Should You Go for PPC or SEO?

Digital Marketing Strategy Planning

Should You Go for PPC or SEO?

A pretty common question, especially when you’re just getting started with search marketing. Once you have established the viability of Search as a channel, you might face the dilemma of whether to go for SEO or PPC. Here I’ll outline the advantages of both avenues, so it would be easier for you to make that decision.

SEO and PPC are very similar in the way the customer finds your business. You have pretty much the same level of user intent, defining the quality of traffic you would receive. Yet, they are very different in respect to the activities you need to perform and the benefits you get. Both channels pose different opportunities that we are going to dissect here.

Key advantages of PPC over SEO

There are a few distinct advantages of going for PPC advertising on Search.

1. Speed

PPC could grant you immediate market entry. Your campaign can be up and running within a few hours, sending you traffic and growing your sales pipeline. You just can’t achieve that with SEO, where it might take you months and even years before you see any tangible commercial results.

2. Control

With PPC there are multiple campaign elements and even outcomes you can control. From keywords you appear for, to geographic targeting, audiences and ad schedules to Cost Per Lead and Return On Advertising Spend. Even with Google constantly taking away metrics and functionalities from their advertising platform, we still have more control compared to SEO.

3. Access

Fancy targeting multiple geographic areas or even going international? Want to appear for the top keywords in your industry? You can just buy your way in. Not always simple and straightforward, but still achievable.

4. Prominent visibility

Paid ads sit on top of the SERPs. What’s more, the general trend here is for Google to be adding even more elements to the page and keep pushing the organic results down. That can be worse on mobile where organic results can sink way down below the fold. Even with the top 3 organic positions, it’s impossible to get the visibility you have with paid ads.

Advantages of SEO over PPC

Although PPC is an effective channel, it comes at a dear price. Let’s look into what makes Organic Search a valuable avenue for your business.

1. Not paying for every click

The most obvious advantage is you don’t have to pay for every click to your website. This effectively means you can cash in those clicks and get an amazing return on your marketing investment. This is often the case with successful SEO campaigns.

Of course, this doesn’t mean SEO is free. It still takes a lot of hard work, know-how and investment in various activities that would influence your rankings.

2. Cover a wider audience

With SEO you can easily target both transactional and informational keywords. Something that’s not easy to achieve with PPC where campaigns have to be profitable to sustain them. And because you’re not paying for all the traffic you can still cover keywords that convert at a lower rate. This opens the door for you to target the top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel search queries that sometimes just aren’t commercially viable for PPC.

Lots of benefits resulting directly from that; better brand visibility, improved business reputation and maintaining front-of-mind awareness among your customers, to mention a few.

3. 100% search impression share

Once you rank for a keyword you get visibility for all the available impressions, all the time. Compare that to PPC where you get only a fraction of the impressions and you would almost never get 100% coverage for a keyword.

Combine the 100% search impression share with the broader targeting and you could get heaps of high-quality traffic coming to your website.

4. It sticks

Assuming you have done a good job, your organic traffic will keep flowing in long after you’ve stopped working on SEO. In a competitive industry, you’re likely to start experiencing a decline after a while, but it’s nothing like flipping a switch and your traffic and revenue are gone. This happens to be the case with all PPC advertising.


So, should I do SEO or PPC?

Ideally, you will do both.

In this way, you benefit from the advantages each of these two channels has to offer. That gives your business maximum visibility and the best chance of establishing it as a player in its field.

This assumes however you have the budget to start with both, but what do you do if you have to choose?

When to start with PPC?

You need a quick start. Get your marketing off the ground fast. You can validate Search as a channel without spending months and years on SEO work before seeing results. Uncover the keywords that would perform for your business and generate a wealth of valuable data to be used on other channels.

Let your website “age” a bit, get some love from Google and build trust with the search engines. Now kick off with your content strategy and start developing your link profile. Then you can use the revenue generated from PPC to fund your SEO campaigns.

When it makes sense to start directly with SEO?

There are several scenarios where you might want to jump straight into developing your organic presence and maybe even pass on PPC whatsoever.

  • You operate locally and establishing the business on Organic wouldn’t be a major challenge.
  • You are in a very saturated industry, where it’s not quite possible to make a profit from PPC.
  • You have previous experience managing SEO campaigns and you know exactly what you’re doing.
  • You have no previous SEO experience, but you want to experiment with that. Maybe you want to learn how to manage it, learn to do it yourself or develop those competencies in-house.
  • You already have some organic presence, a validated business model and other revenue streams. Now you’re looking to maximise that presence and establish your business as a top dog in your industry.
  • You don’t want to be “sponsoring” Google but invest in your business instead.

Either way, you should view SEO as a long-term strategy and not as a quick fix for your marketing woes. When it comes to SEO you should be prepared to make a long-lasting commitment and to wait before you can reap the benefits.

I hope the points above give you sufficient information to make the best decision for your company. Should you have something to add or disagree with some of the statements please add your comment to the conversation below.

Best of luck with growing your business!

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