Time & Place: SEO vs. PPC — Pros, Cons, and When to Execute

man holding tablet with search bar superimposed

Wondering whether your brand will benefit more from SEO or PPC? The answer depends on a number of factors, including the type of results you're looking for.

To help you decide, we'll explore the pros and cons of SEO vs. PPC and outline when to implement each for optimal exposure and maximized profits.

 

SEO vs. PPC: What's the Difference?

Before making any decisions, it's essential to understand the key differences between the two.

SEO, or search engine optimization, focuses on achieving organic results. Often executed with the help of an SEO agency, a well-rounded SEO strategy will typically involve:

 

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The common thread uniting all these tactics is that they're intended to methodically increase a site's search engine rankings over time, thus making it more likely to naturally attract visitors.

On the other end of the spectrum is PPC, or pay-per-click. This is an internet marketing strategy that allows brands to pay for higher search results rather than putting in the time to attain them organically. Here's how it works:

  1. A brand creates a PPC campaign with a search engine such as Google.
  2. The brand's ads appear above organic search results and are clearly labeled as such.
  3. The brand pays the search engine a small fee for each click their ads receive.

Unlike SEO, PPC involves neither methodical tactics nor waiting for search engine algorithms to reward them. Instead, it demands only a simple transaction: A payment — usually of a couple of dollars or less — per user click.

 

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SEO Pros and Cons

Understanding the critical differences between SEO and PPC is just one piece of the puzzle. To make an informed decision about which to deploy and when, you also need to consider the pros and cons of each, starting with SEO.

As you're likely well-aware, SEO boasts plenty of advantages. These include:

  • Low barrier of entry: While you can certainly hire an SEO expert to carry out your brand's SEO efforts (and we certainly recommend you do), that's an option rather than a necessity. At its core, SEO doesn't strictly require any monetary investments.
  • User-friendliness: Especially in light of Google's page experience update, a well-executed SEO strategy will involve making your brand's site more user-friendly.
  • Hyper-focused targeting: Since search engine algorithms generate results based on the relevance not just of individual pages but of each site as a whole, you'll be able to ensure your brand is exposed to your ideal audience.
  • Long-term results: A consistent SEO strategy will by nature build authoritativeness and reputation over time, meaning the longer you practice SEO, the more users will trust and turn to your brand.

SEO isn't without a few downsides, though:

  • Delayed results: While lasting and long-term results are one of SEO's perks, the fact that it takes a while to see the fruits of your labor is also one of its drawbacks.
  • Direct competition: Chances are that your competitors will be trying to create an SEO strategy that beats yours, so you'll always need to strive to maintain a competitive edge.
  • Algorithm changes: When Google and other search engines tweak their algorithms, you'll need to tweak your strategy accordingly.

 

PPC Pros and Cons

PPC aims to achieve different goals than SEO, and thus its advantages are different as well:

  • Instant visibility: PPC campaigns take effect immediately, so you can get your brand at the top of the search results right now.
  • Easily measurable results: You can use the data gathered from your PPC campaigns to see what works, what doesn't, and exactly how many visitors you gain.
  • Affordable: Depending on the scale and length of your PPC campaign, you can keep costs relatively low compared to more traditional marketing methods.
  • Access to a fresh audience: A PPC campaign can help get your brand in front of users who might not have otherwise found it.

But like SEO, PPC also comes with a unique set of drawbacks:

  • Short-lived results: Once your PPC campaign ends, so will your increased exposure and influx of new visitors.
  • Costly to maintain: If you run PPC campaigns for extended amounts of time, that low cost-per-click (CPC) can quickly add up to a hefty expense you won't want to keep paying forever.
  • Exposure doesn't guarantee revenue: PPC only guarantees that your ads will be served to users, not that those users will click on those ads or convert into paying customers.
  • Variable costs: Depending on your brand's vertical, your CPC might end up being considerably higher than expected. In May 2021, for example, the average Google Ads CPC was over $20 in the insurance field but less than $1 in the electronics industry.

 

When to Execute SEO vs. PPC

Both SEO and PPC have their merits and downsides, so how do you know when it's time to use either?

While no brand's wants and needs are the same, some broad guidelines can help you make a smart decision.

You'd probably do well to focus on developing a top-notch SEO strategy if:

  • Your brand is new or lacks a rock-solid reputation.
  • You're looking to build a stronger online presence overall.
  • Your site could stand to be updated for optimal user-friendliness.
  • You're hesitant to pay search engines for fleeting PPC ads.

On the other hand, it's likely time to begin a PPC campaign if:

  • You want an immediate boost of traffic to your site.
  • You're aiming to reach a new audience that you might not be able to through organic methods.
  • You want to quickly measure which ads perform better and gather useful data about visitors' behavior.

Only you know whether your brand could use ramped-up SEO or a new PPC campaign, but the SEO vs. PPC dilemma ultimately boils down to this: If you're seeking long-term results and a lasting reputation, only SEO can give you what you want. But if you're after immediate (albeit temporary) results, then PPC will be right up your alley.

For many brands, this means that a combination of both SEO and PPC is the best solution. Whether you focus on sustainability and meaningful growth with SEO or instant gratification and short-term growth with PPC is up to you.

At First Page, we're your SEO experts. We can help you determine the best path to get your brand where you want it to be. Reach out today.

 

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