What is the difference between SEO and PPC?

Last updated: Jul 27, 2022
11 min read

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) are two popular online marketing strategies. They both help you to drive traffic to your website, raise brand awareness and generate leads. So what is the difference between SEO and PPC? And why should you care? Let's dive in!

SEO vs. PPC: what are they, and why do they matter?

SEO and PPC are both SEM (search engine marketing) strategies that are primarily used to increase website traffic.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It refers to the process of optimizing your website for Google search with the goal of earning higher web traffic levels and improving your visibility in organic search results.

Unlike PPC, SEO doesn't require you to pay directly for clicks over to your website.

What is PPC?

PPC stands for “pay-per-click,” which means that you only pay when someone clicks on an ad. There are various types of PPC ads, including text ads (which appear as search results) and display ads (which appear next to other content).

If you've ever seen a paid ad notice next to a search result in Google, you've seen ads from a PPC campaign.

How are SEO and PPC distinct?

While both rely on search engines like Google or Bing in order to reach potential customers, with SEO you don't need anyone's permission in order to publish content online—it's just a matter of making sure it ranks well within the search engine results pages (SERPs) by following best practices and guidelines from search engines such as Google.

SEO Basics: How does an SEO campaign work?

SEO is when you use organic, unpaid methods to rank higher in the search engines. In other words, it is the process of improving your visibility to search engines by optimizing your website.

How do you increase your organic traffic with SEO?

While the process of performing SEO looks different for every website, virtually every SEO campaign involves performing keyword research and creating website content based on what your target audience is searching for in search engines like Google.

How do you create an SEO strategy?

Crafting an SEO strategy can be complex, and it is a long-term process that involves improving your content and website structure, as well as providing a high-quality user experience. Because of the many nuances involved in SEO, it is best to engage an SEO expert to get optimal results.

The goal of SEO is to deliver high-quality organic traffic from the search engines to your site.

More importantly, it delivers this traffic on a consistent basis over time — which makes it much more valuable than PPC advertising which can only deliver short-term sales or leads.

How long does it take to see results from an organic SEO campaign?

The amount of time it takes to see results from an organic SEO campaign varies depending on the competitiveness of the keywords you're targeting, how saturated your industry is, and how well your website is optimized. However, most businesses see significant increases in web traffic and organicsearch engine rankings within six to twelve months after starting an SEO campaign.

Which search marketing method is best?

Even though SEO usually takes longer to show results, it is ultimately a more sustainable form of marketing because it doesn’t require you to keep paying for ads month after month.

Once you start achieving high rankings for your targeted keywords, your website will continue to generate organic traffic from those terms.

PPC Basics: How does a PPC campaign work?

PPC (Pay-per-click) is an auction-based system that you have to pay for. A concentrated effort to increase website traffic and conversions is called a PPC campaign or digital ads campaign.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of PPC?

The advantage of this type of advertising is that it allows you to reach your target audience quickly, but the downside is that there’s a bidding process involved. If your keywords aren’t unique enough or they don’t align with what people are searching for, then your ads won’t appear in the top spot on Google or Bing.

Additionally, if your website provides a poor experience for website visitors or if your ads don't match user expectations, you may end up paying higher prices for your clicks.

How long does it take to see results for a PPC campaign?

The good thing about PPC is that it gives businesses immediate results because when someone clicks on one of your ads, they will be taken directly to your website within seconds.

This means that you can measure how effective each of your PPC campaigns are by looking at how much traffic or conversions they generate (e.g., 100 visitors per month equals $100 in digital ad spend or 20 contact form completions equals $500).

PPC is also a great way for businesses to raise awareness about their products and services. When people search for something specific in Google, they often end up clicking on one of the ads that come up at the top of their search results page.

PPC vs. SEO: what's the difference?  

So what's the main difference between PPC and SEO? In a nutshell, PPC is a paid form of SEM that delivers instant results, while SEO is an organic form of SEM that takes time to produce results.

However, there are also many similarities between the two. For example, both PPC and SEO require keyword research and content creation. In fact, you’ll find that some of your best PPC ads will come from the keywords you were researching for your SEO campaign!

When it comes right down to it, though, these two strategies are distinctly different in terms of their goals:

  • PPC is focused on generating immediate results by driving traffic to your site through paid ads.
  • SEO is a long-term strategy that seeks to improve your website’s visibility in organic search, without paying for ads.

So, which one should you use?

The answer is: both!

SEO and PPC are both a part of a comprehensive search engine marketing strategy.

It's best not to think of SEO vs. PPC as two competing tactics. They are both effective digital marketing strategies for improving your online visibility.

Together, they can help you drive search engine traffic to your website and raise brand awareness. They can also be used to generate leads by getting the right people to contact you through your website.

When used together, SEO and PPC can be a powerful combination that will help you get search traffic that will enable you to reach your target audience, generate leads, and increase sales.

Which provides a better ROI: SEO or PPC?

When it comes to ROI, PPC and SEO both have the potential to be successful with the right implementation of each strategy.

It's important to keep in mind that there are a lot of factors that go into determining how successful your approach is going to be, including effort put into implementing a particular strategy, what you're trying to achieve with that strategy and your budget.

At the end of the day, search engine algorithms will determine where your website will show up when a user submits a search query.

That being said, SEO tends to provide a higher ROI than PPC marketing in the long run. While PPC advertising can provide you with immediate results, SEO is a more sustainable form of marketing that will generate traffic and leads long after you stop paying for ads.

Which strategy should you implement first: SEO vs. PPC?

Implementing both PPC and SEO in tandem is ideal, but if you only have the budget for one digital marketing channel, It's best to get your SEO strategy in place first.

While the quick results that come from paid search advertising can be tempting, investing in SEO is also investing in the long-term success of your website.

If you're still not convinced that SEO is the way to go, then consider this:

  • SEO increases your website's usability. When planned and implemented correctly to improve your technical SEO, it can improve the user experience of your site by making it easier for people to find what they're looking for. This can be especially important if you have a large number of pages on your site or if the content is difficult to navigate.
  • SEO takes time—but it's worth it in the long run. As mentioned above, SEO campaigns have a reputation for being slow-moving, but they will eventually produce massive results.
  • However, once your campaign has begun showing results and earning traffic from organic search queries—which can take anywhere from 3–12 months—you'll see an increase in revenue and customer satisfaction over time that lasts well into the future.

For best results, optimize your website for both SEO and PPC.

SEO and PPC advertising work together. By making your website more search-friendly, you can decrease your ad costs.

It’s not a one-size fits all solution though – if your site is already pretty optimized, then improving your organic SEO may not have an outsized impact on your ads. But if you have been neglecting SEO (or just don’t know where to start), now is the time!

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your site is optimized for both PPC and SEO:

  • Do your keyword research using SEO tools like Semrush
  • Use relevant keywords related to your business - this helps you get relevant traffic!
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly
  • Create relevant and fresh content
  • Optimize your images
  • Use proper header tags
  • Make sure your web pages load quickly
  • Add Google Analytics to your website to track the traffic generated from your efforts, as well as your keyword and conversion data.

Bringing it all together: It's not SEO vs. PPC — both are important for your digital marketing.

Both PPC advertising and SEO are important for any business with an online presence. By understanding how they work together, you can create a digital marketing strategy that will help you reach your target audience and achieve your business goals.

The most important thing to remember about SEO and PPC is that your results will depend on how you implement each strategy. If you choose to go with one over the other, be sure to take into account all of your marketing needs and objectives before making a decision.

Think about your budget—do you have enough cash on hand to invest in paid advertising? Or maybe a content-rich website is more up your alley? Either way, PPC advertising or SEO can help make things happen for your business!

So, if you're looking for a way to increase your site traffic and leads, PPC or SEO (or ideally, both!) may be the answer.

The most important thing to remember is that the success of any online marketing will depend on how well it's implemented.

Need some help? Get in contact with our SEO and PPC advertising experts.

If you have questions about which strategy might work best for your business, get in touch with our SEO and PPC experts to learn about our SEO services and our PPC services today.

Frequently asked questions about PPC vs. SEO

Which is better: SEO or PPC?

There is no simple answer to this question, as the best approach for your business will depend on a variety of factors. However, some general things to consider include how much you're willing to spend, how much time you're willing to invest, and what kind of results you're hoping to achieve.

PPC advertising can be a great way to generate leads quickly, but it will require a ongoing investment to maintain your results.

SEO can take longer to show results, but once your site is optimized, you'll typically see a sustained increase in traffic and leads.

If you're just starting out with search engine marketing, it's often best to start with SEO because it will provide the best long-term benefits for your website traffic.

Ultimately, the best way to determine which digital marketing strategy is right for your business is to speak with an SEO and PPC expert. They can help you assess your needs and objectives to develop a tailored plan that will help you achieve your desired results.

What are the benefits of SEO vs. PPC?

There are a few key benefits of SEO that make it more appealing for many businesses:

  • SEO is more affordable than PPC. Once your website is optimized for search engines and you have a solid strategy in place, you'll continue to see results without having to invest in paid advertising.
  • SEO can provide a higher return on investment (ROI) than PPC. Because you're not paying for each click, you have the potential to earn more money from SEO over the long-term.
  • SEO can help you build brand awareness and credibility. Appearing in search results helps improve your brand's visibility and reputation, which can ultimately lead to more sales and conversions.
  • PPC is a great complement to SEO. While they are two separate marketing strategies, using both together can help you achieve even better results.

Is Google Ads SEO or PPC?

Google Ads is a form of PPC advertising, as you are paying for each click on your ad.

Does PPC help SEO?

Yes, PPC can help improve your SEO efforts. When you use targeted keywords in your paid ads, you're helping to increase your site's exposure to potential customers.

This can result in more traffic and leads for your business. In addition, PPC can help you determine the most effective keywords for your SEO campaigns.

By analyzing the data from your PPC ads, you can identify which keywords are driving the most traffic and conversions. You can then use these keywords in your SEO campaigns to help improve your results.

Does SEO help PPC?

Yes, SEO can help improve your PPC campaigns. SEO helps you to create a user-friendly website that is optimized for search engines.

That can help increase your click-through rate (CTR), which will lower your cost-per-click (CPC).

In addition, a strong SEO strategy can help you build brand awareness and credibility, which can ultimately lead to more clicks and conversions.

How much should I spend on PPC and SEO?

There is no set amount that you should spend on PPC or SEO. The amount you'll need to invest will depend on a variety of factors, such as your budget, business goals, and target audience.

However, a good rule of thumb is to start with a smaller budget for PPC and SEO and then increase your investment as you see results.

When should I use PPC vs. SEO?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, a good rule of thumb is to start with SEO and then add PPC if you want to further increase your exposure and traffic.

What does PPC mean?

PPC stands for pay-per-click, and it's a type of digital marketing in which businesses can purchase ads that will appear in search results. When someone clicks on one of these ads, they are taken to the advertiser's landing page.

PPC is a popular form of search marketing, as it allows businesses to reach people who are actively searching for products or services like theirs.

Are PPC and SEO the same?

PPC and SEO are two different types of digital marketing. PPC is a form of paid advertising, where businesses pay for each click on their ad.

SEO is a type of organic (or unpaid) marketing, where businesses optimize their website for search engines to rank higher in search results.

Do you need SEO for PPC?

You don't need SEO for PPC advertising, but it is highly recommended for the best results.

PPC advertising is a great way to get immediate exposure and traffic to your website, but paid ads can be expensive.

Optimizing your website for organic SEO results can help you rank higher, which can lead to more organic (or free) traffic.

In addition, SEO can help you build brand awareness and credibility, which can ultimately lead to more sales.

Should SEO and PPC be used together?

Yes, using both PPC and SEO together can be very effective.

PPC can help you generate immediate traffic and results, while SEO can help you rank higher in search engine results over time.

By using both strategies together, you can reach more people with your message and improve your chances of generating leads and sales.

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