SEO vs. PPC: Differences, Pros, and Cons
Let’s face it.
Traditional marketing might not be dead yet, but it’s certainly in a downward spiral trend.
The revenue generated by newspaper advertising alone has dropped by 75% since 2000.
Digital marketing is now king of the advertising world, and it’s giving businesses the best ROIs ever.
But despite the vast amounts of ways to advertise your business online, there are two methods everyone should educate themselves on.
So what are they?
SEO & PPC.
Both of these advertising beasts come with pros and cons.
Trust me. I know it can get confusing.
So that’s why in this article, I’ll be going over the techniques and advantages that go along with each.
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- What are SEO and PPC?
- Why is SEO Important?
- Why is PPC Important?
- PPC vs. SEO: Which One Is Right for You?
Digital Marketing: SEO and PPC Have Taken Over.
Like it or not, the world’s shifting to a more digital space by the day. It wasn’t long ago that billboards, newspapers, and TV commercials were the best way to advertise your business.
Oh, how far traditional marketing has fallen.
If you aren’t learning how to market yourself online, it won’t be long before you’re left in the dust by the business owners who are.
However, this isn’t a doom-and-gloom kind of article. All hope isn’t lost; in fact, the shift to digital marketing is a fantastic change in many ways.
Because it’s easier than ever to get started, you don’t need a massive budget, and you don’t need to be the greatest marketer ever to get good results.
All you need is a bit of know-how and the willingness to learn how to do it.
And thanks to the digital age, there has never been a greater time to market yourself because you can learn anything you need online — for free.
Which is precisely what I’m here to help you do today.
The world of digital marketing might seem scary and confusing at first, but trust me, it’s not as hard as you might think.
With a little bit of knowledge, the proper tools, and maybe a little bit of help, your ad budget will be going the extra mile in no time.
Let’s jump in:
What is SEO?
SEO has become one of the most popular marketing trends.
I said trend, but that doesn’t mean SEO is going anywhere soon. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which means to get your website closer to the top of Google’s search results.
While many marketing methods may be relatively straightforward, the thing about SEO is that there are tons of moving parts involved in how Google ranks webpages. So while the idea of SEO is simple, there’s definitely a learning curve to it.
And while it may not be as straightforward as other marketing methods, the effort involved can pay off in magnitudes when you properly implement an SEO strategy.
What is PPC?
PPC, on the other hand, is a bit closer to the traditional marketing methods you might be used to.
It stands for Pay-Per-Click, and to explain it, let’s take ads in the physical world as an example.
Let’s say you want to show an ad on a physical billboard (like what people see above highways when they’re driving).
The goal is to have as many people see your ad, get interested, and hopefully do business with you, so you pay for the ad space and then wait to see the results.
But when you take this kind of advertising method and use it in the digital world, you have more control.
When you visit a website, you’re bound to see ads on it, and each one of those ads runs on what’s like a virtual billboard.
These virtual billboards are scattered throughout the internet in the form of ad spots. You can find these ad spots in Google searches, social media, and other websites.
Bidding for each individual ad spot like it was a physical billboard would be nearly impossible, so that’s where the magic of PPC comes in.
Instead of manually bidding for each spot, with PPC advertising, an algorithm will automatically show your ads on various sites around the web, pitting them in an auction against other business’ ads.
And the next best thing is that with PPC, you only pay when people actually click your ad, unlike with billboards where you pay for impressions (PPM).
Don’t SEO & PPC serve the same purpose?
The short answer is yes, but with a caveat.
Ultimately, the purpose of each is to get you more clients and customers.
But, that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. SEO and PPC are such different beasts that they both have a spot in the digital marketing ring.
Let’s get into how they work, so we can better talk about how you can use each one of them:
Why Is SEO Important?
First up is SEO, an excellent tool for both giant companies and small businesses alike.
SEO is so useful for getting more leads online that most business owners consider it a large part of their marketing strategies, and for a good reason:
Leads generated from online searches have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound marketing has just a 1.7% close rate.
See, to explain why SEO is so powerful, let’s also look at Google’s search result page for a second:
The first thing I should mention is that none of these law firms are on the first page of Google by coincidence. Getting onto the first page means putting in the work to get yourself seen.
So just betting on the coincidental-chance that your website gets ranked on the first page with zero effort isn’t going to end well. Instead, you’ll need to get onto that page with lots of consistent effort, or in other words, a strong SEO strategy.
You might be asking: “Why does it matter if I’m on the first page?”
And without seeing the data, the first page might seem to be overrated.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, the first page is where 91% of all organic traffic goes, with almost 50% of users clicking on one of the first three organic results.
That means any of those law firms that aren’t on the first page of Google are automatically missing out on 91% of their potential business. You don’t even get a shot at those potential conversions if you aren’t ranking high enough.
If you want a way to take advantage of organic traffic, SEO isn’t just an option; it’s a must.
Now, we know that we need to implement SEO into our gameplans if we want to rake in organic leads, but how do you start?
The SEO Playbook: A Quick Rundown on 4 SEO Tactics
As I said before, SEO is far from a straight shot when it comes to what you’ll need to do. To get the most out of your optimization, you’ll need to take multiple ranking factors into account and work on various pieces to the puzzle.
Here are just a few of those things you’ll need to work on:
1) Local SEO
If you’re a local business with clients and customers who are location-based, you’re going to need to focus on ranking for local keywords.
If you’re not a local business, feel free to skip ahead.
For businesses like law firms, local SEO is going to be a huge factor for getting relevant traffic and potential leads to your website.
For your business to excel with its local SEO, you’re going to need to target keywords relevant to your business and location.
If you’re a personal injury law firm in Los Angeles, consider targeting keywords in your personal injury marketing strategy like “Los Angeles car accident lawyer” and “personal injury lawyer LA.”
Besides targeting these local keywords, you’ll also want to keep the following squared away:
- Google My Business – Make sure your Google My Business listing is completely filled out with proper information that’s consistent with your site and other business citations.
- Reviews – Not only will they make your business look better (social proof), but it’s also a factor Google looks at for local SEO. The more 5-star reviews, the better chances you have to rank.
- NAP Citations – NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. Having this information listed will let Google know that you’re a local brick and mortar business and rank you accordingly.
Having all of these factors optimized will help increase the odds of your business showing up on the Google Map Pack. The Google Map Pack is the snippet that shows up when you search a local keyword that shows users your location at the top of the page.
2) The Bread & Butter: Blogs & Content
The first part of any good SEO strategy is the content itself. There’s a reason that SEO is considered content marketing. It’s because the content will be the foundation of your whole plan.
Let’s go back to those top three organic results quickly.
Do you want to guess what the top 3 ranking law firms in Los Angeles have in common on their websites?
That’s right; they all have blogs.
There’s a good reason for this.
Google’s algorithm, the one that decides who gets ranked, relies heavily on your website’s content to make its decision.
The more content you have, the more info Google has to analyze before ranking you accordingly.
If you have more high-quality content than your competitors, Google will notice (and so will anyone visiting your website).
Notice how I said high-quality content. Having loads of spammy content on your website won’t do much; if you’re filling out webpages with lists of random words that don’t provide value, the algorithm is smart enough to notice.
This is why blogs are so valuable.
Each time you put out a blog post, you’re essentially creating another webpage full of content.
But while content is the foundation of a good strategy, it’s not going to get you to the top alone.
You’ll need to add a bit more to get to the top of the page, which leads us to the next section:
3) Keyword Optimization
Keywords are essential in an effective SEO strategy. In fact, without keywords, the rest of your strategy, including the content, will likely go to waste.
To give a brief explanation of keywords, they’re phrases that Google uses to know what search terms it should rank you for.
For instance, if you’re a personal injury law firm based in Kansas City, you probably want to rank for terms like “personal injury attorney near me” or “injury law firm Kansas city.”
This is because people searching for those terms are more likely to convert.
However, to find the right keywords, it’d be best to do a bit of keyword research.
And to do that, there are various methods, from on-site SEO keyword tools like Moz or Ahrefs, to using the Google search engine itself.
Tools like Moz help you decide which keywords to target by taking much of the guesswork away.
4) Guest Posting to Acquire Backlinks
Next up in the SEO playbook is a tactic called guest posting.
To keep it short and sweet:
Guest posting is the practice of writing blog posts for other websites instead of your own. Usually, it’s a website in a similar niche as your business, and it’s one of the best ways to increase your rank.
Guest posting’s significance comes down to two factors:
- Referral Traffic
- (And arguably the more significant factor) Backlink-building
See, what many people don’t know about SEO is that the way other websites interact with yours is just as important as the internal pieces.
And a backlink (which is a link from another website to yours) helps Google determine whether or not you’re worth putting near the top.
In general, the more backlinks you have, the better your chances of ranking on Google, so long as they’re from high-quality sites, and you’re getting them organically.
Take a look at the link count for one of our previous examples.
Using a tool like Ahrefs, we can see that the website near the top has a substantial amount more backlinks than the lower-ranking page. You’re going to need these backlinks if you want to compete with top-ranking pages.
3 Reasons Why Businesses Need SEO (Pros):
So there’s a quick review on how to do SEO, but there are still other questions that need to be asked:
Why should you use SEO? Which situations make SEO a prime candidate over PPC? And what are the downsides?
1) Opportunity for Massive Amounts of Organic Traffic
If you start using SEO in your marketing strategy, you can either:
- Do it yourself
- Hire an SEO expert
Doing it yourself means you’ll be marketing your business almost for free, at least, in terms of capital. But it generally takes more time and leaves more room for mistakes while you’re learning.
Still, for small businesses and firms trying to get their names out there, SEO can be just the thing to fill that spot, especially when you consider the massive amounts of organic traffic that go through Google every day.
Working with an agency (SEO experts) is highly recommended for targeting competitive markets (e.g. Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.).
2) The Snowball Effect
The next great thing about SEO is that the more progress you make, the easier it is to make even more progress.
The saying that “the rich get richer” is true when it comes to SEO, because as you generate more traffic, your rank tends to increase, which leads to more traffic, and so on.
3) SEO is a Long-Term Investment.
Excellent SEO rankings will get you completely organic traffic for free.
Once you put in the work to get your website to rank on Google’s first page, it’s likely to stay there for quite a while as long as you keep it up-to-date.
Unlike with PPC Google Ads, where you’re paying rent to be at the top of the rankings, SEO is a long-term investment.
You can think of it as buying a house as opposed to renting an apartment.
2 Minor Downsides to SEO (Cons):
But just like with anything else, SEO isn’t without downsides. Here are 2 of the drawbacks to any new SEO strategy:
1) It Takes Time to Gain Traction.
One of the most prevalent issues with SEO is that it can take quite a bit of time to yield any real results, which can be highly discouraging in the beginning while you’re waiting for things to kick in.
This is why SEO is a great “long-game,” you usually can’t expect to see fast results unless you’ve already made progress, but once you do start building up momentum, the SEO machine starts to run itself to some extent.
2) It’s Harder to Predict Results with SEO.
Another problem with SEO is that much of the work is based on estimates and not exact data. Even the keyword research tools themselves aren’t 100% accurate because we don’t have the precise data from Google themselves.
Not only that, but as you’re waiting for things to build steam, it’s hard to know what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll have to wait a bit before you see the fruits of your labor — or the lack thereof.
Who is SEO Good For?
Implementing an SEO strategy is an excellent idea for any business. However, just remember SEO is a patient business owner’s game.
If you’re looking for a marketing method that yields quick results, SEO generally isn’t it.
Though PPC just might be, which leads us to the next section:
A Detailed Look at PPC
Now to take a look at our next contender in the ring, PPC.
While the end goal is the same, PPC fills a very different hole than SEO does, so let’s take a look at what you can expect from PPC advertising as a whole.
Why is PPC Important?
To give the brief rundown, PPC is a fantastic advertising avenue because it lets you take advantage of so many platforms on the web.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, you name it. There’s a way to run PPC ads on almost any platform, and unlike with SEO, you can generally expect to see faster results.
And with PPC advertising, you’re also able to get a bit more in-depth when it comes to the way you target your ads, but more on that later.
Starting with PPC: The Two Big Platforms
The difference between implementing SEO and PPC is pretty big.
With SEO, it’s more of a puzzle — you have multiple pieces that all have to fit together to complete the whole thing.
With PPC, things tend to be more streamlined in a sense, as you’re using pre-built platforms to run ads on, which also makes it more like the traditional advertising methods you’re probably familiar with.
So instead of covering a “playbook” as we did with SEO, let’s talk about some of the platforms you can advertise on with PPC.
Facebook Ads in action on the feed
Facebook (and Instagram by association) have long been known as some of the most popular advertising platforms out there and for a good reason.
That reason happens to be the loads of consumer data Facebook has on hand. Facebook can pin down an individual’s marital status, income, interests, age, and more, which amounts to a huge opportunity for advertisers.
Having all of this data for any given potential lead means that you can create hyper-targeted audiences to show your ads to.
And that hyper-targeting is a massive factor behind PPC’s value as a marketing method.
Not only do you get all of the metrics you’d ever need on your ads, but you can also market to audiences that are highly likely to convert.
Facebook Ads Manager allows you to create campaigns tailored towards specific goals, such as reach, leads, conversions, you name it.
How your PPC ads look when you run them through Google’s platform
The main benefits to advertising on Google are fairly similar to Facebook Ads, the main difference is where you get your leads from.
And this is the case with many of the PPC platforms; they offer similar services with some nuances that make some better than others for certain types of businesses.
Some firms may see more results from Facebook Ads, while others may see stellar conversions from running on Google.
When it comes to choosing the right PPC platform, sometimes it just takes a bit of trial-and-error to figure out the right one for you.
2 Reasons to Start PPC Advertising (Pros):
Now that you know the two biggest platforms to run PPC ads on let’s go over two significant advantages to a PPC campaign.
1) Highly Detailed Metrics & Audience-Targeting
One of the biggest advantages of running PPC ads is how detailed you can get with your campaigns.
One of the aforementioned drawbacks to SEO is that you’re flying partially blind much of the time. Sure, we know many of the factors that play a part, but there aren’t as many direct metrics as you might have with a PPC platform.
That’s not to say there aren’t any metrics, but take a look at what you get with Google Ads.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data.
With PPC advertising, you get much more of a full-view over your marketing campaigns than you would with SEO.
All of these highly specific metrics, paired with the previously mentioned hyper-specific audiences, means you can tailor your ad campaigns down to the tee.
2) Relatively Quick Results
Again, if you’re looking for quick results, SEO isn’t it, but with PPC, you’re much more likely to see your results in a shorter amount of time.
What this means from a marketer’s standpoint is that you can change up your strategy and see the effects much quicker than you would with SEO. However, this also means that PPC is generally going to be higher maintenance.
2 Downsides to Running PPC Ads (Cons):
Despite the advantageous reasons to run PPC ads for your business, it won’t be a long-term fix for your marketing strategy.
With PPC, you’re renting your ad space, which leads us to these two issues:
1) It Has a Higher Potential Cost Than SEO.
As the name implies, with Pay-Per-Click, you pay per… err, click.
Which means the more clicks your ad gets, the more you’ll pay. Paying more isn’t necessarily a bad thing because getting more clicks tends to lead to getting more conversions, but not always.
This means that PPC has the potential to be much more expensive than SEO, especially considering you can put SEO into action for almost nothing.
2) The PPC World Moves Quickly.
PPC’s speed is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it means you can see results much quicker. On the other, it also means you need to keep a closer eye on the campaign as it runs, much more than you would with a blog.
PPC vs. SEO: Which One Is Right for You?
The first thing to note is that one isn’t better over the other.
There’s a reason that both of these tactics coexist in the marketing world, and it’s because they both have some pretty big differences that make them stand out in their respective fields.
To sum things up:
SEO is great for when you want a long term, highly-sustainable strategy to bring in consistent leads and customers.
It might take some time to build steam, but it’s also one of the best ways to keep your lead generation consistent at a low cost.
PPC is great if you want quick results, highly-targetable ads, and lots of data to base your next decisions off of.
You’ll generally see much quicker results, but you’ll be paying for it with a higher budget for most of your campaigns.
And if you haven’t caught on yet, these two strategies complement each other quite nicely.
That’s right, PPC and SEO aren’t mutually exclusive by any means. For many businesses, the best course of action is to implement them both.
You can think of SEO as a long-term investment that builds up slowly over time and compounds.
To keep yourself afloat while the SEO strategy takes its time, you can use PPC to supplement your revenue while also being able to gather loads of data on your ideal audience.
Or, if your marketing strategy calls for it, you can use the one that fits your needs best.