top of page

What's The Verdict? SEO or PPC

Have you searched for something on Google yet today? Maybe you have used it to order a product online, find the best brunch in town, or to answer a question about search engine marketing. Google processes over 3.5 billion searches every day. That is about 40,000 per second! How in the world are you supposed to get a search engine like Google to notice that your business exists and rank it above your competitors? 

There are two ways to market your business through search engines like Google. They are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC). So which one should your business use? What are the essential factors when determining SEO vs PPC? How can you utilize both search engine marketing techniques to increase your sales and beat out your competitors? We have all these answers and more!

SEO vs PPC – The In's and Out's

You have probably heard the words Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click tossed around, but you may not be 100% familiar with how each of these search engine marketing tactics works. 

There are two main differences between SEO vs PPC. The first is how traffic is obtained, and the second is where listings appear on the search results pages.

Organic Traffic: Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the natural way to rank in search engines. This means it does not require money – it's free! Well, sort of. It does require time and patience. It takes some time to see results when doing SEO. The study says that you need to dedicate at least 6-9 months for it. And one disadvantage of it is that if you are not that persistent in doing it, you might lose your rankings.

Paid Traffic: Pay Per Click or PPC is instant. Once you start running advertisements on Google, you will be able to see your site at the top of Google's search results (even above the organic results), but there is a catch – you have to pay for it. Your ad campaigns can give you instant results. However, it is limited to how long your campaign will run.

SEO vs PPC – Making Your Site Visible Locally

If you are a small business, chances are you will want to target people near you. Another difference in SEO vs PPC is how you can optimize for local search. If you are running an ad campaign, you can use location-based keywords or target a specific geographic area.

SEO proves to be a little bit more complicated. Have you ever noticed the map feature that appears when you search the best pizza restaurant? This is called the local pack. It shows the top three hits for locations near you that serve pizza (or whatever you are searching for).  

To rank locally, you must make sure that your business name, address and phone number are the same across all platforms – consistency is key here. 

Other factors that can improve your rankings in local SEO include optimizing your Google My Business account, using Yext (a data management tool to help get your business into local listings) and having a responsive website design. 

Google recently rolled out mobile-first indexing, which means that it will use the mobile version of websites to rank. If your site is not mobile-friendly, there's a good chance you will have a hard time moving up in search results.

If you are debating between SEO vs PPC, there are a few things you should know about each before you jump in. 

Components of SEO 

There are several ways to optimize your website and move up in search rankings using SEO, including on-page optimization, blogging, and backlinking. On-page optimization includes changing H1 tags to the keyword you want to rank for, making sure your images have alt text, adding your keyword to the copy on your site and writing titles and meta descriptions that include your keyword or keywords. This on-page optimization makes keywords prominent on your site, so when search engines, like Google, crawl your pages, they will see you as a reputable source and move you up in rankings. Check out more on our ten steps to #1 Google rankings.

Blogging can do so much for your website. It can increase customer engagement, build trust and help you rank! For example, if you were to write a vibrant, keyword-heavy blog, Google will see it as relevant information and push it to the top for someone who is searching for that keyword. 

Link building is also incredibly important to your optimization process. Acquiring backlinks from reputable sites and sites within your industry can boost your rankings. Backlinks show search engines that your business is associated with a reputable company, which tells them that you, too, must also be a trustworthy source. Think like when someone whose opinion you highly value recommends a place to eat or where to get your car serviced – Google sees the same thing when it comes to backlinking.

Internal linking can also help you increase the quality of your site, create page hierarchy and can help users navigate your site. For example, if you write a blog about SEO and one of the main pages on your website is all about SEO, you can link back to this page. 

Components of PPC

Pay Per Click or PPC means that you are paying every time someone clicks on your advertisement. Google shows four ads on the first page of results before organic search results and three ads at the bottom of the page after the organic results. Businesses tell Google they want to place their ads here and only pay once people click on them. 

Here is an example of a search for "women's clothing." The top four hits are advertisements, and the first organic result appears after the last ad. 

At the bottom of the page, after the tenth organic result, three more Google ads appear.

One of the most popular platforms (if not, the most popular platform) to set up your ad campaigns is Google Ads. Google Ads can easily measure your ROI. It shows you which ads are performing well and which ones are not as well as how many conversions you receive. Ads will also show you how much you need to bid to be on the first page of search results or even how much you need to bid to be the very first result every time. 

For PPC, there are two types of ads, search network and display network. The search consists of text ads that show up when users search for specific keywords. Do you know those search results that say "ad" next to them? Those are search network ads and are so common; some people barely recognize that they are advertisements.

Display ads consist of banner ads that display on other websites users visit. You have probably seen display ads but may not be fully aware of what they are or how they work. Display ads are used for potential retargeting customers who have visited your site but navigated away without making a purchase. They may show recently viewed products to entice you to return to the site and keep shopping like the ad shown below. 

This is one of the best ways to pick up lost sales and turn those potential customers into lifelong buyers of your products. 

You will need to physically create advertisements for Google to show on its search results pages. Search ads are formatted with two headlines and description and can also include extensions which give people additional information. These can include call buttons, location information and links to specific pages on your site. Extensions can make your ads even more appealing and offer additional information for potential customers. 

This ad for shows two headlines, a description, a link to the page they want users to land on and two extensions. Every part of this ad is short, sweet, to the point and entices users to click! Using words like "official site" builds trust with potential customers right off the bat. The two extensions that are shown let the user skip right to specific pages on the site. 

SEO vs PPC – Keyword Research

What is keyword research, and how is it different for SEO vs PPC? SEO keyword research looks like this. Say you're selling coffee. You might be thinking, "That's easy! I want to show up when someone searches the word coffee!" This word is broad, and chances are it will bring up a local search for coffee shops. You will need to put yourself in your customer's shoes. Find your unique selling points and what customers might be typing into Google when they want to find your coffee. 

Start by using Google Ads keyword planner. Here is a simple search for the keyword "coffee." You can see that the average time "coffee" is searched per month is 2,240,000. If you are a small business, you probably don't stand a chance ranking for this word organically. Below the keyword or keywords, your search, there is a list of related keywords that you might find helpful. 

Once you come up with a list of potential keywords that you want to rank for, you will need to do some research. Look at your competition. Are there a lot of other companies that are trying to rank for your keyword? Can you write the better title and meta descriptions or add more copy to your site to outrank them? Is their website more reputable than yours? Is there a page on your site for these keywords already, or will you have to create new pages? These are the questions you will need to ask yourself before you select keywords. This process can be daunting, so if you need help, let a professional take the lead.

PPC keyword research looks a bit different. 

Let's go back to our coffee example. The keyword planner tells us that the suggested bid is $1.92 for the keyword "coffee," which is relatively cheap. If you have the budget, you can probably beat out the competition, but using generic keywords usually leads to unqualified traffic. This means that people may be clicking your ad and spending your money, only not to find what they were looking for. 

For every keyword, you must have a match type. There are several match types, including broad, modified broad, phrase and exact match. Let's break these down. 

Broad – This match type reaches the widest audience. It takes your keywords or phrases and includes these words in any order and may also include similar words or phrases.

Example: Your keyword is a bike shop. With a broad match, you will also come up for a motorcycle shop, dirt bikes, mountain bikes etc. 

Modified Broad – Using modified broad also allows you to reach a wide audience but tells Google that the search must include the words that you enter. 

Example: Your keyword, the bike shop, will bring up results like a bike repair shop or shop for a bike.

Phrase – Phrase Match will tell Google that your phrase must appear the way you type it in, but Google may include other words before or after.

Example: With your keyword bike shop, Google may show your ad for "best bike shop" or "local bike shop."

Exact – If you want to show up for your exact keyword, an exact match is a way to go. This is the most restrictive match type, but your leads will likely be extremely qualified and ready to purchase. 

Example: With the exact match, you are getting what you search for, which is "bike shop."

These match types go from reaching a broad audience to reaching a relevant audience. Using match types is crucial because it allows you to reach your target audience and avoid spending money on unnecessary clicks. 

In addition to match types, you can also set up negative keywords that help weed out unqualified searches. For example, if you were to add "coffee" as a negative keyword to your ad campaign, Google would not show your ad for any searches, including the word coffee. Be careful not to include too many keywords, or your ads might reach fewer potential customers. 

In the battle of SEO vs PPC, who comes out on top? Which one should you use? The answer is, it depends. Let's take a look at which one might be right for your business. 

If you are a small business, you will want to focus on making sure your SEO is excellent. You may not be able to afford to advertise on Google. Take a small law firm, for example. The suggested bid for the keyword "car accident lawyer" is over $200. This means that you will need a massive ad budget, something that many small businesses do not have. In addition to SEO, you may want to look to social media to market your business.

If you have a niche market, you may come up with a relevant keyword, has a decent monthly search volume and has low competition. In this case, you will want to use SEO to optimize your site and rank for that keyword. 

If you have an advertising budget, you should 100% invest in Google advertisements. Use PPC instead of traditional advertising such as billboards, magazines, newspapers, etc. You'll know exactly how many people you are reaching and who they are. It's much easier (and cheaper) to adjust your campaign and target your customers digitally than it is with traditional ads.


How is your return on investment (ROI) different for SEO vs PPC, and what can you expect from each method? Like we have stated before, SEO takes time. Once you do keyword research, implement on-page optimization and put time and effort into ongoing SEO like writing blogs and acquiring backlinks, you have probably spent several months waiting to move up in rankings. Over the course of several months to a year, your site's quality will grow. Google recognizes this growth and will begin sending more and more traffic to your website. Do not expect SEO to happen overnight. It's a process that takes time and much patience on your end. Trust the process, give it time, and you will see results. 

PPC is instantaneous, but it can also be limited. When your daily budget runs out, Google will stop showing your ads. Depending on your budget, they also won't show your ads to everyone at all times. Although your ads will appear immediately, this does not mean that those clicks and conversions will be immediate as well. Your ads will go through a learning phase with Google and may need to be tweaked. This is a much shorter process than SEO, but still may require some patience. 

If you come in with a budget of say $2 per day, depending on the cost of your keywords, it will be challenging to capture those conversions. If you want to succeed using PPC, you need a budget. For example, if you're going to generate 500 visitors to your site each month and the cost per click of your keyword is $1.25, you will need a monthly budget of $625. There are steps you can take to decrease your cost per click, like changing your ads to make them more relevant or finding additional keyword variations that cost less per click. Carefully monitoring your campaign and adjusting your ads or budget as needed will ensure that you see the best results possible. Learn how to increase your Ads ROI with these strategic steps further!

SEO vs PPC – "Don'ts"

Now you know the basics of SEO vs PPC, the differences and how they can each be used to help your business grow. Let's take a look at what not to do when optimizing your site and running advertisements!


-Don't put your keyword on your page a bunch of times. This is known as keyword stuffing and is associated with black hat SEO, which can get you into much trouble with search engines. Believe it or not, there are search engine guidelines, and if your site is not focused on providing content that is beneficial for human searchers, Google will penalize you. 

-Don't overuse keywords. If you try to stuff as many relevant keywords as possible into your image alt tags, Google will not be happy. The same goes for anchor text in your backlinks – you'll want to use a branded version or variations of your keyword. Diversity in both backlinks and image alt tags helps create a genetic profile that allows you to avoid being penalized by search engines. 

-Don't copy the internal text on your site. If you have an about section on your home page, do not have that same copy on another page. When search engines crawl your site, they are looking for updated content that is beneficial to users. Duplicated content will only set you back. 


-Don't set up your campaign and leave it alone. Track and monitor your ads to make sure you are not throwing away money on ads that are not getting conversions.

-Don't use generic keywords. Choose targeted keywords. This will get you qualified leads and, in turn, more conversions.

-Don't forget about the negative keywords! This is a quick and easy way to tell Google what words you do not want your ads to show up for. 

SEO vs PPC – Our Expert Advice 

Your goal at the end of the day is to grow your business and increase sales. To do this, you need to boost traffic to your website. We believe that Search Engine Optimization is vital. If your SEO is wrong, you will have to dump money into paid ads to reach customers continually. Do not just rely on paid advertisements to get you where you want to be on search results pages. If you have the budget, supplement your SEO with paid ads. This power couple will have you outranking your competitors and boosting your sales. 

There is a lot to take into consideration when deciding between SEO vs PPC. They are both viable options to help you grow your business. Now that you know some of the basics and the lingo, you're ready to get started optimizing your site and running ads! Don't think you have time time to do it on your own? Let the experts at The Dillon Ross Group take the reins. Contact us today to start your business on the path to success! 


bottom of page