Pay per click advertising (PPC) VS search engine optimization (SEO) activity – which would you prefer for your business?

PPC is when you pay portals on a per click basis (say $1 a click) to driver targeted traffic to your site- burns a hole in your pocket – but far more immediate and CTA type.

SEO is when you submit your website to various search engines and crawlers, and wait for your sites to appear on their listings at good positions – which usually takes a LOT of time, and on an average makes you appear so far below on listings that you hardly get traffic in time.

Please state which mode of internet marketing you would prefer. Also, comment on the effectiveness of both PPC and SEO (unpaid), in terms of time/cost tradeoff. Feel free to criticize either of the two if you feel that either -or both- do not work.


  • Kevin Lee

    Its like asking about PR vs advertising, but in the case of SEO, if you happen to be successful the impact of success lasts a bit longer. Both are critical in a balanced plan, but SEO success can’t be guaranteed, and predicting ROI is more challenging.
    Both work, and both need resources, but if your chances of success are low in either (due to the competitive landscape) then you may need to focus more more on the other. If you can’t afford the resources to win in either, find another form of marketing 😉

  • Vicki O'Neill-Ropos

    I think both are important and businesses should integrate the combination into their online marketing strategy.
    PPC, as you mention, creates immediate exposure and results which are easily tracked. However, the downside is these ads is companies using irrelevent keywords and links creating a bad user experience. Ads can also become expensive if bidding on popular keywords/keyword phrases. Budgets may determine how aggressive a company can be.
    SEO, on the other hand, is a reflection of content, content management and cross linking. Although more time consuming to maintain than PPC, visitors are more likely to fit the website persona of the company and therefore create a higher propensity for customer conversion. As long as website is maintained on a regular basis, consistent listing result placement, i.e. first page, is more likey than random placement with PPC (depending on participating program).
    Hope this helps!

  • Natalia Alexandrou

    Hi Zohaib,
    This is a very interesting question and the answer would have to depend on what your goals or targets are.
    Generally I feel that more effort and resources should be put into SEO rather than PPC as this is a long term strategy to boost web traffic. SEO is not just about submitting your website to various search engines, there is a lot more to it but you will need a good SEO expert to advise you. I’ve seen webpages get to the top of google search results within hours of being made live…
    If the aim is to drive traffic/sales in the short term then I would concentrate my efforts on a targetted PPC campaign, but I would advise you to test, test and test to maximise your ROI.
    Best of luck!

  • I have always been a big fan of PPC, but most people will say that SEO is better. The bottom line for me is that you can start a PPC campaign and start getting sales/conversions instantly, while SEO is a consistent, ongoing process that will take months before you see results.
    PPC also has better conversion rates then SEO, but of course SEO is great because it’s free, and when you get a lot of traffic it’s like hitting the lottery. The fear that Google (primarily) will take your good listings away from you is also a negative factor for SEO in my mind, but I feel that any successful SEM campaign needs to address both SEO & PPC in detail.

  • Eliza Dashwood

    In order for any online marketing plan to be effective, you need to define the business objectives. It is not just a question of SEO vs. PPC, but how they could work together and what the business benefits are for each. SEO is more than just submitting a site and hoping for the best. As the name implies, search engine optimisation is about content relevance, keyword relevance, internal and external linking structure, coding and many, many more elements.
    So, should your business be incorporating PPC into the marketing mix? The question should be; what is the measure of success? What is the goal of having the site online? Is it to raise brand awareness? It is to drive sales, enquiries, traffic to push to other sites as an affiliate? In short, what is the measurable return on investment?
    As for the ability to measure an SEO campaign, what you should be asking is whether or not you can see a material difference in your KPIs based on benchmarking and traffic uplift over time. Just ranking high on search engines is not enough. The positioning is meaningless unless you can measure the impact on the business. Are the search terms relevant? Do they convert?
    If you’re ranking well on generic search terms but still want to see greater coverage on the engines, maybe the strategy should incorporate PPC. It’s a question of visibility and having as much shelf space on the search engine results. If you’re occupying both a PPC result and a natural result, then one of your competitors isn’t there. What you need to be smart about is understanding where the returns are and how each of the channels work together. You also need to be aware that people rarely convert on a first visit. It is therefore important to understand the length of time and the number of searches and a the variety of terms people are using to get from research to buying phase.
    So, if the question is: PPC vs. SEO?
    The answer is, use your analytics, understand your customer, do your profiling and be clear on your objectives. Only then can a business begin to make a smart choice on where to invest their marketing budget.
    We can go on and on with this subject, but this is a good place to start.

  • Yaron Eisenstein

    From a user perspective, the traditional search result is still perceived as more “reliable” and “unbiased” than a paid ad (even when pointing to the same content page, not a promotional landing page). I guess you can find studies that elaborate more on the reasons for that, practical and psychological, but I guess the main issue is that the user does not feel you are selling him something, and is in control over the search act.
    So I would take an excellent SEO position (top 10, 1st page) over PPC anytime.
    The issue then becomes how “condensed” the topic is, and how focused is the topic I’m trying to optimize.
    For example, if I’m trying to promote an event I sponsor – highly focused topic with limited completion on content – I’d use SEO.
    On the other hand, if I’m trying to promote a concept/solution/product which has a wider industry competition, I would go with PCC (Actually, after SEO efforts have shown unsuccessful results).
    Having said all that, there are other considerations of course: the ability to monitor a campaign effectively (in that case PPC is better), resources available for the optimization process, how fast to you need to see an impact, how well is the website code originally designed and so on.

  • jeremi mcmaster

    The dilemma is this, is it worth spending say 1 dollar to get someone to your website and to hope they may fill out your form to capture that consumers info. Or do you spend the same dollar for seo and capture the person because they chose you not a paid advertisement which is designed to lure customers in? There is alot to this question first, is your website designed to capture data; or just looks pretty as, they are usually do different things. 2 is the seo company you are using showing results? Every seo company says it takes 6 months of work to show up for anything but after that 6 months is up you will see results.. This is wrong on all levels. If you have an seo company who spouts that off then go the sem (search engine marketing pay per click)route and pray your site is optimized to convert traffic correctly. I personally think seo is the only way to go but its not for everyone as ive mentioned a few reasons above. There are many unqualified seo companys out there i would like to think that my company is the best but truthfully the best would be the one that cost the Bruce Clay. Since we know how to do seo and we do so for customers the posed question of ppc vs seo comes up every time. The answer is the same everytime, what do you want your site to do.. Good luck all happy SEO searching.. If you need a recommendation or have questions hit me up.. J .

  • Brian Davi

    Both should be apart of your online marketing strategy. PPC will give you the fastest ROI if properly executed. SEO is a long-term strategy and is very important, because of the rising cost-per-click, but as mentioned in another comment, trying to gauge a successful ROI plan can be very hard sometimes, especially at the start.
    PPC is great because for one you can get targeted traffic and start to gather data or intelligence from visitors right away. PPC traffic and data can also be utilized for keyword research for your SEO plan. Keyword mining through your PPC campaigns allows you to find less competitive keywords with a higher ROI than high traffic keywords. This knowledge can then be used to not only improve the performance of your PPC campaigns, but also can give you some ideas for “long-tail” keywords that will be easier to SEO pages on.
    Both strategies are important online and both strategies should compliment each other. Landing pages should have solid content and structure for SEO, but this also helps your PPC Quality Score. PPC is the fastest way to get Search Engine traffic and the fastest way to see a return, but the data collected from your PPC efforts can also be used to help you plan out your SEO strategy.

  • Ted Van Hessen

    Posing this question in “which do you prefer” mode is a bit like asking someone to choose one only of the following: a) inhale or b) exhale.
    In today’s competitive environment, a successful marketing effort warrants (indeed, more likely requires) activity and competency in both SEO and PPC disciplines. While both are affected by the ebb and flow of competitive activity, PPC and SEO each have strengths and weaknesses when compared to the other. When properly planned, monitored and executed, the combined value of the whole of these marketing tools far exceeds the simple sum of its parts.
    Both SEO and PPC are effective, and they can each be independently successful. But the smart marketer will integrate both and reap the rewards.

  • John Flynn

    PPC can soon become like “crack” for advertising dollars. Sure your top of the pile but you are paying for it. SEO (growing your website in an organic style) using blogs and in-bound links is much more work but in the long run the best way to go by far.

  • Jeff Ogden

    I believe you should do both, as both have strengths and weaknesses.
    PPC yields fast results, but it is very competitive, less trusted and once your budget is shot, your ad disappears. Still, it is a way to get quick results.
    SEO on the other hand is well-trusted and does not incur cost per click or disappear. However, SEO results are more work and cost to achieve. You need both on-site optimization and link building.
    In my recommendation, most companies should start with PPC for fast results and then scale it back when SEO kicks in. But keep both out there so you can dominate the page.

  • Conor Doyle

    Neither should be mutually exclusive. Your site could conform to ‘best practices’ in terms of search and thus should be able to capitalise on both a PPC and Organic query.
    A major element to the answer is what business you are in. If you are in a business that is highly competitive and not rooted to a specific geographic area then I think you have no choice than to bid for PPC. For example if you were an online data storage company, you can ply you trade anywhere in the world. As that market is very competitive you probably would have no choice but to PPC.
    If you were a specific or geo specific business, then that would reduce the competition substantially. “Electrical Equipment Birmingham” – you could tailor your site to fight for those keywords.
    Some companies develop their sites with Organic search in mind and use PPC for ‘long tail’ search expression associated with their business whicg they bid for at very low units (and get low volume units)
    Basically I would suggest: adapt the site for organic and if that’s working and you are happy with the ROI – keep the money in your pocket.

  • Bryan Gissiner [LION]

    SEO has always been a moving target while PPC offers the ability to target specific keywords and set how much exposure you get. Both should be an important part of branding and driving traffic. PPC for targeted (hopefully) exposure to the keywords and demographics you choose and SEO for broader coverage of the net in general. Both need constant tweaking but the PPC portion should take less effort if you have a good account rep where ever you chose to spend your budget.

  • David Pavlicko

    Doing a low level PPC campaign at the start can actually save you a lot of time with your organic optimization. You’ll have actual data on which keywords and searches convert better (of course this depends on how long you run the PPC campaign).
    Additionally, you can (and should) use google’s website optimizer and Adwords to do A/B and multivariate testing on specific pages to improve conversions.
    Notice that I haven’t discussed improving your website ranking, because that’s the one area that PPC won’t help you out in. If you want to RANK higher, you’ll need to do some SEO regardless.

  • Michael Boyle

    I prefer SEO.
    I do think it depends on your budget, your goals, and how expensive it is to get the key words you want to buy. You can spend your entire budget in PPC and bring little traffic to your site. You can also flood your site with traffic that is not interested in service or product. On the other hand, you can spend a lot of time and do a lot of things to improve your site and have very little impact on SEO.
    One important thing to consider is how your customers find you and how you website plays into your overall business structure.
    If your business is primarily web based, you will probably have to pay more to get the keywords you want. This will most likely be the best way to bring traffic to your site as their will be many sites fighting for those organic results.
    If your business is a brick and mortar and you use your website as an extension of your business or as a marketing tool. It will be easier to improve your organic results and will require less dependence on PPC.

  • Lori Highby

    It is a combination of both PPC and SEO as many have responded. PPC is the short-term solution that if done correctly can reap many rewards. SEO is the continuous long-term solution that again, if done correctly can bring positive results.
    My experience has showed me that PPC works best for a Product or Event, such as Yaron Eisenstein commented on. Products that are more impulse purchases say $100 and under can see significant conversion rates utilizing a PPC campaign.
    SEO is important because not everyone clicks on the PPC ads. Your explanation of SEO is not quite accurate. Please review my blog posting listed below that highlights a quick summary about the basics of SEO practices.
    Also note that in marketing repetition is everything. When your site is listed in both the organic search results and the PPC results, the site visitor has now seen your companies name/product/service, two or three times versus just once.

  • Kristine Maveus-Evenson

    I’ll probably be scolded by the SEO die-hards, but here’s what I believe.
    SEO should be a must for ALL sites. The payoff (long term) is greater because the links, articles, will gain online exposure which is as important as a top ranking.
    PPC should be used only when you have a brand-name item, or items that appeal to consumers. (Or alternately, if you have a commodity item which can be used in business.) Niche product and ALL services should NOT be listed in PPC, unless they are regional.
    For example, PPC could be used for “dry cleaners”, or “office supplies” but not for “nuclear thermal heating cores”.

  • Gianluigi Cuccureddu

    SEO = owning the land
    SEA = renting the land
    Short-term effects vs. long-term effects

  • Mirek POLYNIAK

    PPC starts immediately and it drives qualified traffic but it stops when you the budget is over – best results for e-commerce companies
    SEO takes time – usu. a few months but it lasts longer and tends to work well for B2B sites
    The best method is SEM mix i.e. SEO + PPC with ROI monitoring and modelling depending on the results
    I hope it helps

  • Deborah Kania

    PPC for fast, targeted traffic where you have more control over who you bring to your site and thus can experience a better conversion to sale/lead.
    SEO for the long-term traffic benefit. however, you do not have as much control over bringing the right targeted traffic and the conversion to lead/sale tends to be less than PPC. if you are paying for SEO, this become Very important as you may not experience the ROI you expected. and, if the search engine (Google) does an update, it could drastically change your traffic for the worse or better instantly.
    as an aside, one online program to add to the mix is an Affiliate Program as it is a pay for performance and can bring one of the lowest costs per acquisition.

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