When you first start looking at digital marketing services, it can be extremely overwhelming. There are hundreds of different methods that you can use to drive traffic, and each one has complex intricacies that make the practitioners of it either experts or amateurs.
Paid ads are often one of the first methods that new website owners pursue because it’s very similar to offline marketing and billboards. On the other hand, SEO is a more confusing process that isn’t comparable to any form of offline marketing.
So What is the difference between SEO and PPC or Pay-Per-Click?
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is all about getting your site to be ranked higher on search engines such as Google and Bing. Search results achieved through SEO are often referred to as “organic results” as they are natural ( unpaid ) results that the search engine returns when a search query is performed. SEO is a combination of different processes, such as On-Page SEO ( Your Website’s content ) and Off-Page SEO ( Your digital footprint outside your website ).
Google or other search engines essentially acts like a weighing machine, judging the popularity of pieces of content by some links pointing to them. Of course, it’s a much more sophisticated algorithm that this, but they primarily judge popularity and rank the articles highest that people prefer.
Pay-Per-Click Ads or PPC, on the other hand, is about paying advertising space for specific keywords or demographics on advertising platforms. The most popular Pay-per-click or ad platforms are Google, Facebook & Instagram. The company that has placed ads on a platform pays a certain fee to the platform when a user clicks or engaged with the advertisement.
The main difference between paid ads online and newspaper space is that users online can click on these paid ads and go directly to your website. This means that you can more easily track the conversion rates and the ROI of your paid ads.
Benefits of PPC
Google ads receive 40% of the clicks on the entire page. This includes PPC ads and shows that proper placement on the search page is of great relevance for conversions.
Most companies that use PPC effectively make an average of $3 for every $1.50 spent. This shows that PPC is a relatively inexpensive way to experiment, in addition to presenting a good return on investment.
With Paid Ads, you can start your first campaign in a matter of days and begin receiving traffic immediately- paid magic!
With a big enough sample size, you will know if your campaign is succeeding or failing. At that point, you can increase your ad spend or pause the campaign to consider adjustments.
Even when prospects do not click on your ad, they still might see it and notice your business. In fact, one study concludes that Google Ads campaigns raise brand awareness by 6.6% on average.
Google algorithm updates do not affect PPC ads. While an update may force you to make changes to your SEO strategy – google pushes roughly 2,000 algorithm updates every year! – nothing changes in your PPC strategy.
75% of participants in a Clutch study said it is easier to find what they’re looking for in paid ads. The reason for the first page of search pages to get so many clicks is a combination of factors: ease of use and achievement of the search objective. Well-made PPC ads take advantage of these two factors to succeed.
Disadvantages of PPC
You can start an ad campaign and achieve results by knowing a few basics. But to continue that success, you’re going to need expert knowledge.
That’s because Google Ads are fluid. New advertisers will jump in to compete with you. Long-time advertisers will increase their ad spend to regain top space on the search engine’s results pages (SERPs).
You should consider hiring a PPC specialist as many businesses lose time and money tinkering with Google Ads and learning the platform. One wrong move could cost you a lot of money.
Paid ads can be costly
That leads naturally to the next disadvantage of PPC advertising – it can get downright expensive really fast! I’ve seen misguided clients burn through a few thousand dollars of their AdWords budget in a single day because they were advertising for keywords that were not profitable and forgot that they had to pay for each and every click even if those “clickers” don’t buy.
Paid Ads is not guaranteed success
Holding a PPC campaign doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in conversions or in your sales. It’s not just about setting up ads and expecting them to generate traffic and dollars to your business. A PPC campaign will only be successful at helping you attain your marketing goals if you know how to manage it properly.
Benefits of SEO
Surprisingly, only 36% of businesses have an SEO plan in place. That means you can enjoy an advantage over many of your competitors by implementing SEO strategies either by doing it yourself or hiring an SEO agency.
Highly Relevant Traffic
If your SEO is done right, then you should be attracting more relevant traffic to your site.
This means you will be targeting terms with the right search intent behind them – meaning the people searching these terms will have the intent of looking for a service or product like yours. So they are more likely to convert than those searching for less relevant terms.
Increased Brand Awareness
Anyone searching for terms relevant to your small business will be more likely to come across your business when doing searches.
The more they see your business pop up in the SERPs, then the more aware they are of your brand. This means they will be more likely to click onto your site and consider you for the future – if not there and then.
No Cost Per Click
You don’t have to pay Google or other search engines to show up in their search results. You have to have a mobile-friendly, fast-loading, and engaging website loaded with quality content and a solid Local SEO strategy that is consistent.
With free clicks, SEO lowers your cost per acquisition. The only expense is the cost of hiring an SEO company to create and carry out your SEO plan.
While the big players in your industry may be able to out-spend you on the marketing front, SEO can be a very cost-effective form of digital marketing, which is winnable on some fronts – even against the biggest competitors.
Big businesses with big budgets can spend more on pay-per-click advertising or other forms of ads. But with a well-thought-out SEO strategy, you can go toe-to-toe with the big players in the search results.
SEO often has a very high ROI – as the ceiling for returns is endless if you get the right traffic, and once your website is ranking well, you aren’t actively spending money on paid marketing campaigns. You need to keep maintaining your SEO, but you aren’t paying for ad space.
Disadvantages of SEO
There are many reasons that not everyone has an active search strategy – typically due to the amount of time it takes to see a potential return on investment. Let’s dive into the top factors below:
Return On investment can take 4-6 months
As it takes a while (typically six months – longer for new websites) to gain traction in the search results, it follows that your sales numbers will have to wait for significant ROI.
If you need results right away, you might try Google Ads while waiting for the organic search results to pay off.
Nobody truly knows the precise, intricate details of Google’s algorithm. What you think matters in search rankings (and what alleged masters are recommending) may convey about that is inverse from what you are anticipating. Just Google knows, thus, only Google has full control.
You have no control over how much activity you will produce and what kind of movement you will get from all your SEO endeavors.
It’s very surprising from paid showcasing where you will get comes about proportionate with what you paid for. Consequently, the most significant disadvantage of SEO is the lack of control. You are at the mercy of the algorithm.
Google can penalize your website
Google is always unpredictable with updates like Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Fred. Numerous efforts put by a search engine optimizer to achieve first page results may be ruined overnight because of being penalized from what this algorithm changes require.
This is very heartbreaking for a marketer to see all your efforts are cleanly swept, and you are left with no clue as to what exactly happened, and you have to start everything from scratch once more to regain everything.
Here’s a detailed infographic by the Spyfu team.
Some marketers see “SEO vs. PPC” as an either-or, winner-take-all competition. But we say that you don’t have to choose just one option — use them both to your advantage and combine your efforts to chase one goal. And that is to grow and scale your business effectively.