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SEO vs PPC: What are they? Which is better?

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

For the modern digital marketer, search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) digital advertising are two strategies that complement each other. If you’ve been trying to create a more competitive online presence for your business on your own, you might be weighing up SEO vs PPC return on investment, the use cases and benefits of each strategy, along with their relevance for your business.

Your business presence online can’t be truly optimised using either paid or organic channels, both organic SEO and paid channels like Google ads are essential. Most enthusiastic entrepreneurs get the balance wrong and waste money pursuing the wrong approach which results in a poor return on investment.

How SEO does support your business growth?

SEO is the range of tools, techniques and technical elements we can use to create organic content deemed useful and authoritative to search engines like Google. These help pages rank highly for specific keywords or queries.

Ranking high on a search engine’s results page (SERP) is an excellent way to drive organic traffic (visitors that come from unpaid search engine results) to your site and help to grow your leads and business as you’re in the sight of interested potential customers in the consideration phase. Creating relatible content for your industry presents you and your business as an authority in your field, giving you increased exposure to other potential audiences that were previously unreachable.

Benefits of SEO

  • Long-term Results: Unlike quick-fix paid advertising strategies, SEO may take some time to establish, but once in place, it delivers sustainable results that offer a substantial return on investment. Think of it as an investment that keeps paying off over time.

  • Cost-effectiveness: SEO can be remarkably cost-effective when compared to other marketing methods because it continues to build your brand's presence long after your initial investment. It's like a low-maintenance, high-yield asset for your online visibility.

  • Comprehensive Funnel Targeting: SEO is versatile in its ability to address every stage of the buyer's journey. Whether users are in the early exploratory phase or are ready to make a purchase decision, SEO enables you to connect with them at each point in their journey, ensuring your brand stays on their radar.

  • Enhances Authoritativeness: Google's ranking factor known as E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) evaluates your entire website for quality and user usefulness. SEO helps establish your credibility and authority as an expert in your industry. This, in turn, can organically boost your page rankings across a variety of keyword searches. It's about becoming a trusted resource in your field.

Disadvantages of SEO

SEO, while undoubtedly effective, requires an ongoing commitment to vigilance. Maintaining that prized number-one spot on Google demands continuous attention to detail.

  • You must constantly update and monitor both on-page and technical SEO elements to keep pace with the ever-changing search engine algorithms. Even if you've never dabbled in questionable black hat optimisation tactics.

Moreover, SEO is no one-time investment. It's a continuous journey. The perpetual updating, maintenance, and creation of fresh content demand a sustained financial commitment.

  • You'll need to allocate a budget for staying in sync with Google's evolving guidelines, PPC, which generally involve one-off campaign costs.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that SEO is a long-term game. While it ultimately yields substantial results, it doesn't offer instant gratification. Patience is key. When pursuing an organic SEO strategy, it's typical to wait for six months to a year before witnessing the fruits of your labour.

The Role of PPC in Business Support

Now, let's dive into the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, a powerful tool for businesses. PPC is a form of advertising that appears prominently on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The cost is calculated per click, meaning the more relevant your PPC ad, the more clicks it will generate, and the more cost-effective it becomes for advertisers. To secure a top spot on a search results page, advertisers must bid on specific keywords.

Opting for PPC has its perks. With PPC, you can direct targeted traffic straight to your website. Your presence is guaranteed in the searches that matter most to your business. Through platforms like Google Ads, you can secure prime real estate at the very top of search engine results, eliminating any barriers for customers seeking solutions.

Advantages of PPC

One undeniable advantage of PPC is instant gratification. With a well-crafted paid ad strategy, you can start seeing results quickly, potentially within the very same day you launch your campaign. PPC also grants superior visibility. While SEO employs various tools and techniques to propel your site up the SERP, PPC ads claim the spotlight as the first thing potential customers encounter when their search results load. This prime positioning often translates to higher click-through rates compared to organic results nestled in the fourth or fifth spot.

Furthermore, PPC attracts clicks with intent. These aren't random clicks from users who can't distinguish between SEO and Google Ads. In many cases, these clicks are deliberate choices made by users with a high intent to engage with your business. PPC ads strategically target high-intent commercial keyword SERPs, maximising your conversion rates.

Last but not least, PPC offers invaluable insights and data. It's a goldmine of information about your target consumers' behaviour. By gaining data on which ads perform best, you can craft a more insightful and precisely targeted digital marketing campaign or organic SEO strategy.

Drawbacks of PPC

However, PPC comes with its share of challenges. The return on investment (ROI) in PPC can be a slippery slope. Since all PPC campaigns involve paid advertising, you may end up shelling out a significant budget for a limited ROI, depending on numerous factors. Measuring ROI can be a moving target, with outcomes varying each time.

PPC necessitates constant testing. To truly refine your paid ad strategy, ongoing testing, updating, and optimisation of new ads and landing pages are imperative. This requires budget allocation and an ongoing commitment to testing and refining with each new campaign iteration.

Perhaps one of the most significant risks of PPC is its potential to foster complacency. The instant gratification it provides might tempt businesses to neglect other marketing channels and become overly reliant on PPC for their digital strategy. However, over-reliance (placing all of your eggs in one basket) on a single channel can hinder the creation of a robust brand and business impact, and sustainable results. A balanced digital strategy is crucial.

SEO and PPC: A Synergistic Approach

From our discussion of the pros and cons of paid SEO versus organic SEO, it's clear that the strengths of paid ads and SEO often complement each other. The secret to sophisticated digital strategies lies in harnessing the power of both SEO and PPC in tandem. When these two work together, the result is a more efficient effort that reaps greater rewards for you and your business.

Dominating Branded Searches

When it comes to Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), your aim is to secure top-ranking positions for all your branded terms. Realistically, achieving this without combining organic SEO and PPC strategies can be challenging. That's why many business owners opt to purchase paid ads targeting their competitors' branded terms. To counter this competition, you'll need to invest in PPC for your branded search terms. Fortunately, your landing page's relevance to the search term often means that the first paid ad position will cost significantly less than it would for your competitors.

Transitioning Expensive PPC Keywords to SEO

As we've previously mentioned, a paid ad strategy yields valuable data for any business. After monitoring a live campaign for some time, you can identify which ads are strong converters and which generate a decent number of clicks but lack a matching conversion rate. If your more expensive ads fall into this category, you risk squandering a significant portion of your budget on keywords that lack high commercial intent or target users at the start of their buyer's journey. However, expensive PPC keywords aren't necessarily poor performers. Instead of continually paying for these keywords with Google or Bing Ads, consider a different approach. Use SEO to target these keywords with relevant on-page content, articles, and frequently asked questions.

Aligning Organic Results with PPC Ads

Another way to create synergy between your SEO and PPC efforts is to align your paid ads with organic results that guide potential customers along the conversion path. At the beginning of their journey, consumers typically seek information first when searching online. SEO excels at capturing this audience. As users progress through their customer journey, narrowing down single products or services, PPC becomes instrumental in reaching consumers prepared to make a purchase. With more data from campaigns and enhanced insights into your target audience, you can align your PPC ads with organic results that correspond to your ideal customer (target audience).

Partner with a Comprehensive Marketing Agency

If you're aiming to elevate your digital marketing strategy, seek the expertise of a marketing agency that comprehends how to enhance your online presence in meaningful ways.

Regardless of your industry or growth goals, rest assured that our digital marketers possess the expertise to craft a digital strategy that significantly improves your marketing performance over time. If you aspire to take your business to the next level and alleviate the stress and time doing DIY Marketing, connect with us and explore how our agency can design digital marketing strategy help your business reach the right people at the right time.

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