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Summary: When budgets are tight and you have to choose your marketing strategies carefully - how does SEO stack up against PPC?

Sometimes you are lucky enough to have enough budget to ride both SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay per Click) digital marketing horses, but many smaller businesses that we speak to need to make a choice about which to invest in.

So, which offers the best bang for your buck?

As is often the case with Marketing, the answer depends on what you want to achieve, and by when you want to achieve it.


What are SEO and PPC?

SEO activity works with Search Engine (eg Google) algorithms, to influence how highly a web page ranks when someone searches for a product or service like yours. It takes time for a web page to build recognition from Google, but once your page is earmarked for it’s expertise, authority and trust, Google will keep surfacing it organically for relevant searches.

PPC activity works with a different set of search engine algorithms, which look at the relevancy of your advert to both your website and the search, and then the amount paid for the Ad to be shown – this stops you from being able to just pay your way to the top. Think of PPC as a continuous bidding process for the top slots on Google.


How to tell which search results are which

All paid for advertising has to be identified as such, and will have the word “Ad” before the URL. Ads can appear at the top and / or bottom of a search page, and can be both text Ads and Image Ads of various types. Social Media channels tend to use the word “Sponsored” instead of “Ad”.

Organic search results can come up as text, as part of a map view (local SEO), as “snippets” (FAQs), or as images where the Alt-text has been optimised.

SEO vs PPC SERPS results page


Do customers care?

Studies show that people trust Organic Search Results more than Ad results, and that as a consequence around 80% of website traffic worldwide comes from Organic Search. This varies widely by industry of course.

Moz research shows that patience with SEO really can pay off – they report that people are 8 times more likely to click through on an organic result than a paid one.

This is why Marketers report that SEO has the biggest impact on their lead generation.

SEO biggest impact for B2B Marketers

Ref : SEOpressor / Indusnet Technologies


So why use PPC?

Even SEO specialists agree that PPC gives faster results. If you are building a new business, or have offers or product launches on short turnaround times, PPC is more responsive and gives you a clearer ROI. Good times to use PPC are :

Launch – If your business is new, or you are launching a new product and need to build an audience quickly

Short term offers – SEO takes time to build, so if you are planning a promotional event in the short term, PPC will get the message out there more quickly.

Dominance – Even when companies are in the top slots for Organic Search, they sometimes bid for Adwords too, just to ensure that they are seen ahead of their competitors


What are the key differences between SEO and PPC?



You pay no money to Google There is an Ad spend payable
Click through rate is 8x higher than PPC Paid Ads are shown first in SERPs
People typically read the top 3 organic results People typically read the top 1 Ad
86% of web searchers trust SEO more than PPC More people are shown Ads than comparable Organic results. PPC therefore drives more traffic
All of the content on your website is used You can target a specific topic, geography and demographic
SEO effect is for the life of the content Paid Search effect is for the life of the Ad
Results take time to establish and grow, and when maintained, carry on growing Quicker, time specific results
Text, Image, Local and FAQ (snippet) results available Display Ad, Shopping Ads and Remarketing options available
Over the long term, SEO is recognised as delivering a higher ROI Budgets are tightly controllable and ROI readily measurable
Better results for desktop users (simply because the screen is bigger) Better results for mobile users (users are less likely to conduct multiple searches)
The top slot is earned, so can be seen as a strategic advantage You can trade in a more agile way – think tactical and trial campaigns, and A/B tests



The answer depends on both your current position and your digital strategy.

A hyper local business, with little competition might focus on Local SEO

A new ecommerce business competing against established online retailers will take time to build competing search results, so a Paid Search campaign might be the best place to start

Some factors to consider…

  • How quickly do you need leads or sales?
  • How much website authority do you have?
  • What’s the competition like for your top keywords?
  • What is the cost per click for your target keywords?



If you have the budget, SEO and PPC activity can compliment each other well. Different algorithms apply, so you will not be competing with yourself.

The advantages of doing both include …

  • Keyword research from PPC can be used for SEO
  • High cost PPC keywords can be targeted for SEO
  • A/B testing in PPC can inform website content and landing pages
  • Ability to talk to different stages of the sales funnel
  • Increase brand “online street shout” by being more visible more often


Where to start?

Both SEO and PPC drive visits to your website, so the place to start is there. Make sure that your customer journey is clear, that your content is relevant and useful to your customers and that your calls to action are clear.

Optimise your website metadata and content for search. Check that you don’t have broken links, that each page has a unique page title and description, and that your keywords are well placed and woven naturally through your copy. Don’t forget that Google can’t read images (yet), so all pictures should have Alt-Text to tell Google what they are.

If your website authority score is low, consider PPC whilst you are working on growing your organic traffic. PPC works more quickly, so will give you more leads initially, plus learnings to apply to your SEO activity.

Experiment! A/B test your ideas using PPC, and apply the learnings to your website content and SEO plan.

Use both Short-tail and Long Tail keywords –  Short-tail keywords may describe in 3 words what you want to be famous for, but it’s hard to make them unique. Long Tail keywords may be less frequently searched, but you are more likely to come up first if they match something unique about you.



SEO and PPC are both great strategies for getting new traffic to your website, they also compliment each other if you have the budget for both. If that’s not the case, (which is not unusual), consider the points in the article before deciding which to invest in. Alternatively, contact us for a chat and advice about what might work best for you.

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