you do not have to pay for.
Organic traffic is excellent for building brand awareness and increasing your brand visibility. Selecting the right keywords enables your brand to become associated with those specific keywords in searches. Over time, it helps you rank higher and increases exposure to more potential customers.
The more organic traffic your website can generate, the more credibility and trust search engines will assign to your website, and the more likely you are to rank higher on a results page. This is essential,
most visitors will skip PPC ads because they trust the ranked SERP
When people discover you organically, this helps your marketing return on investment.
Organic traffic is also more sustainable than consistently running PPC ads. When you run an advertising campaign, the traffic will stop when the campaign ends. SEO best practices always work to drive traffic to you. This makes them more sustainable and gives you an advantage.
Once you can rank hard for your specific keywords, it’s hard for your competition to knock you down in the results.
Deciding between PPC and SEO
Running PPC ads on Google can be expensive, although that’s not always the case. Still, the cost can quickly add up if you do not know how to properly setup and optimize your Google Ads.
To be effective, running paid search advertising requires some consistent investment on your part. If you stop running paid search, the lead generation essentially stops.
If your marketer is not experienced, you risk getting into bidding wars with other advertisers, which would drive up the costs for specific keywords. Competitors can copy your PPC ads if they notice that you are taking a chunk out of their traffic. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it can also be detrimental to your paid search campaign results.
Whether to run PPC or just focus on SEO depends on your business strategy and the competition in the marketplace. A business with strong word-of-mouth that needs to generate a little bit of traffic could get away with just a strong SEO strategy.
On the other hand, if you have some competition in the market and you see their brand name always appearing at the top of paid search results, you could steal some of their traffic by running some of your own paid advertising.
The Best Digital Ad Strategy to Grow Fast
In our opinion, your best bet is to use PPC ads and SEO best practices together to have the best results. As your brand continues to grow and develop, PPC advertising will drive leads in the short term to your website. SEO will inform your long-term strategy and work to consistently drive traffic to your website while increasing your search engine result placement.