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PPC vs. SEO: Which is Better?

By Barbara Beauregard   |    July 25, 2014   |    3:40 PM

The Pros and Cons of SEO and PPC

As mentioned in previous articles, PPC and SEO are good marketing tactics that can both drive traffic to a website. PPC, or “Pay-Per Click" (paid search advertising), uses paid advertising to encourage people to click-thru to a landing page or website. Search engine optimization (SEO), on the other hand, is virtually free. SEO enables customers to find your company’s website via organic or natural search when they research information through search engines like Bing or Google. While both can be beneficial to a website, there are pros and cons to each type of online marketing.

Benefits of PPC

The major benefit of PPC is that it immediately drives traffic to a website. If a company is willing to bid higher for search terms with large search volumes, the company’s ads can be placed higher on the page, increasing the likelihood of someone clicking the ad and coming to the website.

With paid search, companies don’t need to worry about Google’s ever-changing algorithm updates, which can negatively affect SEO. For the most part, paid search is not influenced by algorithm updates. PageRank (a ranking system that Google uses to determine how valuable a website is), however, can affect paid search, and this is influenced by SEO.

PPC lets companies focus on their target audience and niches. Advertising services like AdWords allows for the selecting of qualifiers like age, income, geographic areas and particular keyword ad groups to narrow audiences.

Organizations have complete control of how much they spend and how much traffic and impressions they receive. Budgets can be manipulated to increase or decrease traffic. 

Cons of PPC

PPC can be very expensive if budgets are not closely watched. It also requires a lot of attention to verify that ads and ad groups are working correctly. This isn’t a type of task that can be put to the back burner. Someone needs to be constantly monitoring it. Most organizations, especially small businesses, usually don’t have a dedicated resource for this. In which case, they may have to hire someone or outsource the work.

AdRank affects how much is paid and how many bids are won. If a site has a low quality score, there’s a good possibility that bid amounts will be very high for that site to get the ad placement that they desire.

It’s important to ensure that your website is set up to take advantage of the traffic your paid search ads will bring to your site. Make sure your ad points to a landing page or a form on your site. Without something to capture visitor information, your organization will not have an effective means to getting a return on your paid search investment.

Benefits of SEO

As opposed to paid search, SEO is virtually free. Websites can rank at the top of the search engines simply by having a well optimized website that follows the search engines quality guidelines. This typically includes activities such as: being active on social networks, optimizing front-/back-end of sites and creating dynamic content.

Many consumers consider organic search engine results to be more credible than paid search ads, and therefore, a majority of users tend to click on the organic results. Once a website is on the first page of results, the site will continue to see consistent results for as long as they maintain that first page listing. With PPC, however, once a successful campaign is shut down, traffic will decline rapidly.

Cons of SEO

Unlike PPC, its imperative that your SEO efforts keep up with the many different Google algorithm changes. Failure to do so could result in penalties or lower results in SERPs.

It’s hard to get to the top of the SERPs. A new site could take months to get to the top of the results pages and that is if the competition isn’t too steep. SEO can be very competitive for niche keywords or niche industries. Generally, the websites that have been around the longest or have the most money are the only ones that rank on the first page. This is typically because older domains have had more time to build authority through backlinks. As a new site ages and continually publishes quality content, it can expect to begin amassing backlinks and ultimately become more authoritative in the search engines' eyes. While backlinks are incredibly important for SEO, it is imperative to remember to build them organically by employing best practices and following webmaster guidelines

Is it Either/Or?

PPC and SEO shouldn’t ever be an either-or decision. Instead, they can be combined to help a site quickly get traffic and then sustain that traffic by moving up the SERPs. As a site gets more organic traffic, PPC can be dialed down a bit, but still used to put ads in front of new audiences and maintain brand integrity.

Is your site using paid search or SEO? Have any tips for getting started? What tactics have worked well for you? Let us know in the comments!