As a business owner are you often confused about choosing the right online marketing channel? Most businesses struggle with scanty resources. Marketing seems like that perpetual back pain. It’s hard to know which platform will help get the best ROI.

Considering the quantum of online search activity, SEO and PPC are two essential marketing strategies.

The number of daily searches on Google is a whopping 3.5 billion equating 1.2 trillion every year! – Smart Insights

Which one activity to focus on while the business is still small? It’s critical to first understand the difference between these two most popular approaches.

Seo vs ppc

Let’s dive into the fundamental difference:

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is an organic or non-paid form of marketing that helps build site authority including a host of other benefits.

seo vs ppc

61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority. – (HubSpot, 2017)

Many business owners and marketers have a myth that SEO is a quick ranking hack. The truth is that SEO requires you to invest considerable time, effort, and resources. Here are some of the key SEO activities:

  1. Creating a well-structured website
  2. Resolving technical issues on the site
  3. Performing keyword research
  4. Creating an audience persona
  5. Creating content that matches user intent
  6. Acquiring quality backlinks

Search engines provide online searchers with the best possible solution to their queries. Publishers who create audience-centric content out-do others and rank on search result pages. SEO is a race to provide the best answers to web searchers.

To help manage the SEO of a site, organizations should look at implementing an SEO software. There are many SEO tools that can help analyze, and, manage a website’s crawlability, speed, keywords, SERP rankings, and backlink profile.

PPC or Pay Per Click Campaigns

Paid campaigns are more straightforward. A business running a PPC campaign pays for clicks, impressions or customer acquisitions.

PPC campaigns help bid for specific keywords to get instant traffic and leads. Here are some of the key activities involved in setting up a PPC campaign:

  1. Defining your campaign goals
  2. Creating an audience persona
  3. Designing landing pages
  4. Selecting the right keywords
  5. Writing ad copies
  6. Optimizing campaigns
  7. Running A/B tests

Ready to dig deeper? Let’s understand some of the key advantages and disadvantages of SEO and PPC.

The Pros and Cons

The Cost

The cost involved in search engine optimization depends on the type of keywords and markets. When targeting local, less competitive, and fewer keywords, it’s easier to rank with lesser investment.

But when aiming to get rankings in say, one or more countries you have to create tons of focussed content.

An SEO campaign that gets visibility on a National or International level needs at least $2000 to $4,000 per month. This budget goes into:

  1. Resolving technical issues on your site
  2. Publishing and promoting quality content
  3. Earning backlinks from high domain authority sites

Let’s suppose you achieve a total of 25 monthly conversions from organic traffic, each having a lifetime value of $300.

The total revenue from organic conversions would be $7500 giving you a monthly profit of $3500 to $5,500. It takes time to get to that level. The sooner you achieve your conversion target (of 25 customers), the earlier will your SEO activity become profitable.

PPC needs a budget only when running a campaign. Daily allocation of $5-$10 is good to start. A dedicated resource helps optimize the campaigns. Suppose you’re on one of those marketing automation companies targeting a keyword like “marketing automation software”. This keyword has an average CPC of $7. Let’s say, you need 100 clicks to convert 1 customer and you’re looking to convert 10 new customers with your campaign.

For 10 new customers you need: 100 X 10 = 1000 clicks

For 1000 clicks you need to spend 7 X 1000 = $7000

If the lifetime value of each customer is $1000 then you would earn a revenue of $1000 X 10 = $10,000

The gross profit from your campaign would be $10,000 – 7000 = $3,000

If you have hired a dedicated PPC resource at $2000 a month, your net profit from the campaign will be $1000.

The monthly net profit will depend on the total number of monthly campaigns. This is hypothetical and you can always improve your ROI using some of these insider tips.

Here’s a bonus tip from Stefan Debois, Founder and CEO, Survey Anyplace, a tool for creating interactive questionnaires:

“Before spending money on an Adwords consultant, first ask for a free review with an advisor from Google. We recently had a 30min one-to-one chat with one of their advisors and we went back with a long list of actionable stuff.”

seo vs ppc

Next, you can plan your PPC campaigns using the following CPC and CPA industry benchmarks.

CPC Benchmarks

seo vs ppc

CPA Benchmarks

seo vs ppc

SEO and PPC both need time as well as money. The later is more campaign focussed while the former is about continuity.

Gestation Period

SEO takes time to fetch results. You need to devote at least six-nine months. One drawback is that you might lose rankings if you’re not persistent. SEO and content marketing work together.

PPC campaigns get instant results. These are, but, limited to the duration of the campaign.

Brand Building

When you produce content that answers popular search queries, you start building a reputation. SEO helps create brand equity that promises recurring business.

Paid campaigns get short-term conversions. They can’t help establish a brand.

Traffic and Conversions

As compared to PPC, SEO gets more web traffic. Studies have shown that organic search listings get more click-throughs as compared to paid listings.

Organic results are 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than paid search results. – MOZ Via Enquisite

But the conversion rate of paid campaigns is much higher.

Paid search results are 1.5x more likely to convert click-throughs from the search engine.MOZ Via Enquisite

Besides these numbers, different businesses have dissimilar outcomes from SEO and PPC.

“We have never managed to make a profit from our PPC campaigns in the past. I am not comfortable running the business on a tight profit margin. SEO worked well for us.” says Jerry Low, Founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed

A good idea is to learn from your experience and focus on the strategy that works well for your business.

Stability and Control

PPC is a more stable strategy compared to SEO. SEO can make you insecure about the outcomes; you’re not sure how soon you’ll get there. When you run paid campaigns you can forecast your results with reasonable accuracy. PPC gives more campaign insights enabling exact keyword-conversion tracking.

In the case of SEO, it’s difficult to track all the keywords that converted into business.


PPC helps target a specific audience by letting you choose their demographics and location, etc. SEO gets visibility among users typing specific queries. It does not guarantee traffic from a narrowed audience.

Over To You – Utilizing SEO and PPC Together

seo vs ppc

SEO and PPC when used in combination, could help accomplish near-term as well as long-term business goals.

PPC campaigns can provide keyword insights to apply to an SEO strategy.

“PPC is effective when it comes to finding new and relevant keywords for SEO. It can help optimize title tags and meta descriptions by testing ad texts that have winning CTRs. It also allows you to bid on your competitors’ branded keywords,” says Iris Grossman, SEO Strategist at Flipsnack.

A little bit of research and analysis can decide the right mix of SEO and PPC:

  1. Analyze local competition in SEO and PPC
  2. Look for SERP features used by your competitors
  3. Observe the prevalence of shopping ads in your industry
  4. Check your competitors’ brand keyword strategies

You can’t do without SEO when looking to build a loyal audience for your business. But, you must complement it with PPC campaigns to keep the shorter-term conversions flowing. Finally, you must test the results to choose the most suitable combination.

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