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When looking to invest in marketing strategies for your business, it’s inevitable that you will end up comparing two or more channels together to decide what is best for your business, audience and objectives.

More often than not, this conversation features two of the most popular marketing activities in 2022: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

Optimising your website for search engines can help improve your rankings on organic searches, whilst PPC efforts (like Google Ads) are paid for methods of advertisement allowing marketers to compete for coveted paid placements on the search engine results page.

What’s The Difference?

Put simply, the main difference between the two lies in SEO efforts being “Organic” and PPC being “Paid”. 

So, What is SEO & Organic Traffic?

Think back to the last time you purchased something online or wanted to find out more about a product, service or company. There’s a pretty good chance that your journey started with one thing: a Google search.

There’s also a pretty good chance that you clicked on a website shown on the first page of your results – in fact, over 95% of clicks come from the first page of search results, with the first 3 results alone getting a combined click through rate of over 60%.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about directing the right web searchers to your website from search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, all without the use of paid advertising (PPC ads).

SEO still requires investment. If you’re doing SEO work yourself, that could be an investment of time, or if you’re using an SEO agency like Wilkes Wood, it could be a financial investment. But, you can’t pay directly for performance – i.e you cannot pay Google to guarantee you a certain organic ranking for a keyword.

We’ve written a whole introductory guide to SEO if you want to learn more about SEO works and the benefits it can bring to your business.

The truth of the matter is that SEO is a slower burning long term strategy. 

Let’s look at some of the phases that an SEO professional may go through when working on your website:

  1. Research into your business, audience, keywords, competitors.
  2. A full audit of your website from a technical point of view.
  3. Website optimisation and development.
  4. Content planning, research and creation.
  5. Internal linking & Backlink strategies.

This isn’t a swift process in itself, and then you have to be patient to reap the results of your hard work. There’s no set time frame for SEO work to pay off, but most industry experts agree that even with a healthy SEO budget, you’re looking at a 3 month period before your ranking starts to see serious improvements.

But, those improvements are worth it. Your rankings will improve, your organic traffic will grow, your authority will improve and, whilst you’re waiting for more results, you can continue to optimise your website and put out keyword driven content.

With PPC, your ads disappear when your budget ends. SEO lasts way, way “beyond the spend” and this is why so many marketers see SEO as such a great investment – in fact  49% of marketers report that organic search has the best ROI of any other channel.

It’s also worth noting that organic search drives 53% of website traffic, whilst paid search only accounts for 15%!

You can read more information from Google on organic search or head to our blog on SEO to uncover more of the basics.

To summarise: SEO is powerful, but slow. It wins over the long-term.

What Is PPC & Paid Advertising?

Pay-per-click advertising (or PPC) is a form of paid advertising on search engines, such as Google Ads. The aim of PPC on Google Ads is to bring immediate traffic to your website by strategically “bidding” on search terms against competitors, with winning bids ensuring your advert is placed somewhere on screen.

PPC is also used across all social media platforms, but we’re not going to cover those here.

One of the most appealing elements of PPC is that it gives marketers the opportunity to target specific audiences that they want their deal, product, event or content to appeal to. 

You can target audiences on Google Ads using demographic data such as location, age, profession, annual income and even interests – this is incredibly powerful, as you can imagine, and is why Google Ads is so popular (accounting for over 80% of Google’s entire revenue).

It is called pay-per-click because you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your advertisement. If you’ve used Google, you’ll have seen ads before at the top and bottom of the search engine results page. The average cost of a “click” is, at the time of writing, around $2.69 (£2.35). 

Average click through rates (CTR) differ wildly between industries, with an average of only 1.9%. To uncover the average CTR for your industry, head over to this article by Search Engine Land.

PPC is popular because it offers immediate results, unlike the long term strategy that SEO aligns itself with. However, as soon as your spend stops, so do the benefits, and depending on the budget you have, your ad might be limited in how long it could run or what size audience it could reach.

There are some downsides to PPC, such as spam clicks/traffic, and over 40% of internet users now use some form of ad blocker.

Just like with SEO, Google will be ranking your efforts, and optimising Google Ads is no easy task. It’s a discipline all of its own and successful campaigns require constant monitoring, testing and tweaking to avoid precious ad spend being wasted.

To summarise: PPC costs per click, and is immediate. It wins in the short term.

So, Which One Is Right For My Business?

As with most things in marketing, the answer is: it depends.

Do you need immediate results? Are you happy to wait for long-term rewards? Do you have a set budget? How much work would your website need? What are your competitors doing?

These are just some of the questions that could help narrow down your options and leave you with the right choice.

A lot of small businesses and start-ups lean more towards SEO as they lack the sort of budget required to fully set-up, test, optimise and implement a PPC campaign. If you’re prepared to think and plan for the long-term, SEO is budget friendly and, once results start showing, you should see steady improvements to your organic traffic.

If you have established your business within a niche market, you may even be able to find keywords that have the “Big 3” – high relevancy, low competition and decent monthly search volume. This would be a golden opportunity for SEO.

If you’re in a highly competitive market, such as an e-commerce store selling products that are in competition with industry behemoths like Amazon, it’s unlikely that you are going to find massive success in ranking for organic positions, especially early on in your efforts. PPC could be great here to help boost your brand awareness.

The truth is, both SEO and PPC are great ways to grow your business, whether they’re used on their own or in conjunction with one another. 

There are, however, a few instances where one would be much more appropriate than another.

There are, however, a few instances where one would be much more appropriate than another – for example, if you’re looking to sell out an event in a short period of time, PPC is your best friend!

In Conclusion…

If you wanted to maximise the potential of your business, and had the budget to accommodate, we’d always recommend that you invest in both SEO and PPC. With a combined effort, you’re likely to be able to achieve results that would not be possible if each were implemented in isolation.

However, we’re aware that not everyone lives in this “ideal world” and you may have to prioritise one over the other, at least for an initial stretch of time, so let’s break it down:

PPC will require initial and ongoing investment, and will not leave you with any lasting or enduring results when your spending stops. You should look into PPC if you need immediate results, you have a higher budget, or if your product, offer or event is time sensitive.

SEO will require an investment of time or money, but will still be cheaper than PPC over the long term. You should look into SEO if you have a smaller budget, want to prioritise a long term ROI and want to create impactful, powerful content that’s relevant to your audience at all stages of the buying journey.

What Can We Do To Help?

We’ve been helping our clients with their SEO needs for over 4 years, and have a dedicated, in-house team to do just that.

Head over to our dedicated SEO page to see our packages across content and maintenance.

For a free SEO audit of your website, get in touch!

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