SEO vs PPC Advertising

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising are both extremely popular forms of search engine marketing. Both can generate some excellent returns depending on how well they are executed. So what makes them different and what else do they have in common…besides three-letter acronyms?

Many search engine users (and even marketers) still don’t know the difference between the two set of results, so lets take a quick look:


The search engine results on the top and right sidebar are part of a pay-per-click campaign, so the advertiser is charged a fee every time someone click on one of these links. The search engine results in green are considered “organic” or “natural” results and can be influenced by SEO. While many internet users still aren’t aware that some of these Google results are sponsored, more people are becoming savvy to this and come to trust the organic listings over the paid results. Because of this, the natural listings often have a much higher click-through rate than the sponsored ads.

Let’s take a look at some of the other differences between SEO and PPC:

SEO Advertising Campaigns:

  • Can take weeks or months to generate traffic
  • Provide permanent (owned) rankings
  • Often less expensive over time
  • Organic results generate more clicks

PPC Advertising Campaigns:

  • Generate traffic immediately
  • Provide temporary (rented) rankings
  • Often more expensive over time

Generally, the two differ in three areas…time, permanence, and cost:

Time – When it comes to the times it takes to see actual traffic from a campaign, PPC is the winner by far. PPC campaigns can be launched within a day where SEO results can take weeks or months.

Permanence – The downside to this “instant traffic” is that it’s temporary and rented. The advertiser has to pay for every click and the traffic disappears as soon as they stop paying. With SEO, once top rankings are achieved much less (if any) ongoing maintenance may be required.

Cost – Many times, this is the first question we get from clients…”How much does it cost?” Initially, SEO is more expensive but has a better ROI in the long run. Think of it this way…would you rather rent an apartment or buy a house? We highly encourage all our clients make SEO their long term goal. PPC is quick and easy , but SEO allows you to build equity in your website and marketing.

So which one is better….SEO or PPC?

The real answer is “It depends.” They’re both tools for achieving success online. PPC is fast and agile, where SEO is slow and methodical. We’re definitely biased toward SEO as a long-term strategy for any business, but for clients that “need sales yesterday” PPC can make it happen overnight.

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