When using search as a marketing tool, brands use two different strategies: search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC). The former uses organic search, while the latter uses paid search. Although these methods both have the end goal of getting more visitors to your website, they work in completely different ways. Here we explore the difference between SEO vs. paid search.
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website more visible when users look up specific phrases or keywords. This idea is that by creating your website with SEO in mind, you can rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and get more website traffic. SEO directly targets organic searches, also known as unpaid traffic.
SEO considers how search engine algorithms work. By producing high-quality web pages that are formatted correctly, you can show up on more results pages. When users visit your website, you are increasing your chances of making a sale. Even if you don’t make a sale on a user’s first visit, you are boosting your brand awareness and creating more interest around your products and services.
Image via Unsplash by judmackrill
What Is PPC?
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a paid form of advertising often used on search engines. With this method, you pay Google or other major search engines a fee each time someone clicks your ad. Rather than earning website visits organically, PPC advertising entices users to click on an ad that leads to your webpage.
When using PPC on search engines, advertisers bid on specific keywords. For instance, if you are a lawn care company, you might bid on the keyword “lawn care tips.” Then, when users search this keyword, an ad for your company will show up at the top of the search engine.
SEO vs. PPC
The main difference between SEO vs. PPC is that SEO is unpaid and PPC is paid. Both strategies have the same end goal of getting your website to rank higher on SERPs. You need to decide if you would rather get website visits organically or through a paid strategy. Both methods require a knowledge of how search engines rank websites and the best practices for making your webpages more visible.
Another difference is how search results show up for each method. With SEO, the results will look like any other search results. With PPC, they will appear at the top of a SERP, marked as an advertisement. Users will clearly know that you paid for this result to show up and may not want to click the link. In fact, 80% of users ignore paid ads in their search results.
Pros and Cons of SEO
Here are the pros and cons of SEO:
- Organic traffic sticks — Although SEO is an ongoing process, it is great for getting long-term results. Once you establish an effective SEO strategy, your rankings are going to stay for a while.
- It’s free — Besides the salary brands pay their employees to create content, SEO is completely free. There is no need to add money to your campaign, as the results happen on search engines naturally. As long as you continue to publish quality web pages, you will continue to see the benefits of SEO.
- People prefer organic search results — As people become more accustomed to ads everywhere, they may grow to ignore them. Data has found that people click unpaid search results more than paid ones. Of all the links users click, 70% are organic.
- It takes a while to see results — Improving your SEO isn’t as simple as posting a couple of articles on your website; it’s a long-term marketing strategy. Your marketing team needs to come up with a plan to get your pages to rank higher. Likewise, you need to continue to post content and update your pages as SEO best practices evolve.
- You need to learn it — SEO involves an understanding of what quality content looks like. You need to know how to incorporate keywords, meta descriptions, and title tags into your website. You also need to have an understanding of page formatting.
- Research is a requirement — Google and other search engines are becoming better at detecting quality content. Likewise, users are more inclined to want research-based content or articles that come from experts. Your team is going to need to find ways to prove you have the expertise in your niche. This will require research and maybe even partnering with a proven expert.
Pros and Cons of PPC
Here are the pros and cons of PPC:
- It’s instantaneous — As soon as you finish setting up your ads, you can launch your campaign. Users will begin to see your ads when they search for relevant keywords, increasing your chances of gaining more website traffic.
- You can target specific demographics — PPC gives you more control over who sees your website links. You can choose who sees it based on user demographics or location.
- A/B testing is straightforward — With PPC, you can view analytics about your ads. This makes for an easy A/B testing process. Through experimentation, you can learn how to make your ads more effective.
- It can be pricey — If you’re in a saturated industry, the price it costs for users to click your links can get expensive. Companies bidding on popular keywords pay the price to show up on popular search queries.
- You need to rework it — Users may become tired of your brand if they see the same ads over and over again. This means your team will need to periodically come up with new ad copy.
- It’s an expensive learning process — While SEO is time-consuming, it is also free. When you are fine-tuning your PPC ads, you are losing money in the process.
Whether you use SEO, PPC, or both depends on your brand’s needs. The key is to find a strategy that makes your brand more visible on search engines and helps you get more website views. As more people view your website, you may find an increase in sales or brand engagement.