PPC vs. SEO: Which Is Right For My Business?

Brendan Egan

PPC vs. SEO: Which Is Right For My Business?

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of digital marketing, it can be difficult to figure out where you should even begin to market your business online. Two acronyms that you may come across as you try to answer this are PPC and SEO, which stand for pay-per-click and search engine optimization. Both of these strategies will help improve your brand’s online presence and drive traffic back to your website, but they don’t have to be used together in order to be effective. As you plan your digital marketing strategy, it’s important to learn a bit more about PPC and SEO to understand which is right for your business.

First, What’s the Difference?

Before jumping into which is right for your business, let’s take a closer look at each of these strategies. PPC ads are paid promotions run through platforms such as Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing, and Bing Ads. Brands choose keywords that are relevant to their business and target their ads at anyone who is searching for these keywords within the selected search engine. A Chicago marketing agency, for example, may choose “Chicago marketing agency” or “Chicago marketing experts” as their keywords. In this example, a potential client who is searching for these exact keywords may be exposed to the brand’s PPC ad under the sponsored section of the results page. Each time someone clicks on your sponsored ad, they are taken back to your website, and you are charged a fee (hence the name “pay-per-click”). The amount you have to pay will depend on the keywords you have chosen. The more competitive a keyword is, the more you will have to spend to reach customers searching for it.
On the other hand, SEO is an unpaid digital marketing strategy that attempts to drive traffic back to your website by improving your page’s rank in the organic search engine results. PPC is fairly simply—you select the keywords, create your ad, and adjust your campaigns as needed over time—but SEO is much more complex. There are a variety of strategies under the SEO umbrella that can be used to improve your ranking, including link building, keyword research, and content marketing.


Now that you know the difference between PPC and SEO, it’s time to figure out which you should use as part of your digital marketing strategy. First, you should identify your goals for your brand’s digital marketing campaign. Are you trying to build buzz around a new product in the weeks leading up to its launch? Or are you hoping to increase brand awareness over a period of six months to a year?  Notice that both of these goals addresses timeframe—that’s because this is an important factor to consider when deciding whether you should use SEO or PPC. In our experience, we have found PPC is better when you need to see immediate results, while SEO is the preferred strategy for long-term results.
Let’s take the product launch example to demonstrate why PPC works better for immediate results. If you are launching a product within the next few weeks, you don’t have the time to do thorough keyword research, create dozens of pages of content, and build inbound links on external websites. These elements of SEO take time, so you won’t see your website jump from the third page to the first overnight. However, a PPC ad can be launched in a matter of minutes, and if you choose the right keywords and are willing to pay, you’re guaranteed exposure. PPC is the perfect way to get your brand’s name in front of potential customers quickly—but remember, it will cost you.

Short vs. Long Term Strategies

In general, businesses tend to use PPC as a short-term strategy and SEO as a long-term strategy. Why is SEO the ideal long-term strategy? Not only does it take a lot more time to put together the various components of a solid SEO strategy and work your way up on the search results, but it is also the less expensive option of the two. If you work with a digital marketing agency, both PPC and SEO will cost you since you will have to pay the agency to implement each strategy. However, you will also have to pay for every click you receive with a PPC strategy, whereas you only have to pay the agency to do the work for your SEO strategy. Therefore, brands typically launch both strategies simultaneously, and then eventually phase out the PPC portion when the different pieces of the SEO strategy begin to come together.

PPC & SEO: Stronger Together?

Although PPC is usually used for immediate results while SEO is used on a long-term basis, many of our clients at Simple SEO Group have found a great deal of success using both strategies together on an ongoing basis. Clients can target keywords with low to moderate competition using PPC ads, and then use SEO to target highly competitive keywords. This is a great way to incorporate all of your desired keywords into your digital marketing strategy without having to break the bank by targeting highly competitive keywords with PPC ads.
As previously mentioned, PPC ads provide you with immediate results. One of the benefits of this is being able to quickly see data from the completed ads. Use this data to analyze which keywords are performing well and which are not so you can adjust your SEO strategy as needed. If you are doing ad copy tests within your PPC strategy, you should also pay close attention to what PPC ad copy is performing the best. Use this information when you create your title tags, meta descriptions and page content, which will strengthen your SEO strategy.
Although it is certainly not required that you utilize both PPC and SEO strategies together in order to reach your goals, it is definitely something to consider if you have the financial resources. If you need help determining which strategy is right for your business, contact us today for a free consultation.