SEO vs. PPC: Which Is Best for Your Business?

08 March 2022
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
SEO vs. PPC: Which Is Best for Your Business?

When trying to increase the visibility of content in Google’s search results, marketers have two primary tactics to choose from – search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. While both tactics aim to achieve similar goals, the methodology, costs and strategy required for each is very different. So, which one is better?

What is SEO?

SEO is the organic process of optimising web pages based on a set of “signals” that Google’s algorithm uses to rank content. By doing this, you can increase the visibility of your pages when someone conducts a relevant search. Optimisation takes many forms and includes tasks such as researching keywords that target audiences might use when looking for your business online, and including them in your content. Keyword research is part of on-page SEO.

  • On-page SEO is based on content optimisation and tailoring blogs, articles and product pages for search.
  • Off-page SEO is based on website promotion and includes tactics such as building backlinks and using social media.
  • Technical SEO is based on technical factors that help your pages to be crawled, indexed and ranked in search.

SEO is very affordable compared to advertising. While it does require a certain level of investment, brands do not have to pay Google when their hard work pays off and they feature on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). It is no surprise then that 78% of small and medium-sized enterprises say they will make SEO a top priority in 2022, according to a new study by UpCity.

What is PPC?

While SEO is organic, PPC is a form of advertising where businesses pay a certain amount when someone clicks on one of their ads in search. Google Ads, the most popular advertising platform, allows businesses to bid on keywords that are relevant to their products and services, and target audiences. And rather than having to put in the groundwork and wait for results to materialise, PPC works as an immediate “leg-up” by putting a brand front and centre within an ad in search results.

This tactic, also known as paid search, can deliver quick results but it can also be expensive, depending on the industry and the “difficulty” of the keywords you want to target. The model is dependent on searchers clicking on ads, so you only have to pay when this occurs. PPC advertising is used by marketers when they want to convert people into paying customers immediately. It is used mainly to drive clicks, traffic and sales. There are different types of PPC. They include:

  • Display advertising.
  • Retargeting campaigns.
  • Social media advertising.
  • Affiliate marketing.

What are the pros of SEO?

Target different stages of the funnel

PPC is very much focused on the latter stages of the sales cycle, when there is an emphasis on fast-tracking the purchase process. In contrast, SEO can target different stages of the funnel. You can craft a long-form blog to educate audiences during the awareness phase and then publish a case study later on to convert them. SEO content creation can be matched at each stage, depending on a customer’s needs, which is more effective as you are offering support and guidance exactly when they require it.

Benefits are vast and interlinked

A PPC ad exists in search results and serves a purpose in the short term but the process of advertising doesn’t improve or enhance your website or its content thereafter. The UpCity study found marketers are using SEO to achieve a wide range of goals beyond just driving sales. These goals include strengthening domain authority, increasing brand awareness, improving the speed of pages and creating a better backlink profile, among others.

Search traffic is more stable

Organic SEO is a better platform for long-term success, as it raises the level of your website so it is in a position to reap the dividends of search interest and organic traffic every single day, without the need for ads. When you have managed to crack the top 10 results for a keyword or phrase, your content can stay there for months or even years. This is not the case with PPC, as visibility ends when your budget is used up or you focus your attention on other keywords.

Cost-effective in the long term

When you start ranking at the top of SERPs, you are also likely to generate a growing number of backlinks, as other publishers will reference your site as a trusted source. This can boost rankings yet further as Google’s algorithm takes the link profile of a site into account and is always ready and willing to rank content that is resonating with other people.

What are the pros of PPC?

Quick results

PPC can be an excellent tool of choice when used in the right situations. If you want to showcase thought leadership and build brand authority over time, PPC is not the way to go, but it can work if you want quick gains in a competitive market. SEO can really be transformative in the long term, but it does take time to get everything up and running and to reach a level of quality and relevance that translates to strong rankings. PPC, on the other hand, can be deployed and generate results within hours. This is great if you want to, for example, advertise a sale or new product.

Target audiences and test ads

When setting up PPC campaigns, you can target a very specific audience based on demographics and interests, and run A/B tests with different ads to see which one is better at driving clicks to your web pages. There is a level of granular control here that is not possible with organic content, though this is expected as PPC is a form of advertising. Its main purpose is to deliver messages in a direct and impactful way.

Prominent position in search

Another upside of PPC is overall visibility, as these ads are usually presented at the top of search results. On both desktop and mobile, there are several paid ads users have to scroll past to get to standard, blue link results, so you can really benefit if you can get your ads to take up a prime position in SERPs.

What’s the best tactic overall?

As you can see, both SEO and PPC have pros and cons. Fortunately, they can work together and support each other to increase the visibility of your brand. One way to do this is to engage a lead with an organic article and then use a retargeting ad to encourage that visitor to return to your site to make a purchase. Retargeting is an effective form of PPC that looks to re-engage potential paying customers.

PPC campaigns also give you access to lots of useful information and data about your best keywords and customers, which can be funnelled back into optimising your SEO. PPC versus SEO does not have to be an either-or situation. You can wield both effectively, subject to budgetary requirements, to dominate search rankings and to get people clicking through to your website regularly.

If you want to start using some of the SEO tactics listed here to get noticed online, we can help. Atlas SEO offers a range of services that create and optimise content for search, including outreach campaigns and blog management. Contact us today to find out more.

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