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SEO vs PPC: Which strategy should you be using for your business?

SEO vs PPC: Which strategy should you be using for your business?

When it comes to choosing a digital marketing strategy for your business, you will find that SEO vs PPC is widely discussed.There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The best strategy for your business will depend on the results you want to see, your current position and your market.

We are often asked whether SEO or PPC (pay-per-click) is better for digital marketing strategies. 

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The best strategy for your business will depend on the results you want to see, your current position and your market. 

Is it better to buy your way to the top of the search results with PPC advertising? Or is it better to gradually build your rankings and authority through SEO? Deciding on where to spend your digital marketing budget can be difficult. And, making sure you get the most from your budget can be even harder. 

Whether you invest in SEO or PPC, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine so it’s important to make sure your brand appears, whether it's organically or paid for. 

To make the decision between each channel, it’s important to understand how each one works, including the pros and cons.

What is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), involves driving organic traffic to your website or landing pages. If you run a search on Google, the organic listings are those below the paid ads and shopping ads.

seo results example

64% of all clicks in the search engine results pages (SERPs) were captured by organic listings. This means that over half of the people who type a query into the search bar are more likely to click on an organic listing than a paid ad. So, if you can appear in the organic search results for your chosen keywords, you’re more likely to drive valuable traffic to your website. 

When it comes to SEO, your ranking position is determined by a variety of factors - there are actually over 200 ranking factors that influence how Google ranks your site. It’s important to note that SEO is an ongoing process that requires modifications and improvements to your website to help it appear in the organic listings. 

You can find out more about what SEO is and how it can help your business in more detail by reading our guide. 

Pros of SEO 

Building an effective SEO strategy for your business provides a number of benefits:


SEO provides you with a chance to target and reach potential customers without having to dip into your marketing budget or pay every time someone clicks on your website. 

With SEO, you can target the customers who are actively searching for your products or services instead of you having to find new customers for your business. 

Long term benefits 

Once you have implemented SEO best practices for your website, completed keyword research and created high quality content with strong links, the results will continue to pay off in the long run. 

The return on investment for SEO continues over time as your website content and blog posts continue to rank and drive traffic to your website or landing pages. In contrast, PPC advertising stops as soon as your budget stops. A good piece of content or a high ranking website can continue to drive relevant traffic and sales for your business for years to come. 

Once you achieve strong rankings, your business will show to potential customers at all times of the day. PPC ads will stop displaying when your marketing budget runs out or when you choose to turn them off at less cost-effective times of the day. 

Target all stages of the funnel 

SEO allows you to understand what customers are searching for across the full funnel and create content accordingly. When you’re running ads, you’re more likely to spend your budget on the bottom or middle of the funnel search terms to make sure your ads convert as quickly as possible and maximise your return on investment. 

With SEO, you can focus on all aspects of the funnel to drive traffic at various stages of the buying cycle without having to pay for clicks.  

Organic search is more stable

If you optimise your site in the right way and create the right type of content, your rankings should stay consistent as long as you keep updating your website and staying on top of best practice. 

With SEO, there is no on or off switch. This is unlike PPC advertising where your website will no longer appear in the search results when you stop paying for the ads. 

Build authority and trust 

Appearing in the search results with relevant content that ranks well in the search results will help you to build your reputation as a trusted source within your industry with your customers. In addition, it helps to signal to Google that you are an authoritative source and will help you to rank even higher. 

Helps to build a more user friendly website

When you optimise your website and its content for SEO and follow best practice, you also help to improve the usability of your site, making it easier for visitors to navigate your website, find what they need and convert. 

Cons of SEO 

While SEO offers a wide range of benefits for your business, it can have a few downsides that should be considered when building your digital marketing strategy and thinking about whether you should invest in SEO.  

SEO takes time to work

PPC offers instant results. On the other hand, it can take anywhere between a month to three months to start seeing an increase in SEO rankings or traffic. If you don’t want to pay an agency or an expert to optimise your site, research your market, keywords, build a content strategy and write optimised content and web pages, you will need to take this on yourself. 

This means you could put a huge amount of work in over a series of months without an instant payoff. 

An ongoing process 

Now you know it can take time to get your SEO efforts off the ground, it’s also important to know that it is an ongoing process. To rank as highly as possible, you will need to make tweaks and improvements to your site and content which will never be fully optimised. 

From creating new content to link building and making sure your website complies with the latest SEO best practices, there will always be work to do. 

Search engine algorithms can change 

Google is constantly changing its algorithms to provide the best results to its users and to keep up with changes in the search landscape. These changes mean that you will have to keep an eye on your marketing strategy and your rankings to make sure they’re optimised for any slight or major algorithm changes and to ensure your rankings aren’t affected too much. 

Requires high level skills and expertise 

If you’ve never created an SEO strategy before, knowing where to start can be difficult. At the very least, you will require someone who is an SEO expert and can advise you on optimising your site, as well as someone who can create high quality content. 

What is PPC?

Understanding how PPC marketing works is the best way to begin to understand the benefits it can bring to your business. 

PPC advertising (Pay Per Click or Paid Search) is a service provided by search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo  that you pay for in order to display text ads or shopping ads at the top of the SERPs.  When someone clicks on your ad, you are charged a fee. 

Paid search results example

Google Ads now encompasses a range of different ads that you can use to target customers across a number of websites and stages in your customer’s buying journey. Google ranks your PPC ads based on how much you bid on your keywords, the overall quality score of your ads and the landing pages you link to. 

SEO provides free clicks to your website. However, with PPC, you pay for clicks so it’s very common to spend hundreds of pounds to drive visitors to your website. 

So, if you want immediate clicks to your website, PPC is a short term option as, once your Google Ads are approved, you will start to show on the first page of the results.

Find out more about the benefits of PPC in our blog: 9 benefits of PPC advertising

Pros of PPC 

Similarly to SEO, PPC provides a huge number of benefits for your business. 

Provides maximum visibility in the search results

PPC campaigns put your business at the top of the search results so that potential customers will see your brand before they see your competitors. You can make sure you appear above other brands in the SERPs by bidding competitively on any keywords that are relevant to your target customers. 

Provides immediate results 

PPC will start driving traffic as soon as your campaigns are approved. This means that it works much faster than SEO but this does not make it a long-term solution. Once you stop the spend, your ads will no longer appear in the results. However, PPC ads are perfect for special promotions or events that you need to promote but you can’t plan in advance to get them to drive organic traffic. 

Gives you control 

When setting up your PPC ads, you can control the page that your visitors land on when they click the ad. This means you can show them the most relevant page to the information displayed in your ad. You can write your own ad copy and test them to find the combination that achieves the best results for your business. 

Choose your target audience 

When setting up your PPC campaigns, you can choose exactly who you want to target with your ads. You can choose to target people in a specific geographical area, those of a certain age, by marital status and by interests. This means you can pinpoint the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service and who are more likely to convert on your website. 

Provides additional data 

Running PPC ads gives you access to a wealth of data. You’ll find out more about the ads that your customers are clicking on before they make a purchase and the keywords they’ve used to get there, as well as the ads that do not work. This will allow you to make changes to your campaigns to optimise it and improve your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). 

Cons of PPC 

Alongside its benefits, PPC also has a few disadvantages that you should consider when choosing between PPC or SEO for your business. 

Requires constant investment 

Once you set PPC campaigns up, you will need to keep paying for them to make them appear. Once your budget runs out, the ads stop. It can take time to build up a decent quality score which means PPC can cost more initially until you have fully optimised your ads. 

The more you invest, the better your results will be in terms of clicks and conversions. When analysing the performance of your PPC ads, it’s important to look at the conversion rate. If you’re getting lots of clicks but no conversions, your budget will be wasted. 

Can put some users off 

PPC ads are tagged in the search results and purposely placed at the top of the results. Many searchers do not like ads, they don’t trust them or they do not know what they are so will scroll past them to get to the organic results.

Takes time to get right 

Although it’s often seen as a short term marketing option, it can take research and practice to get your PPC ads right, especially if you’ve never done it before. This can cost you budget and clicks until you get the optimisation such as the targeting or your ad copy right. Employing a professional who is trained in PPC and can ensure your ads are properly optimised can help to deliver better return on investment. 

Is SEO or PPC better for your business? 

As you can see, SEO and PPC offer their own benefits and downsides. If you’re only going to choose one, many marketers will recommend that you invest in SEO because it’s a cost-effective way to drive long-term traffic and revenue. 

However, if you have the available marketing budget and you’re willing to take on our outsource the work, PPC and SEO work better when they’re used together. Using both strategies alongside each other provides you with the strengths of both.

The benefits of undertaking an SEO and PPC strategy together include: 

  • Use the keyword and conversion data from PPC to feed your SEO strategy 
  • You can increase the total volume of traffic to your website by targeting high performing keywords for both 
  • High cost keywords, high volume or low converting keywords can be moved to your SEO campaign from PPC
  • You can use remarketing to stay front of mind with site visitors once they have landed on your site as organic traffic 
  • Target users at all stages of the customer journey 

If you’d like to know more about how SEO or PPC could help you to grow your business, request a free digital marketing audit from our team. 

Blog written by

Amy Ward

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