SEO vs. PPC: Which Should You Use?

Traffic is arguably the lifeblood of your business’s online presence and undertaking. In other words, the ultimate success of your online business highly depends on the amount of traffic it generates from its pages. This is comparably indubitably.

However, what stays the centre of the debate when it comes to business’ success, is the effectiveness of the two most valuable and powerful traffic generating solutions, SEO vs. PPC.

Buying your way to the very top of search engines with the help of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or investing your efforts for the benefit of organic or natural search engine marketing with the help of search engine optimisation (SEO.)

Maybe there is no right or wrong answer, or maybe the success is using them both and combining their benefits for maximum results. In any case, if you are having trouble choosing one method you should clearly highlight, analyse, and understand the pros and cons of each for your specific business.

That’s exactly how we will help you through this article. Let’s review everything together!

SEO: pros and cons

Advantages of using SEO:

SEO has a staying power

One of the primary advantages of SEO is that once you’ve ranked high in Google for your targeted keywords, you will start generating consistent traffic to your website.

The following example can help to showcase this point.

(Example of Organic traffic for the Ahrefs Blog via Site Explorer)
(Example of Organic traffic for the Ahrefs Blog via Site Explorer)

In other words, even in a hypothetical scenario when your entire marketing team takes a short break, the traffic to your website will still continue its flow thanks to the previous SEO efforts.

Try to compare this to other marketing channels like social media, or PPC and you will get a taste of why so many marketers keep resisting investing in SEO practices for small and medium businesses, especially considering it as a long term, scalable result generating solution.

SEO can be cheaper when considered long-term

Let’s continue our example of Ahrefs blog.

It ranks for over 120,000 keywords and simultaneously gets around 240,000+ search visitors a month.

Let’s say you decide to achieve the same results through PPC. It would mean that you should pay an estimated $733,000 per month (or $8.8 million per year.)

Considering the fact that there are only four or five people working in the team to create relevant content and chances are high they are not getting $2 million each in salaries, we can easily conclude that SEO is comparably cheaper in the long run.

SEO drives relevant, targeted traffic

When considering SEO for your digital marketing strategy you should highlight the fact that it allows the use of long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are typically three to five-word phrases that allow each search term to be more targeted and specific.

Let’s take an example. If someone is searching “tire change” they are most probably simply looking for some ideas or doing casual browsing. On the other hand, if a user is further into the process of finding the exact service they will be more likely to search for “seasonal tire change in Toronto” as an example.

Hence, with long-tail keywords more relevant and specific traffic enters the game, offering various benefits to your marketing efforts.

SEO encourages a user-friendly website

Another major difference between SEO and PPC is that while using PPC advertising you pay for the visitors, compared to earning visitors by improving your website through using SEO practices.

SEO might take a lot of efforts but in the long run, it improves both the quality of your traffic, its relevance, and your website, hence developing your site’s usability.

Shortcomings of using SEO:

SEO takes time

As you can see, SEO takes time.

Getting on the first page of search engines does not happen overnight and requires a lot of efforts. Getting to the top of SERPs takes time. Hence, if you have a short period of time to reach some specific results, SEO might not be your best choice.

However, once you’ve reached the desired results, remember that those will last for a long time.

SEO requires unique and reliable content

When it comes to sharing, consuming, and linking content people highly prefer to learn from experts.

It will be easier if you are the domain expert, as you can simply create the content by yourself. The situation is a lot different if you need to hire someone else to take care of your content.

For some small and medium businesses with limited resources hiring an expert to take care of relevant content can be expensive and time-consuming.

PPC Pros and and Cons

Let’s start by reviewing the pros of PPC advertising.

PPC is fast

As mentioned earlier SEO takes time and requires a lot of efforts and expertise. On the contrary, PPC is much quicker.

You can simply head over to your specific ad platform and start your desired campaign right away.

PPC offers granular targeting

Another important advantage of PPC is that you can easily lay around with your desired audience, type of data like demographics, geography and more.

In this case, you can easily control and pay only for the people that you want to see your website.

PPC allows using quick experimentation

Thanks to the fast feedback and nature of PPC you can easily open up a campaign, run A/B testing and through monitoring the results analyse what works the best and brings leads and what doesn’t.

As SEO is slower it can be hardened to track single individual changes or tactics.

Along with the mentioned benefits, it’s important to consider the cons of using PPC over SEO as well, to have the bigger picture.

Let’s discover those together!

PPC can get prohibitively expensive

When running PPC ads in a competitive industry like insurance, PPC can get really expensive pretty fast.

Let’s take an example, with DropBox’s 2009 case.

After they’ve experimented with Google Ads they’ve discovered that they were getting a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) of $233 — $388. This was the case when their product was only $99.

Hence, they were losing money by running Google Ads.

PPC can lose effectiveness

As mentioned earlier PPC can be easy to scale, but this scalability can be against it from time to time.

Ad building can be hard sometimes. You will have to create a new copy, content, images on a consistent base, in order to have effective results in the long-run.

PPC needs money to make money

It’s obvious that you will need money to start a PPC campaign.

It is also likely that you’ll lose money in the first few months as you figure out how to optimize your campaigns.

In any case you need to be optimistic about your goals, resources, and results. If you are a new startup with almost no budget, PPC ight be a costly option to get new customers on your way.

Your business’s success highly depends on your digital presence. PPC and SEO are considered to be the most effective approaches to reach your target audience in the most effective ways.

What’s more effective and what will be the best approach for your specific needs and goals. Make sure to review this article whenever facing this question again.