SEO vs PPC: Which is Better?

SEO vs PPC which would win

When you’ve got money for marketing, it’s a question you’ll often ask or be asked… which is better for my spend … SEO or PPC?

And, unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this.

For many businesses who have a small budget, it’s difficult to try to do both. They both cost money, and if your budget is only a few hundred pounds, the chances are that trying to split means that the impact that one of the other has is reduced significantly.

In a perfect world, it would be best to have the budget for both. But if you haven’t, I’ve drawn up a simple list of things you need to consider before spending your hard earned cash.

SEO: The advantages of SEO strategy

First of all, you need to understand what SEO is. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation (also known as online marketing or digital marketing) is a strategy to improve the organic rankings of your website on the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).

So what does this mean? Well, if you sell blue widgets and someone goes to Google or Bing and types in “blue widgets”, it’s the position of your website in the rankings.

The goal of good SEO is to get your keywords ranking at the top of the SERPs. Why?

  • The top three rankings on Google take over 75% of all of the clicks
  • 90% of all clicks for a search term come from the first page of the search results

There’s plenty more statistics I could throw at you, but these two should be sufficient to explain why getting ranked and ranked well can have a massive effect on your business.

But what are the other advantages of successful SEO?

  • Trust. If you’re ranking at the top of the search engines, especially Google, then this means that Google trusts your website. This in turn is more likely to mean that customers will trust your website too. Search Engines have spent many years and millions of pounds building and improving their search algorithms to give the customer the best selection for the keywords entered. It’s their business to display the results which are the most appropriate for your search.
  • ROI (Return on Investment). Although SEO is a long term strategy, unlike PPC which is an instant one, the stats suggest that money spent on SEO is, on the whole, more likely to generate you more money in the long term.
  • Cost. SEO can be free? Really? Well, yes… if you do it yourself and understand what you’re doing. SEO is not rocket science. Go to YouTube or Google and type in SEO – you’ll find billions of results, with plenty showing you how to do SEO if you should so wish. However… most companies choose to hire an agency such as us to help them with their SEO… it’s a steep learning curve and if you make mistakes it can have a negative effect on your rankings. And some companies simply don’t the time, nor the technical know-how to make the changes.
  • Future Success. If you’re doing any SEO activity, this is something that will exist for the time of the website… and positive changes will only continue to improve your website rankings. Unlike PPC, money spent on SEO is not lost when your budget has been spent.
  • Variety of keywords. Think of an advert, either physical or digital. You only have so much “real estate” in the advert to promote your product, service or business. So you have to nail that perfectly and it doesn’t allow much variety in what you;re advertising. Now think about a web page. That web page could cover a wide variety of keywords and variations. You’re not limited to 200 characters or 1/4 page width.
The best place to hide a dead body? Page two of the Google SERPS.

SEO: The disadvantages

Although I offer SEO is my primary service, I think it’s essential that my customers and people understand that SEO is not a silver bullet. There are disadvantages to it and you should know these before you make your choice.

  • SEO is not an overnight success story. The chances are that even if you were to invest tens of thousands pounds on a monthly strategy, good SEO takes time and you won’t see any immediate, initial SERP movement. You need to realise that SEO is a long term strategy.
  • Bad SEO strategies can waste money. All SEO strategies should start with one thing… research. Don’t do your research, or get hung up on keywords that won’t rank well or are too competitive, and SEO can become a sinkhole for your cash.
  • SEO can be costly – both in money and SERP rankings. Hire a bad agency who doesn’t know what they’re doing and it can have an adverse effect on your rankings. But even a good agency will cost you money.
  • You may never reach page #1. Even with the most successful of SEO companies, if you competing for highly competitive keywords with a smaller budget than your competition, the chances are that your competitors will simply have too much power to ever push them from page 1.
  • SEO is affected by a huge number of factors. However good your SEO strategy is, your rankings are controlled by over 200 different factors – and although the majority of them are common sense, there are so many that you have little to no control over.
  • Search Engines can change their algorithm whenever they choose. Search engine algorithms are an ongoing project. The Google algorithm could change tomorrow, and you could drop from the rankings overnight – through no fault of your own. With minor updates taking place all the time, what you do today could be affected by change tomorrow.

PPC: The advantages of paid advertising strategy

Paid advertising is pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s the “sponsored” adverts that you see on Google, the Facebook and IG ads that pop up on your walls. You’ll have seen them, and chances are that you’ve clicked on some of them as well.

But what are the advantages of paid advertising over SEO?

  • Adverts display instantly. When you pay for an advert on search engines or social media, as soon as they are approved you’re away. The adverts will display until your budget is spent.
  • Set up time. You could create a campaign in an hour or even less. Which means that you’re advert could be out in the wild world within a day.
  • Pin-point focus. With most advertising, you can choose who you advertise to. This could be a demographic (such as an age group or sex) and geographic (i.e. you can choose locations for people only on those places to see the advert, ideal for local search).
  • Product / Service Focus. Because you’re limited to the amount of content in an advert, it helps to absolutely focus the advert on a particular product or service.
  • Position on the SERP. Search engines will show advertisements higher on the SERP than organic listings. Go and search Google for something for instance, and you’ll see the top 4 listings are paid adverts. It means you can get to the top of the SERP instantly.
  • It’s visual. Most adverts contain something other than words – either an image or video. They tend to be more engaging, especially with a killer picture.
  • Cost. With any advertising, you control how much you want to spend. Want to spend £5 a day? No problem. Want to spend £1000 a day. Also no problem.
  • Control. You control the advert. Not performing? No issue, simply switch it off. Too much response? Switch it off an on when your happy to continue.
  • Adverts are not affected by algorithms. Unlike SEO, if search engines change their ranking factors, this doesn’t affect your advert.
  • Split testing. It’s easy to split test advertisements to see which are most successful. Running adverts side by side with other adverts you can monitor and track performance and CTR (Click Through Rate) to see which are successful and which are not.

PPC: The disadvantages

PPC is inherently dangerous to the unwary. Here are the main reasons to think about when choosing PPC as a strategy:

  • Cost. Good adverts take time to perfect, and it’s often easy to lose thousands of pounds on adverts which simply don’t convert. Hiring an agency to look after your adverts can also be expensive, with a minimum fee and then a % of spend being pretty standard. Also, hiring a company who doesn’t have knowledge of your market or customers can also mean it will take them time to turn an under-performing campaign around.
  • Once your budgets gone… it’s gone. Your advert ceases to display. You won’t show up anymore until the budget kicks back in.
  • You can be competing with some big competition. Chances are, you won’t be alone when placing adverts for your products or services. And the more competition for keywords means that keywords become more expensive to advertise for. Imagine having a £10 daily budget, and the keyword for the advert is £5. That means you get two adverts a day. Once they’ve been displayed, that’s your budget gone.
  • PPC doesn’t have any effect on your organic website. Having a successful campaign or a badly performing one won’t move the needle on your organic website rankings.
  • Ad-blockers can remove your adverts. It’s possible to see search engine results without paid adverts. It’s possible to disable specific adverts through social media. Both of these could mean your missing out on a potential audience.
  • Prices could be increased without warning. The platforms that control the adverts control the prices. They want to put the prices up 200%? They can do. You have no control over the costs.
  • Understanding the metrics is difficult. Unless you have experience in this area, or a real grasp on statistics, the numbers being fed to you may be meaningless.
  • Once bitten… most people try ads themselves. Fail. Then never go back. It could be the best solution for their business, but once bitten twice shy as the saying goes.

Conclusion: Which is better for me, SEO or PPC?

As with anything, you need to look at the pros and cons of each side and choose which you think is a better fit.

Put the two together and have two great campaigns running side by side would be the obvious answer. But for most businesses, this is simply not possible – either from a budget or time perspective.

If you’re looking for quick wins, quick sales then PPC is the best solution. You can get your name out there quickly and get eyes on products and brands really quickly. It’s important to remember though that your budget could go in the blink of an eye – and if you get no sales, you’ve nothing to show for your spend.

In the short term SEO is not the best solution. So choosing this and expecting quick wins could mean by the time the SEO has kicked in, your business is bust.

Think about where your business is in it’s lifespan. New businesses often find PPC is great for building visibility quickly, and if successful you can then invest cash into SEO. More established companies may not be bothered about instant wins and more to do with sustainability – and here SEO wins hands down.

Things you need consider:

  • Your budget
  • Your competition
  • Your skill / expertise
  • Your product / service
  • Whether you want a short term strategy or one to scale your business

Here at Dream Web Design, I like to be honest with customers and explain what they should be doing – based on their business and their budget.

For a free chat about how I can help you grow your business, then why not give me a call today on 07968 129060.