If you're confused about how search engine optimisation (SEO) differs from pay-per-click advertising (PPC), and which one would win in a fight, then you are not alone.
Many people don’t know the difference and, even if they do, they may struggle to understand the pros and cons of each system. That’s not surprising, as both SEO and PPC do a similar job but in different ways.
Businesses use SEO or PPC to get their website to show up on page one of Google when their products or services are searched for by a potential customer.
PPC ads are a feature of all the major search engines. On Google, the platform which is used to run PPC campaigns is called Google Ads.
A Google search will result in PPC adverts being shown at the top and bottom of the page. These adverts are often referred to as the paid search results. Organic results (also sometimes called natural results) will be shown on the rest of the page.
This screenshot of a search for "ice cream van insurance" illustrates this. I've highlighted the PPC results at the top and bottom with a red border and the organic results have been given a green border.
SEO is for Organic Search Results
If you want your website to appear in the organic results you will need to convince Google that your website:
- is highly relevant for the particular phrase that has been searched
- has a high level of authority.
This is achieved by doing SEO.
PPC is for Paid Search Results
To run PPC campaigns and appear in the paid search results you will need to create a Google Ads account. And you'll need to be willing to pay each time someone clicks on your advert and is taken through to your website.
When you use Google Ads, you write your own adverts and choose which keywords should trigger your ads to be shown to searchers. You also get to specify the maximum amount you are willing to pay for each click. Google then uses an auction system to decide whether to show one of your ads each time someone runs a search on Google which matches one of your keywords.
Which is Better - SEO or PPC?
As you might expect, there's no simple answer to that question; nor is is it always easy to say whether it's going to be PPC or SEO which will win in the fight to get your website to deliver the most sales or leads.
Both SEO and PPC have their pros and cons, the main ones being as follows:
Pros and Cons of SEO
Pros and Cons of PPC
SEO and PPC both have some significant benefits and disadvantages. For that reason, I usually find that although people might start off by focusing on one or the other, most successful clients ultimately end up using both SEO and PPC. That way they enjoy the best of both worlds and maximise their exposure on all search engines.
But what if you don't have enough time and/or money to do both SEO and PPC right from the start?
Well, if you're working with a limited budget and don't mind putting in several months of effort while waiting for your website to take off, then you're best off sticking with SEO.
But if you want to hit the ground running and start getting leads and sales right now then you should seriously consider allocating a budget for PPC and making use of Google Ads. Just make sure you learn how it works first of all, otherwise you will lose money.