SEO vs PPC: Pros and Cons and Which is Best for Your Business

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Two of the most popular ways of driving traffic are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and PPC (Pay Per Click), but which is better?

Driving traffic to your website is the key to online success. After all, without website traffic, there are no conversions. 

Well, we decided to put them both to the test and embark on the ultimate SEO vs PPC challenge. Read on to compare the two and discover which one you should focus on to drive traffic to your website. 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the process of optimizing your web pages for target search terms and keywords to help them appear in search results. 

The process of SEO typically spans four key areas:

  • Keyword research – Finding the relevant search terms that users are inputting into search engines
  • On-page SEO – Optimizing the content on your website for your target search terms
  • Off-page SEO – Optimizing content outside of your website and building trust in your website and content
  • Technical SEO – Optimizing your website’s settings to ensure search engine bots can find, crawl, and rank your pages
Organic SEO search results page for food subscription services
This shows the organic search results for the term “food subscription service” which have been achieved through SEO practices.

More Information

Discover more tips to improve your SEO strategy with our guide to anchor text and our list of the best free SEO tools on the market. 

What is PPC?

PPC stands for Pay Per Click and is a type of marketing where you pay a fee each time a user clicks on your ad. 

You place an ad with the publisher (e.g. Google) which means your website appears at the top of search results for your chosen search term. Each time a user clicks on your listing and visits your website, you’ll pay. 

Ever noticed when you search something on Google that the first few results have “Sponsored” next to them? These are PPC ads that the brands have taken out to drive more traffic to their websites.

The cost of PPC ads will depend on a myriad of factors including your industry and how competitive the search terms are that you’re targeting.

A Google PPC ad campaign will usually involve the following:

  • Keyword research – Discovering the relevant search terms that your customers are searching for online
  • Bid setting – Deciding how much you’re willing to pay for each click
  • Ad creation – Creating a relevant and compelling ad to appear in the search results
  • Audience targeting – Choosing who you want to target with your ad
PPC search results page
This shows the paid-for results for the term “food subscription service” that appear above organic results and are a result of PPC campaigns.

What’s the Difference Between Organic Traffic and Paid Traffic?

When it comes to the traffic that you drive to your website it falls into two categories: organic traffic and paid traffic. But what’s the difference between the two and which should you be targeting?

Organic traffic means the visitors that land on your website from unpaid, and therefore organic, search results. This will be the traffic you drive via your SEO strategy. 

On the other hand, paid traffic refers to the visitors who land on your website via paid-for search results. This is the traffic you drive through your PPC campaigns. 

Both have their own merits. Paid traffic can be a quicker way of attracting visitors to your website, but it’ll end up costing more in the long run. Organic traffic can take longer to build, but it’s usually the more sustainable option and can help to build trust in your brand. 

Pros and Cons of SEO

Below we’ve listed the pros and cons of SEO.

Pros of SEO Cons of SEO
Ranking well for your target keywords drives consistent traffic to your website. SEO takes time – it can take months or even years to optimize your website to achieve the number one search position.
SEO can be budget-friendly and doesn’t require a huge amount of money or expense. Some keywords can be incredibly competitive.
You can target users at different stages of their journey. It requires you to constantly be creating new, engaging, and authoritative content.
Helps to build brand authority and trust. Search algorithms are constantly changing which means what worked last week may not work next week.

Pros and Cons of PPC

Below we’ve listed the pros and cons of PPC. 

Pros of PPC Cons of PPC
PPC offers quick results and drives traffic to your website fast. PPC campaigns can be expensive and will require a substantial amount of budget.
PPC ads appear above organic listings which can help grab the attention of searchers. PPC can be highly competitive for certain search terms within certain industries.
You can choose who you target with your PPC ads. PPC campaigns require constant investment – once you stop spending your traffic will decrease.
A/B testing allows you to try alternative ad options and work out which listing is attracting the most users. The effectiveness of PPC campaigns tends to decrease over time. If you run the ad for too long, users will stop clicking.

SEO vs PPC: Which is Better?

Now that we’ve discussed SEO and PPC in detail, which is the better option? It all depends on your goals for your business and digital marketing ROI. 

Below we’ve listed the use cases for both SEO and PPC to help you work out which is the best choice for your business.

But remember, for the best online results you can combine the two. PPC and SEO campaigns can complement each other and help you to drive as much traffic as possible to your website. 

When to use SEO:

  • You want to achieve consistent results over a longer period
  • You want to build an established and authoritative website
  • Your marketing budget is low
  • You want to target customers at different stages of the sales funnel

When to use PPC:

  • You want fast results
  • You want to drive highly-targeted traffic from specific demographics
  • Your offering is novel or time-sensitive
  • You want to direct users straight to a sales page

SEO vs PPC: Summary

Whether you choose to embark on an SEO or PPC strategy will all depend on your specific business needs. As you’ve seen in this article, both options can have amazing results and drive traffic to your website. 

Take the time to think carefully about PPC vs SEO to discover which will work best for your business and deliver the results you’re looking for. If possible, you can even integrate both into your online strategy!

For more ideas on improving your online presence, head to our digital marketing tips article next. 

Frequently Asked Questions

To discover the best keywords to target, you need to undertake keyword research. This will allow you to find out what keywords and search terms users are searching for and provide critical stats such as search volume (how many people are searching for the term). You’ll also be able to see how competitive a term is to work out how likely it is for you to rank. 

If you decide to implement SEO in-house (rather than hiring an expert) then it can technically be free of charge, especially if you choose a website builder that offers strong SEO features, like Wix.

PPC will come at a cost since you’ll pay every time a user clicks on your ad and this can quickly add up. But remember, while SEO may be free, SEO takes up a considerable amount of time and resources, whereas PPC will cost you but you can sit back and let the ad do the work for you.

Yes! If you can then implementing both SEO and PPC will only improve your results. A good SEO strategy will improve the user experience of your website and build trust in your brand which can help to boost the effectiveness of your PPC advertising. 

Written by:
Black and white headshot of Lucy Nixon smiling at the camera
I’ve been a content writer for Website Builder Expert since 2021. Through almost a decade in the digital marketing industry, I’ve built up knowledge on everything from growing ecommerce businesses to building websites. I love breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. Breaking down the jargon and uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, I’m a meticulous researcher who’s committed to providing our readers with tips and advice that’s tried and tested.

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