SEO_PPCIt’s “Back to School” week for most of us, and I thought what better way to celebrate it than by offering up a lesson on two marketing tactics that seem similar on the surface, but are in fact very different: SEO and PPC.  Our new “Accelerator” SEO Starter Package has proven to be incredibly popular with many small and mid-sized local businesses, but some of the feedback we’ve gotten has illustrated some fundamental misunderstandings about what SEO is, and how it differs from PPC.


If you’re an advertiser, it’s especially important to understand the differences so you can not only choose how to best invest your marketing time and dollars, but even more importantly, so you know what sorts of results you can expect from that investment.(spoilers: PPC performance tends to be the polar opposite of SEO performance)


SEO (search engine optimization), at its most basic, involves understanding what words and phrases customers are using to find businesses like yours, and then tactically integrating those keywords into your online presence (e.g. mobile website, desktop website, blog, social media, etc.). For example, if you run an auto repair shop, important keywords would include ‘auto repair’. You would then make sure that ‘auto repair’ appeared within places like site content, and meta page titles and page descriptions.


In a nutshell, the goal is to help search engines judge your online presence to be more relevant to a searcher than your competitors’. The more relevant you’re judged to be, the higher on the list of results returned to the searcher will a link to your website be placed. We discussed why this is so important in a recent blog post. SEO costs tend to mirror web development and design cost models if an SEO professional is hired. There’s also a time cost associated with SEO due to the required research and content creation.


Because SEO isn’t built around the idea of push advertising (it’s really more a pull tactic as it’s customer demand for specific keywords, which in turn defines what content is and what isn’t relevant to those customers, that drives SEO), SEO is also referred to as “organic”.


PPC (pay per click) is like SEO in that keywords are at its core. But unlike SEO,  PPC is really built around the concept of push advertising.


One PPC tactic involves out-bidding a competitor for a better position on the search results list, when specific keywords are used for that search. In this case, you might use Google AdWords to bid $2.00 on ‘auto repair’, in an effort to make sure a link to your website or a banner ad is displayed prominently in the returned results when a user searches using the keyword ‘auto repair’ in Google search. When a user searches on ‘auto repair’, and assuming you’re not outbid, you ‘win’ and your site link is displayed above and before your competitors’.


Another tactic is akin to running a print ad in a publication, only with PPC, you’re running a banner ad on a website. In most cases, pricing models are built around the idea of charging <X> amount per click, so costs are performance driven. However some vendors do offer flat-rate PPC solutions.



Is either one ‘better’ than the other? It boils down to what’s the answer to the question: “What are your goals?”, and are they long term or short term?


 SEO: The Long Term Drive

  • Higher up front costs (compared to PPC), but costs decrease over time as the majority of content and website optimization is done up-front.
  • Results are not immediate, and there is usually a low initial ROI (meaning, fewer clicks) at the beginning of a campaign. But long-term performance far exceeds PPC, and it should continue to rise over the lifetime of the campaign.
  • Does require some level of on-going maintenance in the form of content and site updates.


PPC: The Short Term Push

  • Typically lower initial costs than SEO, though a decent up-front investment may be required if you’re bidding on popular keywords.  
  • Costs can remain relatively static over the lifetime of the campaign if one is pursuing a fixed-cost solution, otherwise, PPC costs are strictly performance based. 
  • Results are typically immediate, and ROI is decidedly higher than SEO over the short-term. But results usually peak early in a campaign’s lifecycle and are not sustainable over the long-term.
  • Requires little (if any) on-going maintenance.  Many PPC platforms are mostly automated. Users enter in desired keywords and bid amounts, and the PPC platform does the work for them.




Optimally, do both. PPC can drive immediate traffic to your mobile website, while SEO sustains and builds on your web presence over the long-term.  But  if marketing time and dollars are limited, you’ll likely get the most bang for your buck by investing in a solid SEO strategy.  Just trust that though you won’ see immediate results with SEO, you will see them over time.


Questions? Thoughts? We want to hear them! Share them with us in the Comments section! 



12 thoughts on “SEO vs PPC

  1. 100% agree. SEO is not a magic. It requires continuous effort for a long time period but PPC demands money for advertising. You have to decide, whether you want to spend money or put effort. Secondly it is true that SEO results are long-lasted.

    • Thanks for chiming in!

      PPC certainly does have a place in a campaign strategy, however it’s certainly not something that’s a good fit for every campaign, or even every business. SEO on the other hand, I’d argue, should be a part of every campaign, and every business’ online strategy. But I completely agree that it’s not a magic wand. SEO requires patience and persistence but it (fortunately!) does pay off, and it tends to keep paying!

  2. Thanks for making differentiation between SEO and PPC there are few points that are really good and new to me. I would personally prefer SEO as it is long last way of getting traffic if done in positive way.

    • Hi James, thank you for commenting!

      I’d tend to lean towards SEO myself as aiming for better long term results tends to translate into more sustainable and successful sales and brand management. But PPC really does have its place. If one needs to drive internet traffic quickly, SEO just isn’t built for that. If a company’s building a campaign around a new product or service launch, or trying to promote an upcoming event, integrating a PPC campaign around a custom landing page can be incredibly effective.

  3. Thanx for the post….PPC and SEO both have their place in the search marketing world.PPC is the process of buying ads on websites with the aim of gaining traffic and can be expensive but SEO has the benefits of more permanent results.

  4. I would go for SEO as this brings traffic over time although this takes some time. thanks for sharing this

  5. There are two kinds of search engine optimization one is organic and another is paid. Paid SEO is a getting search engine ranking by paying money like pay per click advertising. And Organic SEO is improving your website search engine ranking using organic or without paying money. i will visit soon your blog to see your next update.

  6. SEO and PPC are two different strategies, techniques and tactics. I think the answer on what’s best between the two lies on the goal of the marketer. If the marketer want long lasting result, I would recommend SEO. But if he wants fast result, PPC is recommended. SEO is costly when it comes to time, but PPC is costly when it comes to money.

  7. I’d prefer PPC if I want to sell a single product. But for blogging, sure SEO is the best option. As you said, SEO is a long term drive and once it takes effect on a site, it will bring up that site for free (unlike PPC, which requires you to involve moneys)

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