PPC vs SEO Marketing: Where Should I Focus My Efforts?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

As marketers, it's often an uphill struggle to understand whether PPC advertising or SEO marketing is best. Let the battle commence.

Quite like the Ali and Tyson of boxing, PPC and SEO are both heavyweights in the marketing world. Each have their strengths—and their weaknesses—but if we were to pit them together, who would win the fight?

Ding ding! You're about to find out.

First, let's make sure we're all on the same page in understanding the differences between the two.

  • PPC Defined: Pay Per Click (PPC) is when you pay for an advertisement to appear at the top of a search engine. The more people click on your ad, the more you'll pay.
  • SEO Defined: SEO is a way to optimize your site to rise up the search rankings and generate organic (free) traffic.

Round 1: The Pros


1. It offers instant results

The biggest benefit to PPC is that you don't have to wait around for that traffic to come. Set up an Adwords campaign and you'll start to see the results instantly – which is particularly helpful for businesses just starting up.

2. It's highly targeted

PPC offers the edge on conversions with paid results being 1.5 times more likely to convert. The great thing about PPC is that it is highly targeted to the customer, where-as organic traffic can be pretty unpredictable.

Although you need to bid on keywords, Google also uses a quality score metric to decide how relevant your ad is to that user. So you can be sure that when a person clicks on your ad, they will have a genuine interest in what you're selling.

3. It's protected from algorithm updates

There's nothing more frustrating for an SEO marketer than an algorithm update. The good news is that PPC is protected from algorithm updates, so no matter what changes are made, you'll still continue to see traffic heading to your site.

Helpful tip: If you struggle to run effective PPC campaigns, check out the Hitchhikers Guide to Ecommerce PPC Management from AmeriCommerce.

Related Article: C'mon Click Happy: Elevating PPC ROI With First-Class Ad Copy


1. It's free

A clear benefit to SEO is that it's free to do. Unlike PPC, you don't have to pay to do it, you just need to invest your time implementing the best practices across your site.

But with that comes a whole check list of 'best practices' including making sure it's bot accessible, responsive, has unique content, targeted keywords and optimized meta data – to name but a few.

2. It's more likely to drive traffic

Did you know that organic results are 8.5 times more likely to be clicked on than page search results? That's because people tend to be naturally drawn to organic results as they trust them so much more than a sponsored link.

3. It will drive better ROI long-term

The great thing about SEO is that once you've implemented the best practices onto your site, the only way is up. Make your way to the top and your brand is automatically perceived as reputable, and your ROI will continue to rise in the long run.

Helpful tip: If you struggle with SEO, check out the on-page factors that affect search engine rankings by SEO experts, Moz.

Round 2: The cons


1. It can be really expensive

If you're focused on PPC and PPC alone, then you may find yourself spending more that you'd like. Especially if you're going into it blind and you're testing out anything to see what works—PPC in the long term can be really expensive.

2. People don't trust ads

The fact of the matter is, people are still sketchy when it comes to ads. It's kinda like cheating your way to the top, and no-one likes a cheater.

Although Google makes sponsored ads look natural, 50% of web users can still tell the difference between organic and sponsored results, so you may struggle to attract half of your audience.

3. It's not easy

PPC is certainly not an easy thing to adopt. Sure, it's great for people just starting out on their business adventure, but these are the people who don't have a lot of experience and will often end up wasting money just trying to figure out what works for their business.


1. It takes a lot of time and effort

So SEO definitely provides better ROI in the long term, but it's gonna take time to get you to that sweet spot. And when you start to get there, you can't stop. Ever.

SEO is a method that will always need your focus and attention. It will take a lot of your time to do so, and you'll always need to work at it to ensure that you see winning results.

2. Algorithm updates can ruin everything

Just think about all that hard work you put in every day making sure that you're site is fully optimized, only to find an algorithm update completely ruin everything.

When search engines release their updates, this can really have a negative impact on where you rank, meaning you may end up losing your traffic and conversions overnight. Ouch.

3. It's highly competitive

Getting your site to the number 1 spot will always be your overall goal. But then it's also the goal of thousands of other people who do the same as you.

So the competition is tough, and you can put lots of effort into implementing the right strategy, but until Google decides to give us a step-by-step guide on how to rank at number 1, no-one will ever really know.

Related Article: Why You Should Consider Bing in Your SEO Strategy

Round 3: The results

I'd say there is not one outright winner here. If you're just launching your site then PPC can help drive traffic and get you on the radar. But if you want to continue to grow as a business then you're going to have to start implementing the best practices of SEO.

If used correctly, both can complement each other and help you become a search engine wizard!


Login to Business.com

Login with Your Account
Forgot Password?
New to Business.com? Join for Free

Join Business.com

Sign Up with Your Social Account
Create an Account
Sign In

Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use, Community Guidelines, and Privacy Policy.

Reset Your Password

Enter your email address and we'll send you an email with a link to reset your password.