PPC vs. SEO: Head to Head

In today’s world, you have undoubtedly heard of SEO and PPC. The terms are unavoidable in our digitally, Internet-focused world. Everywhere you turn, there’s a new article detailing new SEO strategies and exploring how PPC will enhance your overall web strategy. We won’t lie: it can be confusing. Step one to successfully using SEO and PPC in your marketing efforts is to understand the similarities and differences between the two.

There are strategic reasons to utilize PPC and SEO practices. Both PPC and SEO are part of SEM (search engine marketing), which is one of the tools used for online advertising. Although different methodologies, each of their goals is to generate more traffic and ultimately lead to an increase in conversions (phone call, form submission, etc.).

First, let’s look at each of their definitions. PPC, meaning Pay Per Click, is a form of advertising that involves bidding on targeted keywords through an ad platform in order for your ad to show up at the top of the search engine results page. SEO, meaning Search Engine Optimization, is optimizing your website in order to make it more relevant to natural or organic search terms.

Now, let’s examine the benefits to each practice. PPC can yield instant results and connects you with people who are looking for what you are offering. PPC offers targeting to reach specific groups of people, perhaps with specific interests and/or in geographical areas — ultimately a demographic that may be more likely to purchase. Finally, PPC guarantees a steady stream of visitors and allows you to promote a specific deal, product or service. Alternatively, SEO has multiple benefits. For example, SEO’s return on investment will continue to rise over time and is, therefore, better in the long run. SEO relies on organic searches which consumers tend to trust more than sponsored advertisements. In addition, SEO helps your website show up more often in relevant organic searches.

Knowing the benefits to both PPC and SEO, it is also important to understand the limitations to each. For example, PPC does not improve organic search rankings. PPC requires testing campaign variables to improve conversions and overall ROI. In addition, PPC requires continual monitoring to optimize performance. Some of the limitations to SEO are that it requires more time in order to generate results. SEO also requires ongoing upkeep, and a lot of factors are simply out of your control. Finally, SEO requires dedicated time to monitor through various tools and make content adjustments or add additional content.

The decision to utilize PPC or SEO is contingent on your business’ goals and which practice makes the most sense to fulfill those goals. In an ideal world, the use of both marketing practices would be beneficial for accomplishing short- and long-term goals. However, each practice on its own offers respective costs and benefits for a business’ search marketing capabilities.