07 Apr 2009

SEO vs. Pay Per Click Advertising

SEO vs. pay per clickTwo of the most talked about internet marketing strategies are search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click advertising.  One of the questions we here at Vertical Measures get asked the most is, “Should I invest in SEO or should I invest in pay per click (PPC) advertising?”  The short answer is “yes”.

Everyone is after the same goal:  how to get more people to visit your website.  And how do you do that?  Well, you have to be more visible to those who are looking for what you are selling.  The best way to do that is to get onto page one of Google.  But how?  Is it better to be in the top 10 organic listing or the number one sponsored link position?

First let’s talk about the different between SEO and PPC.  SEO is all about traffic:  you’re focusing on driving traffic to your site. Offsite SEO, including link building, is meant to get more traffic. We like to say, “PPC is renting and link building is owning the house”.  Why do we say that?  Because strategic SEO, including link building, will generate permanent, one-way links from relevant, related websites.  That will help with traffic. That’s a good thing in Google’s eyes.  PPC on the other hand will give you links as long as you’re willing to pay top dollar when bidding for those top search terms.  When you stop paying to be top bidder on the terms, you drop down on the sponsored ads links; stop your pay-per-click campaign altogether and those links go away. No links, no traffic.

Organic search results are considered to be much more reliable than PPC. Roughly 4 out of every 5 internet users will click on natural search results before they click on PPC (sponsored search results). In other words, 80% percent of internet searchers will click on a natural search result prior to or instead of a sponsored listing.

So that means SEO over PPC is the way to go, right?  Not necessarily.  Pay per click does have value when used in conjunction with other SEO tactics.  First of all, the results are much more immediate.  Pay today and see results tomorrow.  Second, you have complete control over which keywords you’re ranking for because you’re bidding on specific keyword phrase.  Third, you can also change your results on the fly:  want to change how your sponsored ad appears?  Log in, change it, and hit save.  The results are immediate.

When it comes to SEO vs. PPC, it’s like anything else in life:  if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  If your pay per click campaigns are converting into paying clients, why would you shut it down, even if you’re ranked #1 on Google in natural search results?  If your link building and other SEO efforts have gotten you on page one of Google and you’re seeing the increased traffic, why would you stop driving traffic to your site?  Focus on your overall internet marketing strategy, and you’ll see the two tactics can live in harmony.  Sometimes you can rent and own; who says you have to pick just one?


  • Swarovski Apr 09, 2009

    If you have a new site its important to use seo as a long term strategy for getting traffic to your site. While your waiting for the traffic to come PPC is a great way of generating sales straight away without having to get any ranking in the search engines. You can also compete for multiple search words and if you are quite keen on learning the tools provided by Google you can improve on your cost per click by using negative keywords.

  • Patty A. Apr 09, 2009

    A very good point. If you truly understand the benefits and challenges of PPC and how to leverage it to your advantage, it makes sense to incorporate it into your overall strategy. It's all about using all of the tools available to you and leveraging them to your advantage

  • Patty A. Apr 09, 2009

    Thanks for the comment! I think the challenge marketing professionals have is trying to find the balance of how much to spend where (which explains the image I included in this post). That's where analysis tools can come in handy, as it's all about conversion in the long run.

  • Patty A. Apr 09, 2009

    Exactly. There's a lot of debate regarding the value of PPC: how much more valuable is it if the ad appears at the top vs. down the side? Is the #6 organic result position more powerful than a #4 sponsored? Everyone has differing opinions and unless you have the tools to analyze it, you won't know for sure. Searchers are much more savvy now, and in general, a long-term SEO strategy to generate permanent, one-way links is better than temporary ads but when used correctly and in conjunction to other marketing strategies, PPC has it's place.

  • Patty A. Apr 09, 2009

    It's a good illustration of how to look at the two tactics. There's no reason to have to choose one or the other as long as your expectations are in line with the results you'll get from either source of links. Thanks Douglas!

  • Tattoo Removal Apr 09, 2009

    Very well-explained. And I definitely agree. Why use only one when you can use the two? If one of these did not work, look back and find out what went wrong along the way so that you can fix it.

  • Rob Lewicki Apr 09, 2009

    Great article Patty. Using both SEO and PPC also helps with branding and trust in the searcher's eye.

  • Douglas Kwong Apr 09, 2009

    That is a very good point Patty, it's not one vs. the other, it's all about the overall marketing strategy. I do have to say though, I love the term "PPC is renting the home, SEO/link building is owning the house"!

  • Paul Wooten Apr 13, 2009

    I have just started a website and wondered if I should use PPC until I get some SEO traffic. This now seems like good advice, to use both of them together. Thanks for the post!

  • Dartboard Cabinets Apr 13, 2009

    I am relatively new to internet marketing but I think from my experience I have found that one should employ both SEO and PPC in their marketing. I have tried only employing one or the other and have not been as successful as I have been while using both.
    I would recommend PPC early on while you are establishing your SEO ranking. I made the mistake of thinking that I would be successful in a couple of weeks with SEO and would not need to "pay" for traffic. LOL! SEO, no matter how much time and effort you put into it takes time to "take effect". If you all of a sudden one day got 1000 links back to your page, you would still not rank in the top for your keywords. You just can't rush SEO. The solution, short of just waiting it out is to do PPC until you are established on the first page of Google.

  • Allan Kuenn Apr 14, 2009

    I think Patty nailed it with the "PPC is renting the home, SEO is owning the house" comment too. I own a PPC Management company and most of my clients started doing PPC themselves and then just got too busy to manage it properly. PPC is a great way to get your name out there and get those first customers. You just have to be patient with it and work up a good strategy that fits your budget.

  • Joel McLaughlin Apr 17, 2009

    Great breakdown. I think Pay Per Click and SEO should work in harmony, and if both is utilized properly you can have a very successful website!

  • Amy Lynn Apr 18, 2009

    Paid Ads are not the way to go, I believe.

    It's like homemade mashed potatoes verses dried potato flakes IMHO.

    I like my traffic made from scratch. 😀

  • Mary Ann Apr 22, 2009

    SEO is always a long term strategy. While there are some tricks and methods for getting ranked for certain keywords in a week or so, for the most part you're looking at several months to really start seeing the fruits of your labor. When you're using pay per click, you can start seeing you ads run in less than 30 minutes.

  • venkat Oct 14, 2009

    thank u..

    nice information.
    I think Pay Per Click and SEO should work in harmony

  • Patty Hermes Mar 03, 2010

    Here is a study I rather enjoyed…
    Recent study by Engine Ready, Inc. disproves that SEO generates a higher ROI
    To be able to speak confidently about the pros and cons of doing a purely SEO program versus SEM or a mix. A recent study by Engine Ready, Inc. disproves the thought that search engine optimization generates a higher ROI than paying for clicks using a PPC advertising model. The study found that Paid search visitors bought 41% more than those from organic searches and Paid traffic converted at a 20% higher rate that of traffic from organic.

    The Engine Ready study is based on an analysis of 20.8 million visits and 108 million page views to 26 e-commerce sites from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009.