Marketing

SEO vs. PPC – Which Strategy is Right for Your Business

Not sure whether to invest in PPC or SEO? 69 marketing professionals weigh in with their expert advice on how to choose the right strategy.

Maham S. Chappal Maham S. Chappal on October 16, 2020 (last modified on October 26, 2020) • 31 minute read

When it comes to digital marketing, there are plenty of ways to get visitors to your website. However, the two most common forms are SEO and PPC marketing.

Now, when it comes to SEO vs. PPC, website owners often struggle with choosing the right strategy. The general opinion is that PPC costs money but brings fast results, while SEO takes time, but it’s free.

When you look at things that way, choosing your strategy seems simple – it’s time for money or money for time. However, in reality, there is more to this than you might expect.

The question we want to answer here is not which marketing strategy is better or more cost-effective in general, but which one is better for your business, and 69 marketing professionals weigh in with their expert advice to help us out. Read on.

In this guide, we’re going to discuss the following.

So let’s dive right in.

seo cta

What is SEO?

“SEO isn’t something that you add to your website, like adding ingredients to a stew. It’s a combination of marketing, website design, and public relations tactics that any self-respecting business should be doing anyway, even if search engines didn’t exist.” Jeff Ferguson of Amplitude Digital explains.

Search engine optimization is the process of improving your website’s visibility in search engines. 

As Sandra Mathews of The Product Analyst says, “Investing in SEO is a great way to ensure a strong future for your site and marketing strategy as it will build high-quality links to your site that tells the search engine your site is trustworthy.” 

Austin Mullins of Conversion Media explains that SEO is fundamentally a demand capture mechanism. “People are searching for a term, and you attempt to produce and rank content for that term.”

And while SEO takes longer to produce the results than other advertising methods, especially PPC, “When you do it, you’re doing it on a foundational level that is harder to get rid of. So even if you stop doing SEO, you will still get benefits even after you stop adding to it.” Explains Kristina Whitman of Oxford Pierpont.

Editor’s Note: To efficiently track your overall SEO performance in terms of clicks, users, channel sessions, and devices, use this SEO Campaign Performance Dashboard Template that integrates data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

SEO Campaign Performance Dashboard Template

What is PPC?

PPC (pay-per-click) is an advertising method where advertisers pay publishers every time a visitor clicks on their link. 

Unlike other advertising methods, PPC shows results as long as you’re pumping money into it. The minute you stop, your PPC campaign will stop as well. 

As Shawn DeWolfe of Web321 Marketing Ltd. says, “PPC offers immediacy, but I call it a lead zeppelin: push energy (i.e., money) into a PPC campaign, and it will create traffic. Turn off that energy, and the traffic crashes as the campaign stops.”

Related: 11 Tips for Creating a Custom Google Ads Dashboard to Track PPC Performance

Google Ads PPC Performance dashboard template

What’s the Difference between SEO and PPC?

SEO and PPC are completely different advertising methods. 

We asked 5 marketing experts the difference between PPC and SEO, and here’s what they said. 

“PPC is like renting a house while SEO is more like building your dream house. Like renting a house, you immediately get your needs met. However, when you stop paying rent, you lose your accommodations.” Joe McMullen of Blackbird Digital Marketing explains.

James McGrath of Yoreevo explains, “PPC is a transaction, SEO is an investment. If you’re capable of writing high quality, differentiated content, you should invest in SEO. That’s especially the case with evergreen content, which generates a return with little or no continued investment.

With PPC, you’re at the mercy of Google and your competitors. There are also no barriers to entry. All it takes to replace you is a higher bid, and if you’re getting good results, that’s going to happen.” 

Owen Dashner of Red Ladder shares, “Think of PPC like a vertical passing game in football. Potential for quick scoring, with high risk and high reward. You could begin seeing results almost immediately after implementing PPC if done correctly, but it can be expensive and potentially disastrous if set up incorrectly and/or mismanaged.

Think of SEO like a conservative ground and pound running game, advancing 4 yards at a time. Fairly slow-moving and boring, but can be highly effective over time and can wear out your competition. SEO takes time to implement and show results, but is a powerful long-term strategy for online marketing.”

Gun Made’s Brady Kirkpatrick succinctly explains, “Do you want to drive people to your site organically and grow your long-term traffic? If so, invest in SEO. If you want something quick and are maybe looking for one-time transactions with viewers, aka short-term results, consider PPC.”

Robert Rand of JetRails shares, “Search engine optimization typically requires a long ramp-up to be profitable but can provide a solid long-term ROI.

When done properly, it also delivers a lot of fringe benefits related to brand awareness, website accessibility, and conversion rate optimization.

PPC is much better at achieving shorter-term goals, with less ongoing maintenance work to maintain results. It’s ideal to engage in both SEO and PPC campaigns, keeping in mind that you won’t rank organically for every keyword phrase you’d like to, and not every user pays attention to PPC ads. 

As a rule of thumb, PPC will get you traffic quickly, and SEO can deliver traffic more cost-effectively.”

Related: 28 SEO Techniques That Can Dramatically Increase Your Organic Traffic

Does PPC Affect SEO?

While PPC doesn’t directly affect SEO and organic traffic, it might indirectly give it a boost.

One of the reasons is that when searchers who see your ads regularly see an organic listing of your website, they’ll be more likely to click on it. Why? Because they’ve already become acquainted with your business through your PPC ads.

“I think it’s really important to look at SEO and PPC as two channels that feed off of each other. Organic SEO results are ideal, but they’re tricky to snatch up if you don’t have a PPC campaign in the mix. And a PPC campaign is redundant if you’re not making an effort with your organic SEO.” Laura English of Sonder explains.

So you can and should use PPC advertisements to maximize your SEO efforts. 

As TJ Kelly of Fans Raise says, “PPC provides a shortcut to maximizing SEO. Use PPC to test and prove SEO elements like topics, headings, meta descriptions, and taglines. Experiment with those factors in your ads until you find a winner. Then use those winners in your SEO.”

SEO vs. PPC – What’s the Verdict?

When deciding between investing in SEO or PPC, the best tactic is to integrate both advertising methods.

Joe Fortunato of Company Man Studios says, “With the exception of a handful of industries, the most important factor in deciding between investing in SEO or PPC should truly be figuring out how not to have to decide between one or the other, and how your company can get the ball rolling in both areas.”

Alessandro D’Andrea of Clickable agrees and adds, “First of all, I’d say you should not exclude any of the two channels from the beginning or on principle. PPC will help you get your first fundamental clients and your first money from online marketing, but as soon as you stop spending money on Google or Bing, you’ll lose it all. 

SEO is more consistent but usually requires more time to get a good ROOS (Return On Organic Spent). So, if you’re new with online marketing, go first with PPC and see how it is going, but in the meantime, start growing your content and your relations to have results from SEO during times.”

As Jonas Sickler of Terakeet explains, a good strategy is to, “Use PPC to test out new keyword groups. When you find one that converts well, invest in SEO until you rank number one while you test another keyword group with PPC.”

However, as HustlerSource’s Dylan Gordon shares, “SEO and PPC both use inbound marketing to generate targeted leads. When you look at how they achieve these results, they’re far different strategies.”

If you’re not looking for an integrated marketing approach, and just want to invest in one method initially, here are a few factors you need to consider. 

Budget

“The amount you are willing to spend per lead in relation to how much your product/service is is the MOST important factor to consider when deciding between investing in SEO or PPC as a marketing strategy.” Erica Johnson of E-Partners Marketing says.

First and foremost is, of course, your marketing budget. 

“If a business must choose between allocating budget to SEO vs. PPC, it has to consider its current cash flow situation.

If a business needs to acquire new customers now—and not 3-6 months (or longer) down the road—PPC is usually the way to go. It will deliver the customers the business needs to drive cash flow in the short term.

If a business is in a cash flow situation where it can invest in a long-term strategy to acquire customers, SEO makes the most sense. If the SEO efforts are successful, the cost per acquisition of organic leads is usually much lower than it is for paid traffic over the lifetime of a business.

The question is, can the business wait for these leads to come in?

I liken the decision between PPC vs. SEO to the decision to buy apples from the store or to plant an apple tree in the yard.” Says Frank Olivo of Sagapixel.

Along with the budget, immediate revenue flow is also important. 

As Adam Jackson of BigLeap explains, “For instance, if you are in a situation where you have a low cash flow or are short on leads, meaning you need to increase either of those two things quickly, then PPC is the way to go.”

“With PPC, you can set a low monthly budget and get a few leads. However, if you choose a low-cost SEO agency, then you probably will not get leads since a good SEO agency usually costs $1000+ per month. PPC is a good short term strategy, and SEO is a good long term strategy.” Shares Dusk Digital’s Caleb Riutta

If you’re short on budget, you should choose SEO over PPC. 

Why?

“SEO is an organic approach that doesn’t require any additional funds. PPC is an advertorial approach which will always require you to put money behind your ad in order for it to run.” Explains Pond Lehocky

Sean Leary of Ripcord Design agrees. “Although SEO takes more time to show results, SEO can be done for far less money – especially over the long-term. An SEO effort in the $1-3k range can take a website from nearly invisible to the top 20 or even top 10 (first page) on Google. And those gains are ‘sticky’ – once you’ve earned a solid ranking, your website can remain there for years without additional effort.

Even a very basic PPC campaign can cost $1-3k to start generating leads, and can easily cost $500-$1k per month. And with PPC, if you stop paying, your campaign comes to a complete stop, and the leads stop coming in.” Says Leary.

And while determining your marketing budget, “You need to consider the average cost to gain a paying customer compared to your average lifetime value for these customers. The ration should be at least 1:3, respectfully.” Explains Nick Hollinger of Visitor Queue.

If you’re just starting out and have zero marketing budget, “SEO is free, and there are plenty of free tools businesses can take advantage of to run successful SEO campaigns.” As Jered Martin of OnePitch explains.

“To get reliable quality leads through your pay-per-click ads, they need to be highly targeted for specific keywords. Many of those keywords can come with highly affordable costs per click of just a few dollars, while others can be very expensive, racking upwards of 20 or even 40 dollars for a single click.

While PPC ads can deliver quick results, they can also burn through your marketing budget quickly and may actually deliver only a handful of qualified leads.

Search engine optimization, on the other hand, is a completely free marketing strategy!

Of course, it may take some time to improve your search engine rankings and to start appearing on the first page of search results for specific keywords.

However, if you do the SEO on your own, you won’t have to pay a dime for your marketing efforts, and you’ll gain highly qualified leads later down the road.” Says Niles Koenigsberg of FiG Advertising + Marketing

Koenigsberg further adds, “If you have a small marketing budget, it may be wiser to pursue SEO over PPC. However, if your monthly marketing budget is more substantial, then you may get better results from PPC ad campaigns.”

Competition

Brittany Cooper of GenBound believes doing a competitive analysis and finding out what your competitors are doing is essential. 

“When developing a growth strategy, I always start with a competitive analysis. Who is ranking organically? Who is paying to play? I identify the keywords both organic and paid and use that info to decide which path to take. You may find your competitors are dominating the SERP but paid is an open playing field. Or maybe you’re being outbid on PPC, but your competitors lack a solid SEO/Content strategy. 

Knowing what you’re up against can help you make informed decisions and identify the quickest path to achieving your goals.”

Sales Funnel

Each stage of the sales funnel has different goals, purposes, and marketing requirements. You need to use the advertising method, which maximizes results at each stage. 

So while SEO works for the entire funnel, PPC ads give the best results for the bottom of the funnel where leads are ready to be converted into paying customers. 

“The most important factor to consider is which part of the sales funnel you are most interested in capturing. I am not in any way implying that you can’t reach the entire funnel with either strategy. But PPC is going to give you fast results for the bottom of the funnel, whereas SEO is a longer-term strategy that guides users from top to bottom.” Ann Robison of Portent explains.

Harris Schachter of Lend-Grow agrees and adds, “SEO, organic search, is much more applicable to informational steps in the customer journey, used for providing answers to real questions your prospects are asking. Simply put, these keyword targets are simply too high in the funnel to be worth bidding on, and too high in the funnel to try and convert (they are just not warm enough yet). 

On the other hand, PPC is best used for conversion since there is a cost involved. During your research, there will inevitably be keywords that are lower funnel and closer to a sale, which you can optimize around; typically, these are subsequent to your organic targets. Even further, you can retarget the visitors to your organic content when they naturally move to these next steps in the funnel. 

This makes your PPC spend even more efficient because you’re only serving ads to those who are familiar with your brand, and who have consumed your authoritative content.”

Editor’s Note: This Google Ads PPC performance dashboard template gives a complete and easy view of all the fundamental ad metrics, including cost-per-click, click-through rate, and impressions.

Google Ads PPC Performance dashoard

ROI

“ROI is all that matters. 

Your SEO ‘spend’ is entirely person-hours. PPC includes both person-hours, and ad spend. Thus, SEO is cheaper, but a longer burn. 

We look to organic leads from SEO as the long-term answer, with PPC used as a way to ‘jump the line’ early on before an SEO/content strategy can truly take hold.” Shares Adam Smartschan of Altitude Marketing.

Related: Calculating Marketing ROI: 7 Popular Formulas + Reporting Tips

Time in hand

Most marketing professionals believe that the most obvious deciding factor between SEO and PPC is the amount of time you have in hand.

According to our survey, 97.8% respondents believe PPC provides quicker results than SEO.

SEO vs PPC  - which one provides faster results?

Patrick Whatman of Spendesk explains, “Effective PPC campaigns can be up and running quickly, which means leads and sales can start coming in right away.

But SEO takes time and is almost always harder to predict. If you haven’t built up a strong domain, your website is unlikely to rank for any valuable keywords, which means you won’t be seeing much traffic for a while. Minimum six months, if you’re lucky.”

Donna Duncan of B-SeenOnTop says, “If speed is your overriding objective, then paid advertising is the best approach for you. You can begin to see results in days (versus months with organic or local SEO).”

Chris Wilks of BrandExtract agrees with the two and adds, “If you need immediate leads, then you should be focusing on PPC since you can get a more immediate return on those ads. However, if you don’t have an urgent need, SEO is probably the better option. While the time to get a return is longer, the sustainability and quality of those leads will be higher.”

Deepak Shukla of Pearl Lemon recommends asking yourself, “how quickly do you need to see results? 

If you are a local business with minimal competition, for example, the organic traffic from SEO would likely suit your needs. However, if the competition is fierce, PPC can generate a temporary surge in brand awareness, which may be crucial to kick-start leads.”

And as KNB Communications’ Beth Cooper says, “With a PPC campaign, when it comes down to it, you can ‘set it and forget it.’ 

Will you get the best results? No. 

Do we suggest doing it this way? Surely not. 

In an ideal world, you would be investing adequate time and resources into running and continually optimizing both SEO and PPC campaigns. However, many people who have to make a choice between the two are incredibly busy. Real talk — if you don’t have enough hours in your day, PPC will keep working for you even if you can’t pay close attention to it, and it can get you some quick results.”

And if your company isn’t desperate to get sales right now to stay afloat, then as Blaze Bullock of Blaze Digital Marketing says, “SEO is the way to go. SEO has a higher conversion rate and will pay huge dividends over time. But it takes time.”

Medallion Capital Group’s Matthew McEwan believes time is of utmost importance while deciding between SEO and PPC. “With a PPC campaign however, your paid ad can show up on the first page the first day of the campaign. You can get in front of customers without delay, giving yourself an opportunity to produce leads in the early days of the campaign.” Says McEwan.

And if you have the time to wait for results, Cristina Maria of Commusoft believes, “you’ll see a self-sustaining online presence being developed which has positive ramifications for other aspects of your business. But that takes patience and a commitment to excellent content.”

Lydia German of Tao Digital Marketing explains why time is considered an important deciding factor. “We know that SEO is a waiting game due to it being a long-term strategy, with PPC generating almost instant results, however with PPC, the quality of leads can be lower for a few reasons.

Firstly, with PPC, you tend to get a lot of inquiries from people who are looking for something quickly – they tend to fill in a form and then leave the site. With SEO, the leads have likely taken the time to read through your site, learning information about your business offerings and therefore are more likely to use your services.

For some businesses, PPC does work really well. If it is a business valuation, for example, users will click this as this is what they are looking for, whereas if people are less informed about what they may need, SEO could work better.”

And if you’re a brand new business with a brand new site, SEO can take a considerable amount of time to show results. 

As Austin Mullins of Conversion Media opines, “With a brand new site that has little content and no backlink profile to speak of, it can take 6-8 months of consistent effort to begin breaking even (when organic revenue exceeds your content marketing / SEO expenses).

By contrast, a good PPC manager can get you results in just a couple months — often a far easier proposition for newer companies to stomach.”

Jasz Joseph of SyncShow agrees and adds, “When you launch an SEO campaign, it often takes Google weeks or months to crawl and index your website.”

Pat Ahern of Junto says the most important question that we ask in determining which is the right investment is timing. “PPC is like a faucet – it can be turned on today, and, when structured correctly, you’ll start receiving leads immediately. However, the moment that the “faucet” is turned off, those leads vanish.

On the other hand, SEO experiences a ramp-up timeline (we typically see 3-6 months) before leads start coming in. As those leads start coming in, leads grow exponentially for every dollar invested.

Those who have a longer-term growth timeline will see much better results (and higher ROI) from investing in SEO. On the other hand, those looking for leads ASAP should consider paying a premium and investing in PPC for better short-term results.” 

So it all comes down to how quickly you want to see a return on your investment.

Sam Bretzmann of BretzMedia explains, “Generally, PPC will give you a quicker return on investment as you can set up an account today and be running ads tomorrow. Whereas, with SEO, it is usually going to take a longer time to begin to see results. In a perfect world, you are able to do some of both. Startup the PPC, begin driving some traffic, and slowly build your SEO as you go.”

“Think of SEO as planting seeds and watching them grow over time. It may vary on how long they take to grow, but over some amount of time, you will have trees that will be around for quite a long time.

On the other hand, PPC is like transplanting a tree into your yard and then paying rent on it. Once you don’t want to pay rent on that tree, it gets pulled out of your yard.

Sometimes you need a lot of shade all at once, so you go PPC. Other times you want to think long-term and plant SEO seeds to create a forest in the future.” Explains Brandon Andersen of Ceralytics.

Editor’s Note: Use this free SEO overview dashboard template to track the overall performance of your SEO efforts. Easily track keyword rankings, clicks by search queries, inbound links, your ranking distribution, and more.

SEO Overview Dashboard Template

Goals

According to many marketers, the biggest deciding factor between SEO and PPC is your business and marketing goals

For example, “If a small business may want to increase the online sales for Halloween decorations, in this case a PPC strategy is best due to quick results. Another example would be if a medium-sized business wanting to establish an international presence, in this case an SEO strategy is the best profitable way to target an international market.” Explains Carlos Castro of Wolfate.

“If you’re forced to choose between SEO or PPC you need to look at your business goals. If immediate leads are what your business needs to be successful then PPC is the way to go. You can jump to the top of search results, create targeted ads for the right audience, and carefully monitor ROI.

However, if your business goals are bigger picture, long-term focused like increasing brand awareness, market share, and improved user experience, SEO is what you should be investing in.” Alysha Schultz of Intuitive Digital explains.

And what does a well-rounded strategy incorporate? 

Schultz adds, “Both. But if your marketing budget is tight, choose your marketing tactic that most closely aligns with your overall business needs.” 

Tim Dugan of Zero Gravity Marketing believes identifying the objectives for each strategy (along with expectations) is critical before embarking on an SEO or PPC campaign. “Whether it be traffic, sales, conversions, Identifying these goals ahead of time will allow you to truly determine which path is the right one for your situation.” Explains Dugan.

If you’re planning seasonal marketing campaigns, then PPC is the way to go.

Louisa Stockley of Traced explains, “If you have a seasonal offering, consumer products you want to sell at Christmas, PPC is going to be much better than SEO if you’ve only got a couple of months to go. (And PPC here should be social ads, too).”

Tim Absalikov of Lasting Trend agrees and says, “There’s only one question that will help to choose between investing in SEO or PPC: when do I need more clients? And the answer isn’t complicated at all. For example, a gift shop can sell items all year long, but at Christmas, the shop will need to attract more clients. PPC campaigns at that time and in summer will show different results.”

William Chin of PickFu.com is of the same mind and says, “The most important thing to consider when investing in SEO or PPC is – what are your overall goals and time horizon.

You need to manage your expectations with SEO as it is a process, and requires many changes across your website, content and digital strategy. Whereas for PPC, you’re paying to play (A good PPC specialist can set-up a campaign for you in one day, with varying results of success).

So, if you need revenue fast – but want a fairly low-profit margin, PPC is the way to go. If you want to build evergreen content that will rank in 8 months – a year and generate a ton of revenue, go with SEO.”

Max Allegro of Intuitive Digital advises businesses to, “Define your goal(s). Whether that’s increasing short term sales, growing long term leads, building your brand, or simply getting the best ROI, make sure your goals guide your decision.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re honest about your goals and realistic with your timeline for achieving them, then the choice should be clear.”

Kantaloupe’s Michelle Alese believes the most important factor to consider when deciding between SEO and PPC comes down to your business’s longevity goals. “Businesses that are striving to have a long-lasting digital presence will best benefit by investing their resources into white hat SEO strategies.” Says Alese.

Anthony Taylor of Mean Joe Advertising recommends establishing your business objectives first. “PPC is one of the best lead generators, period. However, SEO provides long term growth opportunities for awareness and education. Your understanding of who your customer is, how they go about the buying process, and what you need to be a profitable business will guide your decision on whether to implement SEO or PPC.”

Another important factor in deciding which advertising method to go for is figuring out what type of business you want to cultivate. “When you are trying to build up a B2B channel, great SEO will benefit you in the long run. If you are more concerned with B2C lead generation or sales, then PPC offers you quicker results. There are several other factors to consider, but if you can invest in BOTH, then do it.” Explains Joe Karasin of Karasin PPC

Types of Leads

What type of leads are you looking to generate? 

Does your products\services require a complicated sales funnel and a long sales cycle?

“If your product, or service, is very simple, then PPC might be a better and more immediate option for you. On the other hand, if you are looking to gain trust with potential clients, then having a page, or site that ranks high on google due to proper SEO, you will experience higher quality leads.” Nathaniel Hovsepian of The Expert Home Buyers explains.

According to our survey, 81.2% respondents believe SEO provides better quality leads and results than PPC.

SEO vs PPC - which strategy provides more results?

Emily G. of SERVPRO believes the most important factor to consider when deciding between SEO vs. PPC is whether you are looking to solidly establish your web presence or if you are looking for a steady stream of leads in the near future to boost business. 

“If you correctly invest in SEO, your business can show in multiple positions on the first page of Search, deliver a high volume of organic leads, and can organically continue to grow over time. When investing in PPC, you will be able to get leads much sooner and target exactly what leads you want, but it will not give you the same visibility over time as SEO.” Explains Emily G. 

Editor’s Note: Use this HubSpot (Leads by Source) dashboard template for better insights into which traffic sources drive the most leads or contacts.

HubSpot (Leads by Source) dashboard template

Long term vs. short term results

Are you looking for instant results or long term results? 

As Camden Bernatz of Relic Advertising says, “PPC efforts help produce immediate results, while SEO is more of a long-term strategy.

Both PPC and SEO are good investments, ideally done at the same time. But if you need to pick between them, you just need to decide whether or not you need immediate results or can afford to set yourself up for delayed, long-term success.”

Before making the decision, ask yourself the following questions. “Do you want to create inroads to your website that are long-term and organic and spend the money and take the time to wait for keywords to rank? Or do you want to spend money on advertising and scale quickly, risking potential loss? That’s what you really need to think about.” Says Jack Choros Iron Monk

Jose Gomez of Evinex explains, “Typically, investing in SEO and organic traffic will lead to a much better ROI in the long term. This means that for every dollar you spend on SEO and organic traffic, you will achieve more than with paid advertising.

Keep in mind that a good piece of content can take up to six to ten months to rank in the search engines’ first positions, especially if the site is brand new.”

Luke Smith of We Buy Property In Kentucky is spot on when he says, “SEO is a long-term strategy because it takes time and constant work, but the result of showing up on page one of Google can be priceless.”

Paul Franklin of SideGains also believes time is the most important factor. “PPC will deliver immediate feedback, which you can use to make adjustments on the fly. You can understand very quickly whether or not campaigns, ad copy, and even keywords are delivering the results you want.

SEO on the other hand is a much longer-term strategy, whereby it can take months to understand how successful your labors are and react to make them more so. As a general rule successful PPC takes much less time to realize than successful SEO.” Shares Franklin.

Robert Stam of SEO Mandarin is of the same opinion and says, “SEO is a longer-term investment, which will attract more qualified lead over time. PPC is a good starting strategy for new businesses as the traffic is immediate, but not necessarily highly specific.”

And as Nate Nead of SEO.co asks, “Are you prepared to ‘own’ your digital real estate by doing SEO, or do you want to continue to pay ‘rent’ to search engines? 

The most important consideration in today’s search engine world is that good SEO takes years. While SEO success is measured in months and years, the upfront investment can pay dividends thereafter. Yes, PPC has an immediately measurable ROI, but investment in SEO will yield greater results in the long term.”

Keyword difficulty

“Keyword difficulty often determines which way the needle moves in deciding between SEO and PPC. If my keywords have me competing with national chains or list aggregator sites like Yelp or Angie’s List, I’ll put my focus into PPC. For more focused keywords and long-tail keywords, I’ll shift to SEO.” Explains Scott Broschart of All American Restoration.

Mudassir Ahmed of Blogging Explained agrees and adds, “First, analyze what the actual CPC for the desired keywords from your niche is. If you can pull up the data of what other businesses are paying, it helps you do a better analysis of budget, campaign period, and expected ROI.

You cannot simply trust the average CPC that you extract through those so-called SEO tools. Sometimes the average CPC can run much higher. In such cases, PPC is only going to make the new advertiser frustrating and quit PPC eventually unless it has a massive marketing budget to carry the loss until things get settled down.”

Related: The 24 Best Keyword Tracking Tools (According to 107 SEOs)

Target consumer behavior

For several marketers, it comes down to how their audience searches for their products.

Dan Rawley of Twinkl Hive opines, “If they search in very generic, high-volume terms – for example – ‘buy flowers online’ – then PPC is going to be your best bet, as it will be very difficult to rank in the top positions organically, and the audience is likely to click whichever result comes up first – paid or not.

However, if customers search for more specific terms like ‘what are the best type of flowers for birthdays?’, then SEO is a better option. PPC helps you reach a mass market quickly, while SEO is better for targeting very specific queries.”

Are your customers more problem-aware than solution-aware?

“If your customers are generally problem aware but not solution aware then a top-of-the-funnel strategy like SEO is a better use of your resources as you will want to capture search intent traffic. If your target customer is generally more solution aware, then a PPC campaign that works to convert is a better fit.” Explains Benjamin Sweeney of ClydeBank Media.

Next, you need to ask yourself whether your customers would prefer your company to appear as a sponsored ad on search engines or an organic listing. “Different customers respond to different marketing approaches, and there’s quite a difference between organic listings vs. ads on Google.

While PPC ads may appear ahead of the organic listings, many people completely avoid these and look for the real pages.

Investing in SEO is a slower process, but it might be crucial if you believe your potential clients will respond to it better than an ad.” Shares Alchemy Leads Darcy Cudmore.

Another factor to consider is your customer’s lifetime value. “If each customer brings in a high amount of revenue then you can go all-in on PPC, however if each customer has a lower Lifetime Value then SEO is better.” Says Yatin Singal of Singals.ca.

So studying your audience and their behavior is critical in deciding which advertising methods to opt for. 

As Elizabeth Weatherby of Wisner Law Firm says, “The most important factor to consider when deciding between investing in SEO or PPC as a marketing strategy is to really study your consumers.

Are your target consumer groups already segmented? If so, you may want to choose PPC to target a specific keyword within queries. If you know less about your audience, but more about your industry and what you do, SEO and organic search is a better option.

SEO appeals to a broad range of users and funnels them to your site based on so many efforts. You can appeal to people searching directly for you, or just users searching for a similar product or topic.”

Wrap Up

In short, as Raaquib Pathan of Citrusbug Technolabs says, “PPC is a sprint while SEO is a marathon. If patience is the name of your game, then you should definitely opt for SEO. And if you want some quick spike on your sales curve, you should rather choose PPC.”


About the author
Maham S. Chappal
Maham S. Chappal Maham S. Chappal is a content writer for SaaS and marketing brands in B2B. She’s been published in several leading publications including Social Media Examiner. She loves writing in-depth, research-backed content that drives traffic, increases brand awareness, and boosts ROI. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her engrossed in the latest John Grisham novel. You can find her on LinkedIn or on mahamschappal.com

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