By Damien Alcock

Unless you have an established brand, your website will require search engine marketing before it can become visible in search engine results and generate traffic for keywords that are most valuable to your business. Search engine marketing is divided into two categories:

  1. SEO – search engine optimisation
  2. PPC – pay per click

Without SEO or PPC, customers are going to have a very hard time knowing that your business exists. You’ll be relegated to the digital abyss. Developing a marketing campaign that is going to guarantee long-term success, requires time, effort and money.

The following article teaches you everything you need to know about SEO and PPC, and how they can be used to help maximise your business success.

Table of Contents

What is SEO?

SEO, an abbreviation of Search Engine Optimisation is the process of improving the position of or ‘optimising’ a web page to appear as high as possible in search engine results pages (themselves often abbreviated to SERPs) for a given keyword search phrase. SEO is concerned with what is known as organic traffic. That is, traffic that has been earned as a result of SEO practices.

What is PPC?

PPC, an abbreviation of Pay-Per-Click is a method of paid advertising, where users are charged a fee whenever somebody clicks on one of their advertisements. PPC advertising on both search engines and social media platforms is extremely common and like SEO, is highly competitive.

When a user wishes to advertise on a search engine such as Google for example, they are required to bid against competitors for search phrases that are important to their business. As users scroll through information on their devices from top to bottom, businesses wishing to have their ads appearing at the very top of the page will be required to pay the most.

SEO vs PPC ROI

Assuming you don’t make the mistake of squandering your money by allowing your PPC or SEO campaign to be handled by frauds or buffoons, then ROI is always going to favour SEO. For starters, click through rates for listings on page 1 are always much higher for organic search results, than they are for PPC ads. Why? Because many people choose to avoid the ads entirely, as they associate ads with shady and disreputable entities who lack the trust and credibility of businesses that are featured in the organic results.

To understand the role that CTR plays in ROI for both PPC and SEO (SERP), consider the following data that was compiled in 2022 by First Page Sage.

PositionCTR
Ad 12.1%
Ad 21.6%
Ad 31.4%
Ad 41.2%
SERP 139.6%
SERP 218.4%
SERP 310.1%
SERP 47.6%
SERP 55.1%
SERP 64.7%
SERP 73.5%
SERP 82.9%
SERP 92.2%
SERP 102.1%

From this, we can see that the organic listing that features at the very bottom of page 1 (SERP 10), has a CTR of 2.1%, which is equivalent to the CTR of the highest placed and therefore most expensive PPC ad (Ad 1). This means that if your business was listed at the very bottom of the SERP for a given keyword, you would be receiving the exact number of visitors as the top placed ad, and, unlike the PPC ad, you would not be paying Google each time somebody clicked on your listing.

When you consider that it’s possible to rank on page 1 for keywords long after an SEO campaign has ended, you quickly begin to appreciate how the ROI of SEO would become more and more superior to that of PPC.

Does PPC help SEO?

As an SEO company, our clients often ask us if PPC helps SEO. In other words, they wish to know if creating a Google Ads campaign will boost their Google organic rankings. The answer to this is no.

As Google themselves are quoted as saying:

“A PPC ad solution like Google Ads doesn’t have the same results as SEO and won’t improve your organic search rankings.”Google

However, while PPC doesn’t boost your organic rankings, there are a number of important ways in which PPC can help improve your visibility and organic rankings over the longer term, provided that you learn how to leverage your PPC traffic with your on-page content effectively.

How do SEO and PPC work together?

While using a PPC platform such as Google Ads won’t directly affect your SEO, it does provide your business with a number of powerful benefits that indirectly affect SEO.

PPC enables you to dominate the entire page of search results

In most cases, businesses will turn to PPC to advertise because they aren’t visible on page 1. So it makes perfect sense. However, some businesses who are well-positioned on page 1 may still choose to use PPC, as it provides them with even greater coverage. This way, the business will be visible on page 1 in both the ads section(s) and in the organic listings. Companies with particularly deep pockets may choose to outbid their competitors for each and every ad space available, guaranteeing maximum exposure for their brand.

PPC allows you to identify lucrative organic keyword phrases

Knowing the best keywords to target is essential for all PPC and SEO campaigns. In order to rank for search terms that are most relevant to your business, you must focus on the keywords. The problem with SEO is that it can take weeks or even months before a web page begins to rank well in organic search, making it extremely difficult to know if the keyword is worth going after or not.

PPC on the other hand, gives you instant feedback on what is and isn’t working, allowing you to quickly identify which keywords have generating the greatest number of clicks through to your site. This knowledge can then be quickly applied to your SEO campaign.

PPC can strengthen brand visibility which can improve organic CTR

When a user visits your site through a PPC ad, it allows them to become familiar with your brand. While not every click through will result in a lead or sale, it may help to create confidence in your products/services over time. The more exposure a visitor has to your brand, the greater the likelihood that they will do business with you.

PPC can help you obtain more local clients

Obtaining local business customers is a critical part of every marketing strategy. The majority of users now perform searches for local business services using their phones. PPC can quickly allow you to secure more locally based clients. When you search for a local based product or service on your phone in Google, the first thing that appears at the very top are the PPC ads, followed by Google’s Local Pack and finally the organic listings (SERPs).

Having your business listed in a PPC ad ensures that it’s the first thing a prospective customer sees when they perform a search. Suppose they also then see your business in the Local Pack and the SERPs as well. People will begin to associate your brand’s prevalence with prominence, increasing the likelihood of them doing business with you and also clicking your listings whenever they see them in organic search.

Pros of SEO

Its effects are long lasting

While SEO may require some time before businesses can begin to see tangible results, its positive benefits will still continue to be felt, long after an SEO campaign has ended, making it cost-effective in the long run. A business that is ranking high on page one for a lucrative search term, may be able to continue to rank on page 1 without doing anything at all, for many weeks or even months.

Improves brand prominence

Having your web pages ranking high in search engine results doesn’t just improve the likelihood of users clicking through to your site, it also improves the prominence of your brand. This sends a signal to search engines that your brand is an authority on a particular topic.

Can be entirely free to implement

The only thing that achieving outstanding rankings in organic search results really requires, is time. If you have the time to teach yourself the fundamentals of SEO and you have the time to implement tasks on a regular basis, then your SEO efforts can result in tremendous success.

Can benefit your business on social media

A cornerstone of all successful SEO campaigns is excellent on-page content. Content writing typically includes textual content for landing pages and blog posts and it is these blog posts that can prove enormously valuable for social media purposes. Publishing a link to a great article that you’ve recently added to your business blog onto a social media platform such as Facebook, is a great way to get potential customers click through to your website. If it’s a particularly interesting piece, they may decide to share the post amongst their friends, bringing even more attention to your business.

Visitors who land on your website from a search engine, will sometimes view a business’ social media pages, allowing them to see blog posts and other media that you’ve published, which they may not have otherwise seen. Additionally, If they see that your social pages have a steady supply of quality content, they may choose to start following your page, allowing you to grow your follower numbers.

Ensures maximum success for your PPC campaigns

PPC is all about getting users to click through to your website, in the hopes that they will either buy your products or engage your services. Having well-written pages that deliver a great user experience will maximise the chances of your PPC campaign being successful.

It allows you to optimise your business for local search results

SEO allows you to optimise your business to rank better in local search results such as Google’s Local Pack. Google only displays 3 businesses in the Local Pack on search results pages, but having your business appear in this pack is incredibly valuable, as the listings display a wide range of details that are not displayed in ordinary organic listings, including business name, address, phone number, website URL, photos, customer reviews and so on.

Provides better conversion rates

A good SEO specialist understands that SEO isn’t just about optimising websites to rank well and bring in more organic traffic, it’s about optimising the experience for the user once they arrive on your website. Google now places a huge emphasis on user experience and they’ve created a whole list of things that webmasters can do to optimise for user experience, along with various tools to monitor the performance of their web pages such as PageSpeed Insights. Sites that provide an optimised user experience, ensure better search engine rankings and by extension, better conversion rates.

Increases user engagement

Websites that are well optimised and contain great content that satisfies searcher intent, will ensure that visitors are more inclined to spend a greater amount of time browsing and navigating your business’ offerings.

SEO is active 24/7

Unlike PPC, the effects of SEO on your website and your business are felt 24/7. There’s no need to specify ad budget or spend time determining when your business listings will be shown. This means that your business will be visible to potential customers at all times of the day.

Allows you to occupy multiple spots (without paying!)

With a well-performing web page, it’s possible to occupy numerous different areas of the page for a given search term. Your page could example appear in a featured snippet, multiple organic listings, and in the answer to a question listed under Google’s ‘People also ask’ section.

Cons of SEO

Its benefits are not immediately noticeable

Depending on the level of competition that exists for the products and services that you wish to rank for and your personal budget, making it to page 1 of organic search results may take a considerable amount of time to achieve. Why does SEO take time? While there are literally hundreds of different factors that determine search engine rankings, two of these carry infinitely more weight than all the others; on-page content and backlinks.

With backlinks in particular, generating high quality backlinks organically to your web pages in a manner that complies with Google’s guidelines, takes considerable time. What does ‘organically’ mean in the context of link building? It means having other web users link to your pages, as a result of them enjoying the content you have created.

Along with backlinks, creating excellent on-page content is also time-consuming. Developing good content is rarely a case of doing something perfectly the first time, and having the luxury of being able to sit back and reap the rewards. It’s a process that requires updating and refining.

It can require considerable investment to rank in a competitive market

Unless you find yourself in a position where you are able to make a substantial contribution to the efforts that will improve your brand’s visibility in search engines, such as regular content creation and promotion, backlink outreach and so on, then you will be required to delegate most of the tasks to an SEO company. Highly competitive markets are often saturated with large companies that have very deep pockets – something which typically makes them very difficult to compete against in the online space, particularly if you’re a startup.

Results are not guaranteed

Unless you happen to sign a contract with an SEO company which stipulates that they will guarantee certain results, SEO does not provide any such guarantees. Having said that however, an experienced SEO company will be able to gauge the level of competition for your particular niche and determine what they believe to be a suitable budget and timeline for which you can expect to achieve worthwhile results.

Pros of PPC

Allows you to quickly get visitors onto your website

Pay-Per-Click ad campaigns allow you to quickly get visitors onto your website. If you have the necessary budget, you can easily begin luring potential customers in your direction. This is great for startup companies who aren’t prepared to wait for the effects of SEO to kick in, or for companies that wish to quickly get the word out about an upcoming event that is time-sensitive.

Campaigns can be optimised to ensure a profitable ROI

With Google Ads in particular, every aspect of your campaign can be monitored, refined and monetised. Google Ads provides customers with a comprehensive suite of tools and if placed in capable hands, can be used to fine-tune all ads until they generate a profitable ROI.

Isn’t affected by Google’s search algorithm updates

Google is constantly updating their search engine algorithm to help provide users with the best possible search results. Major algorithm updates have the potential to noticeably affect some organic search results. By comparison, the PPC algorithm is relatively stable, ensuring that you’ll never have to make any sweeping changes to your PPC campaign.

Enables a high level of target demographic customisation

PPC allows you to customise many facets of your target audience, including age, hobbies, location and more, enabling you to cater particular ads to their respective customer personas. Once you begin advertising you’ll receive all sorts of relevant data, telling you which users are responding most to your ads and what devices they are using. This helps you to create powerful ads that are targeted to your highest-converting customers.

Allows you retarget customers

One of the most powerful features of PPC is retargeting, which allows you to ‘retarget’ (readvertise to) users who saw your previous ad, clicked through to the respective page on your site, but ultimately did not convert. With retargeting, you can choose to redisplay the ad to this same user at a later time.

PPC advertisements are easy to create

Creating an ad in Google Ads does not require you to have any special design or marketing expertise. It’s quick to set up, available to every business and you can choose to either go it alone or seek the assistance of a Google Ads agency that can devise a profitable PPC campaign for your business.

Cons of PPC

You disappear from sight, the moment you end your PPC campaign

Unlike SEO, where it’s possible for your website to retain its prominent presence in organic search results for many months – or in some cases, even years after your SEO campaign has ended, with PPC, this is not the case. The moment you stop paying for your ads to be displayed, is the moment that your business vanishes back into obscurity. This makes PPC far too expensive and impractical as a longer term solution for most businesses.

PPC bidding wars

While it’s true that PPC does grant you complete control over your budget, this in no way means that PPC is going to be economical for you. Just like you, each of your competitors wants to be listed at the very top of the search results in the event that they decide to advertise on Google.

When someone else wishes to have their business advertised in the highest position for the same keyword at the same time of day as you do, a bidding war can occur. If this does transpire, it’s important to remind yourself that the number one priority for advertising is to entice users to visit your website, not to outbid and outrank your competitors. Doing this will help you avoid the mistake of going over budget for what may well prove to be for little gain.

It’s called Pay Per Click for a reason!

When it comes to PPC, your entitled to ‘X’ amount of clicks based on your budget. Whether it’s a prospective customer or a competitor clicking your links, your budget is consumed with every click. Once your budget has been used up, your ads disappear until a) your campaign budget is renewed or b) you pay to expand your budget to allow for more clicks.

PPC ads may make your business appear less trustworthy

Some users intentionally avoid clicking on ads, whether in search engines such as Google, or on social media platforms such as Facebook. Why? Well with search engines in particular, people understand that literally anyone with a website and enough money to pay for a simple ad, can have it displayed in search results. However, the person behind the website may be operating an entirely fraudulent business.

When a business is ranked among the highest positions of Google’s organic search results (SERPs – Search Engine Results Pages), they are listed there because they have established themselves as a trusted merchant/service provider for that particular niche, not because they’ve paid Google or anyone else to put them there. The same simply cannot be said for businesses listed in PPC ads.

Social media ads may incur additional costs

If you’re advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, it’s essential that your ad stands out visually as possible, in order to entice users to click through. Unless you are artistically and creatively talented enough to design your own compelling ads, doing so will require you to outsource the creation of your ads to a designer. This will naturally result in increased ad expenses.

PPC or SEO: which is better?

Which is the best solution for your business; PPC or SEO? This depends on your situation. If you’re well-financed and need to see instant results, then a PPC campaign has the potential to deliver excellent outcomes for you, provided you entrust your campaign with an experienced PPC advertising specialist. Even with PPC however, immediate success is not guaranteed and it can take some time before optimal ad settings (keywords and ad copy such as titles and descriptions) are determined.

If results aren’t absolutely urgent and you have a broader timescale to work with, then SEO is the much smarter option. Once your business has achieved prominent positions in Google’s organic search results for keyword phrases that are most important to your business, it is possible to remain well-positioned for these search terms for a considerable amount of time – even after you’ve halted your SEO campaign. This is not the case with PPC. The moment your paid search campaign has ended or your daily/weekly budget has been depleted, your ads will disappear from sight.