SEO vs PPC: Which To Choose? (2023)

Digital marketing.

Everyone’s heard of it by now.

Not only that, but it has become essential for reaching and engaging customers. 

Over the last decade, the rise of the internet and mobile devices has meant that more and more people have turned to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to help them find the products and services they need.

Search engines use complex algorithms to rank individual web pages and entire websites based on their relevance, quality, and authority. Ultimately, this means it’s more critical than ever for businesses to have a strong online presence.

There are several effective ways for businesses to increase their visibility online and reach more potential customers.

The two main methods that brought you here – search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 

In layman’s terms, SEO is simply the process of optimizing web pages and blog posts for relevant keywords to improve organic search results. 

On the other hand, PPC involves creating and running ad campaigns through platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads. This can help businesses drive targeted web traffic. These visitors can quickly turn into leads and sales. 

SEO and PPC strategies can be valuable in improving your online presence, but they have distinct differences. For example, the main difference is that SEO is less effective immediately, given it is a more long-term strategy. PPC can deliver results in a shorter time frame but can be very expensive.

With that said, a strong SEO foundation helps build brand awareness and online authority. It can put your business in front of many potential customers, and unlike PPC, you don’t need to keep paying for it. However, you may want to use some affordable SEO tools to help you continue implementing your strategy.

A well-rounded digital marketing strategy will likely adopt SEO and PPC – most experts agree that this will yield the best results. Right now, this is the case, but the digital marketing landscape is constantly evolving, so you need to be aware of the changing best practices and new tools on the market. 

In 2023, businesses still need to utilize the power of search engines, particularly Google, to reach new markets and establish authority online.

What is SEO?

So, suppose you’ve decided to read this article. In that case, you probably already know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of continuously improving a website’s content and off-page profile over time.

As a result of implementing an SEO strategy, your business may start to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords.

Ranking organically for a keyword means that people will find your website and consume your content for free. This can lead to sales.

For example, you have found this article (out of millions) through organic search by typing in “SEO and PPC” or something similar. Suppose you read the article and enjoy it. You may then think to yourself, “This guy knows a lot about SEO. We should hire him.” This is how content marketing works…

And it’s so effective!

The ultimate goal of SEO is to make it easier for potential customers to find and engage with your business online. When SEO is done right, it can bring hundreds or even thousands of new customers every month. This traffic and method of lead generation can effectively last for years.

SEO is complex, though. It’s a difficult beast to tame.

What Does SEO Involve?

A proper SEO strategy involves keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building

Keyword research is the process of identifying and researching keywords your potential customers will use to search for products or services related to a business. Each article should try to rank for one particular keyword.

Also, consider building a topical map to build more of a long-term content plan.

Once your target keywords have been identified… You will also need to optimize the page’s content for LSI keywords, add alt-text to images, write NLP-friendly meta tags, cover the topic in-depth, and, all in all… try to create the best resource on the entire internet.


Link building should be more focused on in SEO. Some companies think link-building is ineffective, but this must be corrected. Backlinks are crucially the most important factor in a website’s success

Acquiring backlinks helps to improve the authority and credibility of a website. This is because search engines use backlinks and referring domains to measure a website’s popularity and relevance. Thus, sites with high-quality, authoritative backlinks tend to rank higher in search results.

Why do websites like Forbes, Apple, TechCrunch, and NerdWallet always appear at the top of the SERPs? The simple answer is that they have a ludicrous amount of backlinks, which translates to authority online.

Outsourcing link-building is a great option for businesses that need scalability for their off-page SEO. In other words, outsourcing can bring about results MUCH faster.

Check out my recent post on whether link building costs money where I go into more detail on this.

Technical SEO refers to optimizing the website’s code and the underlying infrastructure of a website so that it is easily crawlable and indexable by search engines. This is a smaller, arguably less important, element of SEO, but getting it right is still valuable.

SEO Is Long-Term

The main benefit of SEO is long-term results. Not only will you see improved organic traffic, but you will also start to see a consistent pipeline of new clients, leads, and sales.

SEO is largely about creating great content. Often this translates to a better user experience. This will convert more visitors into customers. Additionally, a good SEO campaign will give you more visibility online. This will increase the perception of trust that potential customers have.

SEO is a complex process that requires ongoing effort and attention to detail. Businesses that take the time to understand and implement best practices for SEO will see the most significant results. 

Alternatively, working with an SEO specialist like myself will help you to gain the exact strategies and insights you need. SEO services can massively vary in price, so working with a smaller specialized company, rather than a large digital marketing agency, will often work out cheaper and more fruitful!

Not convinced? Check out our guide on deciding whether SEO services are worth it.

What is PPC?

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is a valuable form of online advertising where businesses pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. 

Businesses will typically pay anywhere from $1 to over $100 per click. This may sound expensive, but if you sell a high-end service, one client can be worth well over $10k.

The most common platform for PPC advertising is Google Ads – many agencies will specialize in this.

Although PPC is most commonly associated with Google, it can also be used on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. 

With PPC, your goal is to create and run ad campaigns targeting specific keywords and demographics. This is a good way to reach potential customers actively searching for products or services your business offers.

The process of PPC advertising is quite straightforward. It involves creating campaigns, creating ad copy, and targeting specific demographics. Of course, it’s more difficult than this. You will also need to create ad groups and establish an A/B testing system.

Here are a few technical terms for beginners…

Your campaigns are the overarching strategy of your PPC efforts. These campaigns contain ad groups (this is the specific collection of individual ads). 

Copy is simply the text or visual that the end-users see. Finally, by targeting specific demographics e.g., men between 25-39, you are effectively specifying the audience to which you want to show the ads.

One of the biggest benefits of PPC advertising is that it can deliver almost immediate results. Unlike SEO, which can take months to show results, PPC ads can start driving significant and highly targeted traffic to a website within mere hours.

PPC can be picked up quickly, but to achieve the best results with this form of advertising, there are some strategies to keep in mind.

What is the goal of PPC, you may be asking?

Simply, PPC is all about driving relevant traffic to landing pages that are designed to maximize conversion rates. If you have something valuable to sell that will interest people, then PPC can be a great way to start generating more sales.

If you’re running a PPC campaign, then it’s also crucial to track and measure the performance of your campaigns.

Only some things will fit into place and work the first time around.

So, you will need to continuously test and optimize your campaigns, which will help improve your results over time. 

Key Differences Between SEO and PPC

So, we have introduced the topics of SEO and PPC; as you know, these are two of the most popular digital marketing methods.

With that said, both strategies have distinct differences which set them apart. We have already started looking into them, but this section will go into way more depth.

This is essential reading for people still debating whether to implement PPC or SEO.

The Time Required For Results

SEO is a long-term play.

Some businesses decide to pay for SEO services, only to be incredibly disappointed when they don’t see results right away.

This is the wrong way of thinking. While it is true that PPC can deliver results in a shorter time frame, the results are temporary.

SEO (when it’s done right) can lead to a new, permanent foundation for high-quality and organic lead generation.


SEO is the ultimate low-investment way to drive organic traffic. A typical SEO campaign will include investing either time or money into a content strategy and high-quality backlink building. This will typically cost $2-$10k per month.

However, PPC can be infinitely more expensive as you must pay for each click. If you work in a highly competitive industry, you may be paying $50 a click. Assuming you need to generate 1000 clicks, this will mean you need a budget of $50k (plus whatever you are paying in wages).

PPC can make a lot of sense for businesses with above-average conversion rates. However, often, the initial costs are significantly higher. 


PPC provides more control over results thanks to your ability to focus on specific demographics directly, i.e., identifying your target audience. Getting organic results from SEO relies heavily on the mercy of search engine algorithms. Google carries out several significant “core updates” every year. These have the potential to wreak havoc on a website’s rankings.

However, the best way to avoid this is to invest in high-quality SEO: authoritative content, topical authority, and high-quality backlinks.

It’s not necessarily going to be a decision of which tool to use but more of when. Both methods are viable options, but one may work better for a business with specific goals and objectives.

For example, businesses that want to establish a strong online presence and drive organic traffic should focus more on SEO. SEO can help you build a respected brand organically.

Quick results in the short term? Then choose PPC. E-commerce brands, in particular, will highly benefit from running focused paid search ads.

Combine SEO and PPC

So, you know the differences, but why choose just one or the other?

In truth, either strategy can be effective on its own.

If you have to choose, I’d recommend choosing SEO. This is because SEO has a very exciting future.

But, integrating the two strategies can lead to exceptional results. PPC marketing can help you generate some visibility and make a few early sales, but your SEO efforts will be what will help you build a brilliant long-term brand.

Without further ado, here are some of the benefits you can expect from combining both methods together.

Increased Visibility: Combining PPC and SEO can help you develop further visibility across paid and organic search channels. Doing both lets you be in more places at once, which ultimately means more conversions.

Better Targeting: Integrating these digital marketing techniques allows you to target specific keywords and more general topics. This means you can effectively reach people through both conversion-focused and informational keywords.

Better Data: Using a conjunction of SEO and PPC strategies will allow you to gather more data from both strategies. You may have heard of “data-driven decision-making”. We are firm believers in this, as this is the best way to understand what’s working and what’s not. This can help you optimize your campaigns and make marketing choices.

Cost Savings: As we discussed, PPC can be a costly strategy, more so if you’re targeting competitive keywords. Integrating SEO into your strategy can reduce your net marketing spend.

Branding: Integrating a healthy mixture of PPC and SEO can help boost your brand awareness. Appearing in both paid and organic search results will help you make a more significant impression on potential customers.


So here you are, SEO and PPC.

We have discussed how they can be effectively used together to form a credible digital marketing strategy.

Before we wrap everything up, we will briefly discuss the future of PPC and SEO, trends for the future, etc.

  • The growing use of AI and machine learning will help businesses improve targeting and ad placement.
  • Greater emphasis on local SEO as more searches are conducted on mobile devices.
  • More integration of voice search optimization in both SEO and PPC strategies.
  • A strong focus on data will mean more information is available to prospects.
  • Video use in PPC advertising is likely to become even more popular.

It’s also worth reiterating the importance of search algorithms and their significant effect on digital marketing. This applies mostly to SEO!

  • Relevance, quality, and credibility of the content on a website have a major influence on SEO. Establishing expertise, trust, and authoritative backlinks is the best way to create an algorithm-proof machine.
  • Google favors mobile-friendly and fast-loading sites, so keep this in mind.
  • Bounce rate, click-through rate, and engagement time are all used to determine the relevance of the content.
  • Good SEOs will create well-structured websites. This means having a clear hierarchy and making navigation straightforward.
  • Backlinks are underrated. They massively help with SEO. Good backlinks pointing at a website indicate credibility and will help you establish yourself further online.

Keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building are key principles of SEO. You can expect quick sales and long term organic traffic when paired with PPC strategies such as demographic targeting and A/B testing. 

You need to maximize the ROI of digital marketing spend. Focus on monitoring and adapting your approach to improve results, track your conversion rates, and adopt new techniques to pivot when necessary.

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