Octiv Digital
Display & Remarketing Ads Management

SEO vs. PPC: What’s Best for Business?

by | Last updated Oct 6, 2023

Much like everything else these days, your business doesn’t really exist if it doesn’t exist online. So having a website is an absolute must. But a website is not worth much without any visitors.

The question, then, becomes – how will you attract those visitors? Typically, the choice boils down to two alternatives: SEO to boost organic traffic or PPC to gain visits from ads. Both come with benefits and drawbacks; what you should choose depends on your business. So how should you know when to optimize and when to pay for traffic? The solution is simple – weigh the pros and cons of both first.

SEO vs. PPC: How Are They Different?

Before deciding between SEO and PPC, it’s essential to know what they are and what they are not.

So, let’s start with the basics.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It refers to the process of making your website more visible in search engine results and thus increasing organic traffic. The vast majority of people turn to Google when looking for answers to questions such as the best vegan restaurant in the area, the nearest Jeep dealership, or who can help them move to another state. By investing in SEO, you increase the chances of customers finding your business when they are doing searches related to your industry.

Conversely, PPC stands for pay-per-click. It refers to a type of advertising where you only pay the advertising platform when people interact with your ads. Typically, these ads appear on search engine result pages above the organic search results. Investing in PPC advertising can be a good solution for businesses that can’t achieve satisfactory results with SEO alone but still want to stay on budget with their marketing. Additionally, PPC is a good fit when the keyword targets are too competitive for SEO, but you need results now. For instance, if you are in real estate, it’s much faster for you to advertise for your target neighborhoods via PPC than try to rank pages in organic search results against websites like Zillow or Trulia.

Both SEO and PPC have their benefits; which one you choose will depend on the goals you’re trying to achieve.

Why Choose SEO?

If you can follow SEO best practices, optimization can yield excellent results in the long run. Its many benefits make it a popular choice for digital marketing. So, what are some good reasons to optimize for organic traffic?

Long-Term Results

SEO requires an investment when you first start working on it. You either need to learn how to do it yourself, or you need to outsource it. Either way, it’ll take a bit of time and money to get off the ground. But once you’ve created quality content and started ranking on Google, you don’t have to keep paying for it. Unlike PPC campaigns, the costs won’t keep adding up, which makes SEO more affordable in the long run. Once you publish an SEO-friendly piece of content and earn links to it, it will continue driving traffic over time.

Stable Source of Traffic

Once your optimized content is out there, it will help your website rank consistently, even if you don’t work on it much. Significant drops in rankings are relatively rare and only happen due to serious issues like manual penalties or big changes to the Google algorithm. So, you can count on consistently attracting people with your content sometimes for years after it was created. Then, you can focus on retaining users instead of just drawing them in.

Growing Brand Traffic

Consistently ranking at the top of the search results will spread the word about your business and make it appear more authoritative in your niche. Even if people don’t click on the link to your website, they’ll still become aware of your brand and begin to associate it with the industry. This pays off in the long run as you are now part of the user’s consideration set.

What Are the Drawbacks of SEO?

SEO has its limits. So, if you opt for this digital marketing strategy, you need to be prepared for some drawbacks. To begin with, SEO requires particular expertise. You can try to learn SEO yourself with tips from experts as shown in the video below, but unless you are trained in marketing principles, content writing and technical languages like HTML or Javascript, you’ll likely hit a wall.

For this reason, it’s recommended to hire someone to help you with it. Even then, it will take time to see results. Some of our most successful clients did not see strong results until ~6 months into their SEO campaign. It takes patience and we have to remember any change we make today won’t yield a difference in Google for at least 30 days or more.

When Should You Opt for PPC?

Despite the popularity of SEO, many businesses are choosing to invest in PPC advertising. This is because PPC has many benefits as well and may be more suitable in certain situations. Why is that?

Faster Results

Your organic ranking on Google is calculated based on a vast variety of factors, some of which you can’t control. For this reason, it can take months and even years to reach the top of the results page even with the best possible strategy and budget, especially for highly competitive keywords. So if you want to increase the traffic and attract your target audience quickly and efficiently, PPC is the answer because it puts you above other results right from the start. You pay for the traffic of course, but you get the results right away.

Reach Your Target Audience Right Away

When setting up a PPC campaign, you set up the parameters for who sees your ads. So you can be very specific with who you’re targeting based on age, location, interest and intent. This allows you to attract specifically the people who are ready and willing to spend money on your business, ensuring that your investment in PPC advertising pays off.

Easy to Get Started

While both PPC and SEO require a solid marketing strategy behind them, setting up a PPC campaign is faster and more intuitive than implementing an SEO plan. It doesn’t require as much time or work; you can even easily run multiple campaigns to compare results. This is why PPC is often a better idea for beginners just getting started in the world of digital marketing. Additionally, PPC doesn’t require knowledge of HTML, Javascript or other web development languages. You create a campaign, set up your keyword targets and bids, write a few ad copies and you’re ready to go.

What Are the Drawbacks of PPC?

The biggest problem with PPC campaigns is that they don’t pay off as much in the long run.

To start with, you can only run a PPC campaign for as long as you have a budget for it. And unlike SEO, as soon as you pause your ad spend, you’ll pause clicks going to your website. Secondly, you’ll pay for each person who clicks on your ad, regardless of how much they spend on your business. Google, along with other search ad networks, does not care if the user becomes a customer for you or if they are clicking for the sake of clicking. Google is paid for the click and the interaction with the user ends there. Finally, PPC ads tend to be the most effective early on; ads get stale over time and stop yielding results after a while. You’ll find yourself re-inventing your account every quarter or at least a few times a year to keep attracting traffic.

What’s Best for Business Is What Counts

When deciding when to optimize and when to pay for traffic, you need to consider your business goals. SEO and PPC are suitable for different things and different business types. So, if you want quick results that don’t require as much continuous effort, then PPC is the way to go. But if you’re looking for an investment that pays off in the long run by providing more consistent and stable results, then you should focus on SEO.

Of course, it’s always possible to run both strategies at the same time for maximum success, test and decide what works best for your business. It all depends on your business, your budget and your future plans.

If you’re currently trying to decide what is the best strategy for your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to us [email protected]. We’ll happily take a look at your site, services and / or products and provide an honest assessment of what will work best for your budget.

About the Author

Tyson Bell

Co-Founder of Octiv Digital. I have an extensive background in the technology sector, working for some of the world's biggest companies. I received my MBA with an emphasis in marketing from the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.


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