Budgets have limits, so how are you spending your money when it comes to being found online?

Although not nearly as difficult as ranking #1, determining the best way to get your website on top of a search engine’s results page (SERP) can be challenging. SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay-per-click) are two effective, yet philosophically different ways to be found by consumers as they search for solutions to their needs.

SEO blends a multitude of tactics, with an emphasis on content creation, aimed at earning the best SERP position among organic results. PPC (pay-per-click) is paying for ads that are targeted to users who are actively searching for your product or service.

The strong correlation between position and traffic stresses the importance of having an organized search strategy. While both SEO and PPC can help drive more traffic, the difference in their approaches make the decision almost as daunting as the execution.

Here’s a checklist rating the advantages of PPC vs. SEO:

External Factors I: Keeping up with Google Updates

In early 2016, Google officially killed their right-column ads and began rolling out 4-ad blocks. As a result, organic results are being pushed even further down the page. Knowing the relationship between a site’s search position and click-through rate (CTR), running a PPC campaign could help combat the implications of this change. Advantage: PPC.

PPC: 1, SEO: 0

External Factors II: User Trust

Users are less likely to click on ads regardless of position because they perceive organic results as more trustworthy. While paid traffic typically shows higher purchase intent, we can’t dismiss the fact that organic results consistently drives more site traffic overall for now. Advantage: SEO.

PPC: 1, SEO: 1

The Bottom Line: What Are You Willing to Pay?

Although PPC offers better search position, it is at a price. As its name suggests, PPC costs money every time someone clicks on your ad. While you can set your own bids, various other factors, such as industry and competition, can make PPC unaffordable if you aren’t drawing a significant profit. Additionally, without proper campaign management and optimization, you could be paying for irrelevant traffic. Advantage: SEO.

PPC: 1, SEO: 2

Turtle vs. Hare: How Patient are You?

PPC offers immediate results, SEO produces sustained rankings. With PPC, once you stop paying, you lose your position. With SEO, you’ll enjoy sustained traffic when you achieve your ideal search position. The difference is time: SEO can take months to work your way up SERPs. And while optimizing a truly successful PPC can also be time consuming, PPC is the obvious choice if you are looking for overnight results. Advantage: PPC.

PPC: 2, SEO: 2

Oh, the Web We Weave… Is Your Site Ready to Handle Any Strategy?

For both PPC and SEO, a subpar website can set you up for imminent failure. Ensuring your website is able to meet its goals prior to starting will help you avoid wasting money, time and energy. A user-friendly website is necessary.

  • Without optimized landing pages, you’ll not only spend more per click due to a lower quality score but the PPC spend will be ineffective because users are less likely to convert.
  • If your site isn’t technically sound and doesn’t boast the required content needed for SEO to be effective, you are also wasting your time.

Advantage: Wash.

PPC: 2, SEO: 2

And the Winner is…

Considering the benefits and limitations of each, it’s clear that both SEO and PPC are important and should both play a role in your search marketing strategy when possible. If you have to choose, you’ll need to evaluate your short-term and long-term goals in order to choose what’s best for your business.

Free download: The EVR SEO Guide will not only help you understand the basics of SEO, but will help connect with your target audience by providing the technical and creative strategies to improve your site’s position within Search Engine Result pages (SERP).