When it comes time to launch your brand and get it noticed online, you’re almost certainly going to ask yourself one question: “Should I use SEO or PPC?”

The answer is: it depends.

But wait, there is more. I’m going tell you everything you need to know, from a high-level, in this post.


A Comparison

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a means of getting your website noticed by the various search engines so that it ranks well for one or more search terms. For example, if you’re selling HDTVs, then you’d love to be in the top spot in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when somebody Googles “buy hdtv”.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC), on the other hand, is an online advertising strategy that can put your website at the very top of the SERPs with an ad that looks a lot like a search result. In that case, you’re paying Google (via AdWords) to move your site to the top rather than relying Google’s search algorithm to determine which sites belong at the top.

In either case, you’re going to need to make an investment. If you opt for SEO, you’ll pay a professional SEO company to work its magic so that your site appears at the top of the SERPs. If you choose PPC, you’ll pay Google directly.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The biggest downside to SEO is that you won’t see results for weeks or, more likely, months. If, for whatever reason, you need to be on Page 1 of the SERPs immediately and you’re a brand new company, SEO is probably not going to make that happen. In fact, it will not.

Search Engine Optimization vs. Pay Per Click
Search Engine Optimization vs. Pay Per Click

Also, there’s no guarantee with SEO. Even the best SEO professionals aren’t privy to Google’s search algorithm. Although they know quite a bit about certain ranking factors, they can’t make a definitive statement that their work will boost your site all the way to the #1 spot (or even land it on the first page).

Keep in mind that Google also changes its search algorithm from time to time. It’s the worry of many SEO practitioners that the next Google update will push their clients’ websites down in the SERPs. So even if a great SEO company ranks your site well in the next several months, there’s no guarantee that it will stay in that position for the long haul. Of course, on the flip side if you do get ranked, you can make a lot of money generally for much less than the cost of PPC.

PPC marketing, on the other hand, is a little more definitive. You can get your site in front of people right away and not have to wait for months. You can also push yourself right to the top with the proper ad strategy.

What’s the best AdWords ad strategy to get your site to the very top of the SERPs? Google offers four pieces of advice:

  • Run relevant ads – make sure that your keywords and your landing page are relevant to your ad.
  • Use the right keywords – be certain that the keywords you’re using to reach people are the best options for your site.
  • Bid competitively – you’re much more likely to appear at the top of the SERPs if you bid competitively.
  • Keep up with your account – you’ll find ways to optimize your AdWords campaigns if you check your account regularly.

The downside to PPC is that you’ll have to always spend money on it if it’s your only strategy. By contrast, if you manage to reach the top of the search results because of SEO, you might not have to make any more of an investment.

Keep in mind, though, that you might never reach the very top of the SERPs without PPC. If you’re in a competitive niche, the first four results of Page 1 are likely to be AdWords ads. Simply put: SEO, at best, will put you in the #5 position for commercial queries.

Start by Running the Numbers

Once you understand the differences between SEO and PPC, it’s time to decide which option is best for you brand. Start that effort by running the numbers.

At some point during the process of your product launch, you created a projected budget that included income and expenses. You can use that budget to determine whether to use SEO or PPC.

Ask yourself this question: what can you afford to spend to acquire one customer? Calculate the minimum margin you need to meet to stay profitable. Then, use that number to determine your digital marketing strategy.

For example, if a PPC campaign costs you $.50 per click and 1 out of 10 of those clicks leads to a sale, then you’re spending $5.00 in digital marketing per sale. If each sale earns you a revenue of $100, then you’re looking at $95 in profit, exclusive of cost of goods sold and other operating expenses. Add in those other expenses in a profit-and-loss forecast and ask yourself if it’s worth it.

If you find that a PPC campaign is too expensive because it would crush your margins, then SEO might be your only option.

Time Is Money

As we’ve seen, even a great SEO effort won’t put your site at the top of the SERPs overnight. That might be a problem if you need to see immediate sales.

If you can’t wait to see results and need maximum brand exposure right away, you’ll need to use PPC. You simply can’t rely on Google to push your page to a high rank just because you launched your product.

The Best of Both Worlds

Unless you’re constrained by your budget, there’s no reason why you can’t run both a PPC campaign and use SEO at the same time. Indeed, many companies do just that. In fact, it is the best way to diversify your traffic generation and ensure revenue from multiple channels.

The PPC campaign can be used to build brand-name recognition right out of the gate, so you don’t have to wait months for your site to rank. That should give you sales in short order.

The SEO work will be more of a longer-term, strategic solution. While the PPC campaign works its magic, your SEO professionals will move your site up in the SERPs for various keywords.

In that case, you’re getting the best of both worlds.

The Final Answer on SEO vs. PPC

If it is a new website, and you don’t have significant amount of funding, PPC is your best bet. However, if you do have funding and can invest in both, you should do PPC and SEO for your new site. Keep in mind, SEO is generally a longer play. However, once it kicks if your returns are a lot higher.