Organic SEO vs. PPC: Which is better?

Organic SEO refers to targeting the top 10 results generated by Google as the “best answer” to a search query. The organic results are also referred to as the “blue links” on a search result page. PPC is the paid strategy where you pay Google (or whichever search engine you’re using, Facebook and Instagram included) for every click made to your website. You can differentiate the two in the search result because a paid ad will always have “Ad” marked in the corner.

SERP showing paid ads

Organic search results

Both methods of marketing have very different results and there are pros and cons to each. There are also many different aspects to consider when strategizing on the best way to invest in your marketing. This article will walk you through the basics, so you have a clear understanding of what each strategy offers and how it applies to your business.

What is organic SEO?

Organic search engine optimization is the process of optimizing web pages to surface at the top of the search results for keyword targets/topics. Once a page ranks for keywords, the traffic you receive to your website is free.

Organic SEO means applying keyword research, content, on-page optimization, and off-page strategies to target a major keyword topic. The goal is to provide useful information and engaging content that users are actively trying to find. By optimizing a page to target specific keywords, you can effectively create a page that is consistently found in the search engines, thereby increasing your website’s traffic generation.

A web page can be optimized to appear for ANYTHING. Therefore, an SEO strategy is an extremely powerful marketing tactic to target potential clients at every stage of the marketing funnel.

The basic buyers journey

What is PPC advertising?

Pay Per Click advertising is when you’re paying for every click made to your website. Although the price you pay for traffic is ultimately higher in the long run, once you set up a campaign, you’re able to start driving traffic immediately.

There are many search engines you can choose to market your product or service on however for most local businesses, Google holds the most potential. The downside to this is that PPC marketing has become more competitive and will continue to do so as more businesses compete for the top positions.

ad quality scoring in PPC campaigns

One aspect of PPC marketing that many business owners fail to see is the emergence of Ad Quality Scoring. This is a system Google developed to make sure that the ads that they were showing at the top of the page were relevant to a user’s search. If your Ad Quality Score is not very high compared to other advertisers, it will be very difficult to see your PPC ads at the top of the first page.

Advantages of Organic SEO

Once your page ranks for one keyword, it ranks for many other variations

Think of it like this. When Google deems your page worthy of a top 10 position (first page) it has based its assessment on the value, usefulness, and relevance of your content.

Google has not relied solely on keywords in the meta tags for a long time. In fact, most search engines are now able to assess the quality of your content based on several factors. If your page ranks highly on a search engine, it’s for a keyword topic because there are a few ways to search for one thing.

The main point is that once you rank for one keyword target, you rank for many different variations which can mean a massive volume of traffic in specific cases. Below you can see how the average number of keywords a website ranks for multiplies as it nears the number one position.

websites rank for more keywords in Organic SEO vs PPC

Organic traffic is free…almost

Yes, it’s true that organic traffic is free. If you’re on the first page of Google, anyone can find you and click through to your site free of charge. Getting to the first page of Google, however, usually takes an investment of time and resources.

As more businesses scramble to capitalize on the high-earning potential of organic traffic, the competition continues to rise. In many industries, it’s next to impossible to rank for valuable keywords without the help of a professional. This means investing in SEO services to ensure your website rises to the top of the search engines. In most cases, an SEO campaign will take 6-9 months before seeing game-changing benefits.

In many cases, websites can see results in a few months.

Click here to learn what organic SEO services are and how long it takes SEO to work in more detail.

People trust the organic results

It’s just a plain fact that most people will trust the organic results over a paid advertisement. As a culture, we’ve been conditioned to ignore popups and disruptive marketing tactics. Did you know the average person is exposed to more than 6000 ads a day? There’s a resistance to purposely choosing an advertisement in most cases. People trust the listing that’s not being paid to appear.

The organic results generate higher click through rates (in most cases)

If you put organic results vs paid results, in most cases, most clicks go to the organic search results. Organic results generate roughly 53% of total internet traffic while PPC ads generate 27%.

The conversion rates from organic SEO are higher than most marketing strategies

Inbound marketing is by far one of the highest converting digital marketing strategies. SEO in particular converts at an average across all industries at around 14.6%. The average conversion rate of Google Ads is 3.75%.

Advantages of PPC advertising

Instant access to traffic

As long as your ads aren’t off-topic and highly irrelevant, you can get instant access to Google Search traffic (or the whole display network for that matter). From the moment your campaign is approved, it goes live and your ads start showing immediately.

This can be a huge advantage if you’re a new business or competing for competitive keywords that would take a long time for your website to rank organically.

Detailed reporting on your visitors

Unlike Google Analytics, PPC reports tell you EXACTLY what keywords were used to click through to your website. Not only that, but you also know whether those keywords ended up converting into sales or leads.

With this knowledge, you know whether to scale up or scale back your efforts in specific keywords and keyword topics. This not only provides valuable information to improve your PPC campaign but can also inform your organic SEO campaign by providing insight on how to optimize your pages.

Short-term budgeting

If cash flow is an issue for long-term investment into organic SEO, PPC advertising can get you additional traffic for a short period of time. Once your budget is finished you can turn the campaign off and stop payments.

Brand visibility

If your ads are above average, you could be getting the top positions on the search result page and more appearances on Google’s display network. This can be an excellent way to introduce your brand to people that don’t know about it. The more they see your ads, the more they’ll recognize your business. Familiarity breeds trust and confidence and ultimately results in more sales and leads.

Which strategy is the right choice for my business?

In most cases, a hybrid plan for both paid advertising and organic SEO is the optimal strategy for generating the most leads and sales. You get all the advantages of instant traffic while building a stronger organic presence (that takes time).

Here is a simplified graph depicting the relationship between SEO and PPC to give you an idea of the timeline of the ROI.

ROI with PPC vs SEO

To figure out what you should be investing in each digital marketing strategy truly depends on your industry and the current development of your website. Are you an established brand or are you just starting out? Are you in the retail industry or are you a local business? What are your goals for the next 6 months to a year?

For a free consultation and website assessment, contact us today. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses increase leads and sales on a regular basis within a single SEO campaign. Find out what opportunities you have waiting for your company and send us a message using the form below.