SEO vs PPC: Pros, Cons and Differences

Wondering whether you should use SEO or PPC for your business, but confused with all the conflicting information out there? Relax, in this article we’ll break down the pros, cons and differences of the two so that you can choose the right one for your business. 

At Undrcut we often get clients asking us, “Which is better: SEO or PPC?”. The truth is that there is no right answer to this question, as it completely depends on the marketplace and the situation of the client. 

We have a lot of success doing SEO for our clients, but that doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. The SEO landscape has gotten significantly more complex than it used to be. This increasing barrier to entry makes it hard for small businesses to get organic traffic without hiring an expert. 

The key thing to remember in any case, is that you must understand your customers and how they go about finding businesses online. You can then tailor your strategy to best reach them. 

Read until the end of this article to discover all the hidden pros, cons and differences of SEO vs PPC. We’ll go over all the pitfalls that usually stop business owners from seeing an ROI on their investment. 

Differences Between SEO and PPC

There are two ways to market your business in search engines like Google or Bing. These are PPC (pay per click) and SEO (search engine optimization). 

When you use PPC you appear at the top of the search results and pay for every click to your site.

SEO or the “organic results”, are the results below the ads, and although you don’t spend money directly with the search engines, most of the time you will need a budget to achieve good rankings.

Basic Overview of SEO

If you have decided to try and do SEO yourself, there are a lot of things involved in the ranking process. Here is just a very basic overview of the process for beginners. 

The first thing that needs to be done is onpage optimization. Basically this means changing the page title, meta description, headings, content and images to include your target keywords a specific number of times. The number of times depends on what sites Google has already chosen to rank at the top. This can get very complicated and is best done using software like SurferSEO, which gives you averages to shoot for in your optimization. You also need to interlink relevant content. This helps to establish relevance on a topic and help power up related pages. Tools like Screaming Frog show all the internal links that a site has for quick auditing.  

The next crucial part of a successful SEO campaign is building high quality back links to your site. Links are still the number one ranking factor in Google and when a quality site links to yours it’s almost like a vote that you deserve to rank higher. When building links it’s very important to only go for quality as using spammy links can get your site penalized. 

You also need to be careful with your anchor text, which are the words that the link is placed in. An example anchor text is “click here to contact us”. Using too many keywords in your anchor text can hurt your progress with SEO so it’s best to consult an expert on this. 

If you’re doing SEO for a local business there is also the “map pack” to think about, which is the Google maps listings at the top of the search results. Showing up in the map pack requires a few key things. The first is a highly optimized Google My Business listing with a completely filled out profile. Make sure the services, service area, hours and description are filled out with target keywords in them. The next thing to do is to have a lot of activity on the listing. This means getting regular reviews and posting at least once a week. The last key thing to do is to build a lot of business citations using the NAP (name, address, phone number) of the business.

Overall this is just a basic overview of the SEO process. If you would like to learn more about it then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. 

Basic Overview of PPC

When it comes to PPC there are four different ads that show above the organic results and three that show at the bottom of the page. It might seem easy to do PPC and show up at the top but there is a lot more involved in running an effective campaign.

There are two different types of ads to consider when it comes to PPC: search network and display network. 

The search network is the text based ads that show up when someone searches for a certain keyword. These are easy to spot as they say “ad” to the left of them, although they blend in with the organic results more than they used to. The main parts of the ad is the headline, description, extensions and landing page link. These must all be optimized properly if you want the campaign to be profitable.

The display ads are banner based ads that show up when people visit another site. The main purpose of these is to retarget people that might have visited a site but left before buying anything. They aim to get you to go back and complete the purchase.

This is a very basic overview of PPC, the main thing to keep in mind is that you must track your campaigns very carefully in order to not lose money.

Pros of SEO

Here are all the benefits that you can expect if you run an effective SEO campaign. 

Branding

In 2019 branding is essential and there’s no better way than to show up #1 for the name of your business. You want your brand to be associated with trust and become an authority around the topic of your company. 

Customer Awareness

Customers cannot buy from you if they don’t know you. SEO is a great way to increase awareness about your brand and put your business in front of them.

High Quality Traffic

When done correctly, SEO can provide high quality traffic to your site. This captures more of the potential customers that are looking for your company every month. The best part is that people searching for certain keywords are much more likely to convert into buyers as they have your product or service in mind already. This is called “search intent”. 

High ROI

Although organic traffic is not actually “free”, it still provides a big return on investment when done correctly. The ROI of SEO is much higher than PPC. 

Trust and Credibility

A lot of people are known to skip over ads because of credibility issues. If your brand is listed in the top organic results you have a lot of perceived trust with potential buyers and they will click on your results more often. 

Cost

Quality SEO services are not cheap, but when done properly it is still the cheapest way to get targeted traffic to your site. 

Long Lasting

Unlike PPC which stops the second you stop paying for clicks, SEO traffic can continue potentially forever with minimal investment if done right. This can be a great thing during a slow time of year when there is a limited marketing budget. 

Competitive Advantage

Although it isn’t easy to run a successful SEO campaign, once you’re at the top you tend to stay there. It almost creates a moat for your brand and your competitors can’t simply buy their way into the top spots like with PPC. 

Cons of SEO

Despite all the positives to SEO there are certainly some cons that we will go over. 

Slow

Probably the biggest con of SEO is that it is a long term play. Organic traffic can take time, sometimes years depending on the competition you’re up against.

Competitive

Given that SEO has such an ROI there will usually be a lot of people gunning for the top spots. This means that you better have the skills needed to rank or you can end up wasting a lot of time and money only to get half way there and see no return on your investment. 

Resource Intensive

With all the work involved in SEO there’s no way that you can do everything yourself. Having a good team is essential to get everything done. A team will take time and resources to build up. 

PPC Pros

Now that you know all about the benefits of SEO let’s look at some of the ways that PPC is the better choice. 

Guaranteed Position

As long as you pay for it you’ll always have a top position in the search engines. Sure, ads might not get any clicks but a PPC campaign is better than an SEO campaign that doesn’t make it to page 1. 

Customizable Message

Unlike with SEO where you have to optimize content for keywords and keep conversions as a second priority, PPC allows you to have a landing page built especially for conversions. You don’t have to worry about SEO optimization like TFIDF and other things. 

Visual Ads

If you happen to be running ads for products you can use Google shopping ads to display pictures of the product right in the search results. This really improves click through rate and isn’t available in the organic search results. 

Strict Budget Control

PPC enables you to have complete control over how much is spent. You can set spending limits so that you never go over a certain amount. You can set spending limits with SEO as well but if you’re doing SEO yourself then the costs can vary a lot more depending how much experience you have. 

Targeting

The targeting with PPC is much more laser targeted than organic. Once you’ve tested and found out which keywords gives you the best ROI, you can scale campaigns to target only those. Organic traffic is much less targeted in this aspect. 

Fast

Unlike SEO which can take months to get going, PPC campaigns can literally start generating leads/sales almost instantly. There’s no faster way to get results than by paying for it. 

Testing the Market

If you have a new product/service that you aren’t quite sure about you can run a test PPC campaign to see how it does. Then you will know if it’s worth investing in an SEO campaign or not. This could save you money in the long run by avoiding bad investments. 

More Data

With SEO keywords there remains some mystery about some of the statistics regarding conversion rates. This doesn’t exist with PPC. If you set everything up properly and track conversions with Google Analytics you can see exactly what keywords convert at which rate. You can also use this information to improve your SEO campaigns. 

A/B Testing

Whether you want to test different landing pages, call to actions or ads, it’s all easy to do with PPC. This intel can then be used in your other marketing channels. 

Update Safe

Some Google updates have been legendary in nature and not in a good way. Overnight sites have had their traffic decimated by the likes of “Panda”, “Penguin” and “Medic”. With PPC you never have to worry about the algorithm again. 

Cons of PPC

Sure PPC has a few advantages over SEO but what about the cons?

Expensive

There’s no denying the ROI that SEO can provide. While PPC can definitely provide a good ROI if done correctly, it’s still much more expensive and the costs can really add up over time. You also have to take into account bidding wars. If your competitor sees you getting clicks for a keyword that they are targeting they may up the budget to compete. This can end up being a race to the bottom at times. 

Copycats

PPC is fairly easy to copy. Almost any competitor that has the know how can come in and copy your best performing landing pages and ads. There’s almost nothing you can do about this either. SEO on the other hand is not so easy to replicate. 

Constant Monitoring

Any successful PPC campaign needs constant monitoring to avoid losing money. Quality scores, bids, CTR and positions are all very important and crucial in order to get an ROI from the campaign. 

Who Should Use SEO?

Overall, we think that every business should have at least some presence in the organic search results but there are a few things to keep in mind if you go this route. You should go with SEO if you meet the following criteria:

  • Can afford to wait a bit for results
  • Have a budget to compete for your target keywords
  • Have the expertise or have hired an expert to help rank for target keywords
  • Are building a brand
  • Have a local business

Who Should Use PPC?

PPC can be powerful when used correctly. We think you should use PPC if you meet the following criteria:

  • Need fast results
  • Have a solid budget
  • Have the expertise or have hired an expert to help run the campaign
  • Are building a brand

Hybrid Strategy: SEO and PPC

SEO and PPC both have their pros and cons but can work synergistically together. Using both can often get you better results than just focusing on one at a time. 

Here is why you should run both:

  • Taking up multiple spots on page 1 can increase overall traffic
  • Data from PPC can be used for SEO targeting
  • Split testing results can be used to optimize for organic conversions
  • Test the market with PPC to make sure that investing in SEO is worthwhile
  • Increase brand awareness by using both

In our experience combining both SEO and paid advertising can be a great approach. The main thing is to hire an expert to manage it for you. Undrcut has years of experience in the digital marketing space and can help your business gain more visibility. Contact us today for a free strategy session.

SEO vs PPC: The Verdict?

Overall we can’t tell you whether SEO or PPC is right for your particular business without knowing all the facts. 

With that said, we do think that SEO is essential for every brand. It will be very hard to establish trust with your customers if they can’t find you with various Google searches related to your business. Also increased competition with bidding can quickly drive up PPC budgets and make campaigns unprofitable very fast. 

Some questions to ask yourself would be: Do you need instant leads? Does your website have natural backlinks/authority? Is the SEO high competition? What is the CPC in paid search?

Regardless of the strategy you choose, make sure to have clear goals in mind and a realistic plan to achieve them. 

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