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5 minutes

SEO vs PPC: The differences, and which you should choose

Simply put, search engine optimisation (SEO) targets capturing organic traffic to your website, whereas pay-per-click (PPC) brings in traffic from paid channels such as paid search and paid social. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss the differences between the two, what the pros and cons are, and ultimately how the two marketing channels can work together to boost your search visibility. 

The Benefits of SEO

SEO is often described as a longer-term strategy, yet there are many advantages to investing your time and energy in building a strong foundation.

1. Organic visibility boosts brand awareness

If you undertake priority keyword research and successfully rank high on Google for these, then you’ll ensure your site is receiving consistent search traffic. This means that you can rank for non-branded keywords and new, and existing, users can find your site relatively easily. 

2. SEO is more cost-effective longer term

While you will need to invest initially into your SEO strategies, whether that’s done internally or via an agency, you will reap longer-term benefits by doing so. Organic traffic is essentially free, meaning you aren’t paying for the clicks like you would with PPC.

SEO certainly isn’t a cheap tactic, but in comparison to PPC, it is a more affordable route. If we look at a brand like HelloFresh, which ranks for over 65,000 keywords and receives approximately 462,000 monthly visits, then it could cost an estimated £516K per month to buy that traffic through PPC. 

Screenshot of organic performance on Ahrefs SEO tool

3. Sustainable growth and credibility

Building organic visibility isn’t quick or easy, but once you nail the strategy you’re likely to appear more credible to your audience. Many users skip past paid ads and jump straight to organic listings, so having your site appear often signifies your brand is credible and trustworthy. 

Additionally, with minor tweaks along the way, you’ll hold these organic positions for longer in the SERPs, meaning your competitors can’t simply buy their way ahead of you. 

The Negatives of SEO

SEO is ripe with benefits, and we believe it’s an essential tactic in any marketing strategy, but with anything, it does come with its cons.

1. SEO isn’t a quick win

As mentioned, it can take time for your site to reap the rewards of SEO. While we often say it can take an initial 3 months to see movement, it can be longer and so SEO needs dedication and continued monitoring to ensure it’s working effectively. 

2. You need unique and authoritative content

Google algorithms are smarter than ever, with a huge focus on helpful, unique content. So a simple copy-and-paste job no longer works. You need to utilise your expert opinions, have a unique point of view, and create content that is genuinely helpful for the intended user. 

People want to hear and learn from experts, so Google puts a big focus on experience, expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EEAT)

Although the long term aspect of this is the con, it can reap huge benefits in the long run.

3. SEO is competitive

Some keywords can be extremely competitive, meaning it’s much harder to rank highly. If you’re a new, or smaller, brand you could be competing with larger, household names for the top spot.

This is when you need a strategic approach in place, such as initially targeting lower-difficulty keywords and building out your website’s authority through other channels such as digital PR campaigns. 

The Benefits of PPC

PPC is a great tactic as you can get started right away fairly easily.

1. Quick results

PPC campaigns can be created in a matter of days and set up relatively quickly. This means that you can have your brand in front of customers straight away and begin to monitor performance. 

2. targeted approach

This is a huge benefit to PPC as you can be super targeted in your approach of keywords, and the demographics of your target audience. You can drill down to the granular details, such as the time of day users are searching, as well as the interests of your target audience. So it’s a great tactic to make the most of your budget.

3. Instant visibility

While SEO can take months to build visibility, with PPC you can ensure your brand is appearing at the top of the SERPs for those coveted keywords. This then allows you to boost your brand’s awareness and appear in front of the right audiences. 

4. A flexible approach

Due to the speed of PPC, it means you can remain agile with your strategy and carry out A/B testing to gather data effectively. 

Additionally, if you’re an e-commerce company looking to boost a new product launch, PPC is a fantastic way to capture your audience’s attention without competing so heavily in the SERPs. 

The Negatives of PPC

The pros of PPC aren’t to be ignored, especially if you want to achieve results quickly. But you can’t bid on the same terms forever and with that come some negatives.

1. PPC is costly

No matter your budget, PPC can be utilised. However, it can easily become an expensive tactic, especially if you are in a competitive market bidding on broad, popular terms. And with PPC being a pay-to-play market, your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) can run high meaning your profit margins will be lower.

2. PPC is not a long-term effective strategy

PPC is not a one-and-done task, unfortunately. It requires you to monitor performance and refresh your existing ads continually. The longer a campaign runs, the less effective it will become with users becoming fatigued and seeing your ads too often. 

3. It’s a complex system

Managing PPC campaigns effectively is a straightforward task. You need expertise and relevant resources to manage the ad creation, bidding process and continual optimising. This means PPC can be a time-consuming feat for anyone new to it.

SEO vs PPC: Which Is Better and Which Should You Choose

Ultimately when it comes to deciding on which tactics to use, it needs to come down to the key factors of overall goals, objectives, budgets and target audience. Neither SEO nor PPC is better than the other as they both bring in valuable traffic.

For the best marketing strategy, we recommend investing in both tactics and building out your strategy together so the two channels can work in unison. SEO will ensure your business has an enhanced presence online for the long run, while PPC will get you in front of your audiences immediately, for those quicker gains. 

NORTH is a leading search agency that can help you achieve the benefits of both SEO and PPC, get in touch today to see what your search strategy could look like.