Should I Pursue an SEO or PPC Campaign?

If you’re like most people reading this right now, you either own or manage a website – and you would probably be happier if the money you spend on advertising would give you the most bang for your buck.

Luckily, in this piece we’re going to compare, contrast and explore SEO and PPC, and help you evaluate the best marketing approach for your specific industry. We’re also going to find out whether a direct comparison is even right in the first place or whether or not a complimentary outlook to SEO and PPC is more appropriate, rather than viewing them as rival services.

We’ll also discuss the different forms of paid advertising and explore several competitors to Google Ads. By the end of this article you’ll feel more confident and knowledgeable and informed about PPC and SEO. 

If you need the guidance and expertise of a marketing professional, our SEO and PPC marketing experts at Outreach Frog can help you understand the most effective approach to your marketing strategy, and help you execute it, too. Schedule a call with us today.


What is PPC?

Google’s Pay-Per-Click (PPC), classically called AdWords but now simply called Google Ads, is a powerful way to maximize leads and conversions, increase online sales, increase your traffic, and build brand awareness. You achieve this by paying for your website to appear on Google’s search engine results page under the “sponsored” portion of the SERP. 

As you know, Google is a very important and powerful company when it comes to selling your products and services. Their search engine is the defacto standard, with more than 85% of all searches worldwide.

PPC is absolutely loved by many marketers who find it an essential piece of a bouquet of marketing techniques and methods used to find success online. It’s hard to claim PPC hasn’t been a tremendous transformative force upon the overall scene of marketing, and has formed the backbone of many successful marketing efforts by huge companies, for nearly two solid decades.

Many good things can be said about PPC’s triumphs: It’s powered entire industries to life and given rise to an entire online ecosystem of ad delivery and value – this really isn’t disputable. PPC is a valid, strong form of marketing and those in its camp tend to cite its simplicity of setup, simplicity of scale (to a point) and its flexibility to change on a dime if keyword pursuits change based on trends or other factors.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your site better for search engines. It includes a combination of content, on-page optimizations, off-page strategy, and technical aspects that all come together to make your site crawled, contextualized by Google, and visible to the right audience. In opposition to PPC, it puts you on the search engine result page organically, versus paying for the visibility. This is considered a much more competitive, but cost-effective and long-term way of achieving visibility on the internet. Some marketers choose to do SEO or PPC only, which may be the correct approach for their industry, but others do both simultaneously. This has proven to be a powerful combination of tactics for your marketing efforts.

It’s important to be clear about what is explicitly SEO and what activities fall outside the scope of SEO and instead, under normal site maintenance.

For example, though publishing content on a website and/or syndicating blog posts on social media may help with SEO as well as help obtain organic backlinks, this is not an ‘SEO campaign’ in the true meaning of the word.

SEO is widely perceived to be slower and more cumbersome and less precise, yet more powerful broadly speaking and, for those who value it, SEO is considered more practical because it can be pursued in a multitude of ways.

None of SEO’s strengths are matched with weaknesses on the PPC side – because, in the minds of many – including this author – the two are not really comparable in an apples-to-apples kind of way.

An SEO campaign is an explicit combination of efforts under a single umbrella, with specific keywords being pursued. Most of the time, a set amount of work is being carried out each week and specific activities are also being conducted on a periodic time table.

This is important to understand because what it means is SEO campaigns have a substantial form to them, a logic, a design. Working on your website, conducting outreach to obtain guest posts or doing link sharing with websites, all of these are great things for SEO.

However, they are all sort of universal things, you should be doing these things for your website no matter if you’re conducting PPC campaigns, SEO campaigns or no campaigns, because it’s just a part of the basics we should all be doing for our sites. 

When Is SEO Considered Better Than PPC?

SEO takes more time to pay off, but its results are long-lasting and there is no upper limit to how well you can rank and for how many keywords. 

When Is PPC Considered Better Than SEO?

PPC gives immediate results that scale linearly with the budget – want more traffic, clicks, leads and sales? Pay more! Keep it simple. 

What’s The Main Difference Between SEO and PPC?

Viewed from the perspective of someone apportioning a marketing budget, SEO and PPC can seem quite similar. It’s important to understand the difference from a business perspective and a technical perspective to truly understand where to place your money.

Pay-Per-Click can also be thought of as Clicks-At-The-Pump, you watch, wait and hope as your money drains away and converts into people clicking ads and winding up on your site. But when you stop paying, it comes to an abrupt end – no money, no ads, no traffic.

With most SEO campaigns things work quite differently. SEO campaigns start slowly and ramp up over time as search engines index pages, content and more. Over time this has the effect of building up a durable edifice of marketing that works to sustain rankings, sometimes indefinitely but certainly in a durable manner.

This is a major, major difference and one that must be understood by businesses apportioning their hard-earned money to market themselves online.

PPC’s Strengths & Weaknesses

The strengths of PPC are simple and powerful, and anyone can understand why it’s popular. 

The three biggest strengths of PPC:

  • Fast – Turn it on and go!
  • Reliable – It works, most of the time
  • Safe – Google is legitimate & So are others!

But three biggest drawbacks of PPC:

  • Costly – PPC can be very expensive, even prohibitively expensive!
  • Complicated – PPC campaign management is a science unto itself
  • Unscaler – Many find it difficult to scale up their businesses based on PPC – there is a limit!

These downsides of PPC are real and frustrating. This is something that many who use PPC quickly learn they have to deal with in order to use it, much to their chagrin. The complexity of running PPC campaigns profitably is not something many are prepared to deal with to any great degree, and few truly understand. 

To make a long, complex topic quite simple – PPC campaigns need to be managed properly to maximize efficiency, much the same as any other form of marketing and without that management, PPC campaigns can fail too. Scaling problems with PPC are not something everyone is familiar with, so don’t feel bad if you never considered it – the writer didn’t, until he had to deal with it. 

Basically, the situation is that many website owners, especially regional professionals, attempt to scale up PPC by throwing increasing amounts of money at it, and it does not work. Keywords are bid upon and driven up in price by the traffic and competition amongst those bidding on them, it does absolutely no good to saturate searches with no search volume at all, or barely any. 

So once you saturate your target keywords and everything with lower competition, you will eventually run out of stuff to bid on that’s worthwhile.

SEO’s Strengths & Weaknesses

SEO, just like PPC, has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Though different from PPC in a myriad of ways, SEO comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

The three biggest strengths of SEO:

  • Cumulative – Results add up over time
  • Scalable – It can be scaled up to any level
  • Powerful – Ranking for keywords is powerful!

The three biggest downsides of SEO:

  • Long Turnaround – It can take a while to begin showing results
  • Expensive – good SEO can cost money!
  • Nuanced – takes industry and extensive competitor research to execute effectively

The Similarities Between SEO and PPC 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising share notable similarities in their overarching goal of enhancing online visibility and driving traffic to websites. Both strategies aim to improve a website’s ranking on search engine results pages, albeit through different approaches. SEO primarily focuses on optimizing content, utilizing keywords, and enhancing the overall website structure to achieve organic, non-paid visibility.

On the other hand, PPC involves paid advertisements that appear at the top or side of search engine results, allowing businesses to bid on keywords for immediate visibility. Both methods involve keyword research, analytics tracking, and continuous optimization to maximize effectiveness. Despite their differences, the symbiotic relationship between SEO and PPC is evident, as they collectively contribute to a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, ensuring a website’s prominence across various online channels.

Many people compare SEO and PPC as if they were a pair of alternatives instead of complimentary services.

The truth is, SEO and PPC work very well together and that’s when both of them really shine, because they represent separate solutions to separate problems of marketing – short and long term, commercial and organic. The reason these two, vastly different solutions work so well together is because websites and the businesses behind them, have varied needs.

The Importance Of Understanding Your Industry In Any SEO or PPC Campaign

This is a strategy that may work for some but not others, everything in digital marketing is custom and due diligence is critical. Every implementation of every marketing solution is custom, not taking the time to understand your own precise needs is a huge mistake – so don’t make it. 

Be aware of how solutions may be applied to your business (and others) very differently on a case by case basis, meaning there are very few universal truisms here. Sometimes things, such as seasonal factors, influence things like marketing budget allocation, with it being important for clients to profit from seasonal consumer behavior patterns – therefore necessitating PPC as a way to fortify against failure.

This is a case in point of a website owner, a business, being locked into a marketing model. PPC is a necessity for that client right now, but the situation might change should their rankings improve.

How To Improve Your Site’s Ranking Regardless of an SEO or PPC Campaign

Whether you are running an SEO campaign and want to turbocharge it or are running PPC and would like to help your site’s organics as well, you can and should be doing things from your end to help yourself to rank.

Though numerous SEO self-help methods exist, at the end of the day, for most who already have a well optimized site, the efforts available to them are content creation and guest blogging / link sharing outreach.

Video Content

Websites are driven by their relevance and the best way to increase the relevance of your website is to add content to it to give search more things to index and more relevance to credit the site with. Of all the types of content that exist, Google has been rewarding sites using video. If you can, adding video elements to your pages will pay off in rankings. 

Written Content

Writing is the easiest way to start ranking higher on Google- not to mention it’s free. Often, the most challenging part of fielding written content is finding and drilling down upon the topics you want to write about. 

Many professionals get excited and start off by giving themselves huge workloads of writing to accomplish only to find themselves unable to handle it – saying you’re going to start writing content is much easier said than done.

Give yourself a very conservative workload of writing to start – do a blog post a week, don’t even worry about the word count to start and get a sense of how the process fits into your schedule and life – and then decide if you want to spend more or less time on it.

Moreover, if you have room in your marketing budget- simply outsource to an SEO agency that will write content for you.

Social Media Engagement

In addition to content creation, actively engaging with your audience on social media platforms can significantly impact your website’s visibility and ranking. Social signals, such as likes, shares, and comments, are considered by search engines when assessing a site’s relevance and authority. Regularly share your content on various social channels, encourage discussions, and respond to audience interactions. This not only strengthens your online presence but also contributes positively to your overall search engine ranking.

How Do I Know Whether To Pursue an SEO or PPC Campaign?

Comparing SEO and PPC is not an easy thing to do and ultimately, it may not have been done here, not in terms of answering the question which is better anyway. We believe evidence shows that it is clearly beneficial to have a diverse set of marketing vehicles propelling your business forward.

Becoming too reliant on any single marketing method, technique or venue is inherently dangerous and runs the risk of costing the company tremendously.
Therefore it’s in all business owners best interest to diversify their marketing, run PPC when it makes sense and SEO and Backlinks too.

Your marketing needs to be sustainable and adaptable to the changing times we perpetually find ourselves in these days. A marketing plan that locks you in long-term may not be the wise one to follow anymore.

When you evaluate SEO vs PPC, you’re really analyzing something that underscores much more than just marketing, it really speaks to where the business is positioning and investing itself for the future.

Ask Yourself: Do You Have Short Term Needs or Long Term Goals?

Needs and goals compete for our attention in business almost constantly, there is the world of things we want to do and then those we must do.

The situation you may be in is one where the right thing to do short-term is not the right thing to do long-term, and you cannot do both – you need effective marketing RIGHT NOW and yet want to pursue SEO.

In this situation, you have a few different paths you can take, depending upon your reasoning:

  1. Stick with SEO – it’s a better long term investment
  2. Go with PPC – you need the money and money can buy SEO later!
  3. Go with PPC & SEO – a small serving of both

If you stick with SEO, you will suffer short term because of unfulfilled needs – so that’s probably off the table right from the start.

If you go with PPC, you fulfill your short term needs and, while you do lose time, you can make up the difference down the road – a viable option.

A mixture of both is also, possibly, a viable option – if you stay conservative with both. 

What Makes Our Agency Different?

We take a different approach than most and consider ourselves unbiased, we believe in whatever works – and never advise what doesn’t. SEO and PPC are best viewed as tools that have their proper applications and improper applications. What works for one situation may not for another and vice versa.

This is very important because this is not the kind of thinking that is often imparted in academic environments where right and wrong answers are predetermined. In the world of Internet marketing and business, you have to evaluate everything on its own merits and the application of a given marketing tool is ultimately your responsibility.

This can overwhelm some people who want clear answers and a path that makes sense without doing their own homework. With the question of SEO and PPC what this means is, only you can evaluate your own situation and look at your needs and choose rightly – right is, in a sense, subjective here.

Put differently, you are the only person at your business in a position to really, ultimately know if a short-term strategy using a lot of PPC is wiser than a long term strategy using a lot of SEO; and this is true for all marketing and all services your business relies upon, not just this one.

Read Next

What Are SERPs?