PPC vs. SEO: Which is Better?

The Pros and Cons of SEO and PPC for Small Businesses

You’ve probably heard the terms “PPC” and “SEO” before, but do you understand what they are and what they can do for your business? 

Today, we’re going to explore the pros and cons of each so that you can determine how they might help grow your business.

What are PPC and SEO?

PPC, or “Pay-Per Click” (paid search advertising), uses paid advertising to encourage people to click-through to a landing page or website. 

Search engine optimization (SEO), on the other hand, is virtually free. SEO enables customers to find your company’s website organically when they research information through search engines like Bing or Google. 

Benefits of PPC

The major benefit of PPC is that it immediately drives traffic to a website. If a company is willing to bid higher for search terms with large search volumes, the company’s ads will rank higher on the search engine’s results page (SERP). This increases the likelihood that someone will click the ad and visit the website.

For the most part, paid search is not influenced by ever-changing search engine algorithm updates. 

PPC also makes it easy for companies to focus on their target audience and niches. Advertising services like AdWords allow companies to target specific audience parameters, like age, income, geographic areas, and particular keyword ad groups. This means you have a greater chance of your ad being displayed to people who are highly interested in your product and/or service.

Additionally, budgets can be manipulated to increase or decrease traffic. As a result, companies have complete control of how much they spend on paid search campaigns.

Cons of PPC

PPC is fairly complicated, with lots of moving parts and considerations — most small business owners don’t have the time or desire to learn how to become paid search pros. 

If you don’t keep an eye on your ad spend, PPC can become pricey. It also requires a lot of attention to verify that ads and ad groups are working correctly. This isn’t a type of task that can be put to the back burner. If you want to use PPC in your digital marketing strategy, someone needs to keep an eye on things. 

Most organizations, especially small businesses, don’t usually have a dedicated resource for this. That’s why it’s so common for companies to outsource PPC management to a digital marketing agency.

Your website must also be ready to take advantage of the traffic your paid search ads will bring. For starters, the ad needs to link to a landing page or a form on your site. Without something to capture visitor information, your paid search investment is just wasted money.

Benefits of SEO

As opposed to paid search, SEO is virtually free (though many businesses that employ a robust SEO strategy will hire an agency or contractor to get the most out of SEO.)

Websites can rank at the top of the search engines simply by having a well optimized website that follows the search engine’s quality guidelines. This typically includes activities such as: updating content regularly, optimizing front-/back-end of sites, creating dynamic content, and creating valuable content that causes visitors to interact with a page.

Many consumers consider organic search engine results to be more credible than paid search ads, and therefore, a majority of users tend to click on the organic results. Once a website is on the first page of results, the site will continue to see consistent results for as long as they maintain that first page listing. With PPC, however, once a successful campaign is shut down, traffic will decline rapidly.

Cons of SEO

Unlike PPC, it’s imperative that your SEO efforts keep up with the many different Google algorithm changes. Failure to do so could result in penalties or lower results in SERPs.

It’s hard to get to the top of the SERPs. A new site could take months to get to the top of the results pages, and that’s only if the keywords that it’s trying to rank for aren’t too competitive.

On the topic of competition, it’s important to note that SEO can be very competitive for niche keywords or niche industries. Generally, the websites that have been around the longest or have the most money are the only ones that rank on the first page. This is typically because older domains have had more time to build authority through backlinks. 

As a new site ages and continually publishes quality content, it can expect to earn backlinks and ultimately become more authoritative in the search engines’ eyes. 

While SEO is theoretically free, it still requires time, expertise, and resources. Publishing quality content, including blogs and landing pages, takes a ton of time. You’ll also need to stay up-to-date on changing search engine algorithms, which sometimes change overnight. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between SEO and PPC

PPC and SEO shouldn’t ever be an either-or decision. 

Instead, they should be combined to help a site quickly get traffic and then sustain that traffic by moving up the SERPs. As a site gets more organic traffic, PPC can be dialed down a bit, but it should still be used to make sure new audiences learn about your business.