Which is better, SEO or PPC?

Every business wants to generate an increasing amount of qualified traffic to their website. More qualified traffic results in more qualified leads which results in more sales. To borrow from Shoeless Joe Jackson: “If you build it, he (they) will come.” So how do you “build it? There are a few different strategies to bump up traffic to your website but the two most effective ways are SEO and PPC. The primary difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) is that traffic coming from SEO is organic and free while traffic generated from PPC campaigns comes with a price tag. As the name implies you have to pay a fee per click. Both are important elements of search engine marketing and a good marketing strategy uses both elements in a way that is complimentary.

Given that SEO and PPC serve the same purpose, the best way to understand them is to examine their differences. Below we outline the pros and cons of each approach to generating traffic.

1. Position in Search Results

PPC ads are always placed above the organic search results. The precise placement will depend on what you are targeting, keywords, ad copy etc. To get on the first page you will have to pay a higher cost per click. The organic results will appear in the middle of the page.  The precise location is dependant upon a number of factors related to the optimization of your website. To get on the first page you will have to work on perfecting the optimization of each page of your website.

2. Associated Costs

To say that organic search is totally free is a bit misleading. In order to achieve profitable organic search results, you will have to put a lot of time and effort into optimizing your website. You will have to acquire these optimization skills yourself or, most likely, hire a marketing agency who are experts in website optimization.  Organic search competition is really high for almost every keyword imaginable. You will really need to have a high quality website and a great SEO plan to get on to the first page. So indeed there are costs associated with organic search but these costs are indirect.

The costs related to PPC are dependant on a number of factors. For example, Google Adwords sets its price according to such factors as the popularity of the keyword and the number of related websites that have paid ad positions. It is really important that you choose a keyword(s) that are commonly searched by your prospective clients but not the most popular terms. Choosing what keywords to target is a bit of a fine art. You will pay for each click (but not views). You can also set limits on the daily costs you are willing to pay so you can experiment with different PPC campaigns without the risk of incurring a huge bill. The Google Keyword Tool associated with Google Adwords is able to provide an estimate of cost-per-click (CPC) for each of your chosen keywords. It is best to spend some time with the Google Keyword Tool as you will be able to find highly searched keywords at a reasonable CPC.

3. Traffic Potential

Organic traffic has a much higher potential than paid traffic. So if you can manage to keep your website ranking on the first page of search engine results you will get all of the traffic you need. However, study after study has demonstrated that the top five sites get the vast majority of traffic. As you can imagine the competition is fierce. If you find yourself on the 3rd or 4th page of organic search results, you will get very little traffic. So, if you rank well organic traffic will be greater but if you don’t rank on the first page of search results then paid traffic will be greater.

4. Conversion Rates

The name of the game is converting visitors to leads so obviously conversion rates are a very important metric to monitor. In terms of this metric pay per click campaigns win. If your ads are highly targeted and optimized then a visitor from paid traffic is more likely to convert than a visitor coming from organic search traffic. The reason for this is that your web site might rank for keywords that your visitor isn’t really looking for. Whereas, the traffic from pay per click campaigns have already made the decision that they are interested in your product.

5. Technical Difficulty

Neither is really easy without doing a little homework. However, don't despair, as there are many online course you can take to get up to speed. Optimizing your website will take months or even years and you need to regularly tweak the optimization. PPC campaigns require a degree of technical expertise but once you have acquired the foundational principles of creating quality paid campaigns, the campaigns can be put together quickly.

Key Takeaways

  1. You generally benefit from using both types
  2. PPC can bring faster results while you wait for your organic search efforts pay off
  3. PPC has a direct cost but also higher conversion metrics
  4. SEO takes a long time but you create lasting traffic benefits


Our Conclusion: Start with some paid advertising campaigns while you build your organic search authority

At Inbox Communications, we offer both SEO and PPC campaign services to our clients. Inbox Communications is a HubSpot Solutions Partner. If you are interested in taking your inbound marketing to the next level, we would be happy to provide you with a free 30-minute consultation. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Give us a call.


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Topics: SEO, PPC

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