SEO vs PPC: When Do You Optimize for Each?

09/24/2019 4 min read Written by Corie Stark

Do you struggle getting the right audience to your website? Does the mere mention of SEO give you a headache? What about PPC? Are you tired of questions and want answers?


Your website or blog would not survive without visitors. That means driving traffic to your online sources is, without a doubt, necessary. However, there are many methods you can choose to achieve this.

That's where SEO and PPC come into play. While they're both effective, one may work better for you than the other. Here's what you need to know when deciding on a method to drive traffic to your website.

SEO vs. PPC – How are They Different?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It's completely free, but generally takes a lot of work and dedication. Successful SEO involves using keywords and an underlying keyword strategy to help your content rank both higher and link in search engine results. Ultimately, this is what you want, because the higher you rank on Google or Bing, the more likely visitors will head to your site.

PPC, or pay-per-click, is a paid form of search engine marketing that involves the creation of short ads directing people to your website or product on a publisher like Facebook, Bing, or Google (with Google AdWords being the most favored). Essentially, you bid to have your ads appear in the "sponsored results" when someone is typing into a search engine bar using your keywords. It's important to note that PPC ads rank above the one and two spots on Google.

When Should You Use SEO?

SEO and PPC are not mutually exclusive strategies. In your efforts to gain more traffic, it may be your best plan to use both. Deciding how many eggs to place in your SEO and PPC baskets depends on what you want to achieve in your overall digital marketing strategy.

Overall, SEO aims to shoot your website to the first page of Google or Bing. That being said, here are specific situations where you may choose SEO over PPC.

You're Looking for Consistent Results. Ask any marketer, and they'll tell you SEO takes time, so be prepared to do the work. Considering that 80% of traffic comes from search engines, it's worth it. Once you get to the first page, you'll benefit from sustained traffic. If you continue to do keyword research and update your strategy, you can remain on top for even longer and continue to pull in high amounts of organic traffic.

You Want to Build Domain Authority. A website with good domain authority is considered a credible source for resources surrounding a particular topic. Having your site return in organic search results can help establish this authority. Again, this doesn't happen overnight, and the best way to drive traffic to your site is through consistent SEO.

You Don't Have the Budget. As we mentioned, SEO is free. So, if your marketing department can't pay for PPC, but you still want to drive traffic, optimizing for SEO is critical. The more time you spend at sharpening your SEO skills, the better you'll become.

You're Concerned with Lasting Brand Awareness. Being visible in organic search results can put your company in front of a vast audience of potential customers, driving brand awareness, and gaining trust. The longer you rank, the more exposure your brand will have.

Read more: 3 Reasons an SEO Strategy Alone Won’t Fix Your Traffic Problem

When Should You Use PPC?

On the flip side, we have PPC. Like SEO, choosing to optimize PPC depends mainly on your digital marketing strategy. In certain situations, picking to pay for ads may benefit your business over putting in the time for SEO. Consider these reasons to use PPC:

You Want Results Now. PPC ads start running the minute they're approved. Because of this, PPC campaigns work great for seasonal promotions, product launches, or events. If you're looking for immediate results for campaigns such as these, it's worth noting that PPC ads are 1.5x more likely to produce clicks than SEO.

Your Target Audience is Highly-Specific. Unlike SEO, PPC allows you to narrow your audience, so your ad is only seen by the most relevant people. You can target by demographics and more such as age, income, education, location, and marital status. With such targeting capabilities comes a higher chance of clicks.

Your Website Lacks Content. SEO and content go hand in hand, but some companies with minimalistic sites lack the opportunity to insert keywords into their copy. If you do not have a blog or other similar resources useful for SEO, PPC ads can still get your message in front of the right eyes.

You Can't Wait to Establish Domain Authority. Some newer companies who've recently launched their sites want to be seen as credible sources but can't wait to establish this through SEO. In today's crowded market, PPC can you help you compete by placing your ads above organic search results.

Choosing Your Traffic Growth Strategy

To grow your business, you need to send visitors to your site. There's no way of doing this without a SEO strategy in place. If your budget permits, it may be worth supplementing your SEO with PPC. That way you can boost your traffic and sales faster than you may think possible.

But keep in mind every company's situation is different. You may prefer PPC over SEO or vice versa. If you need help determining which strategy is best for you, let us know. We can help provide advice on SEO, PPC, or an integrated approach.

By: Corie Stark

After spending many years as a sports journalist, Corie switched to marketing in 2013. Her love of writing, talking to people, and keeping up with the industry enables her to use her skills for anything from social media to long-form blogging. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking with her dogs and making her cats chase the ever elusive red dot.

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