What’s the Difference Between SEO and PPC?

By BrainStation September 30, 2019

When you’re looking to get more eyeballs to your website, search engine optimization and pay-per-click can be two crucial tactics, helping you boost your traffic and capture leads. Choosing between these two marketing strategies, however, will depend on your goals, situation, and market.


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What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of creating and optimizing content with the goal of boosting your website’s visibility to search engines so that your site pops up more often in related searches.

Search listings are free, and it’s not possible to pay for a better ranking, but there’s plenty that experts in SEO can do to help your website become more prominent in search rankings.

There are a number of contributing factors to a website that is optimized for search engines. One key is creating content that has clear, descriptive language that includes words you suspect a user might search for when seeking information, products, or services related to your site. But make sure the language is actually relevant; trying to trick algorithms by littering your copy with every keyword you can conjure will backfire if Google thinks your website is deceptive. 

Other on-page SEO factors include keyword relevance, site experience, sculpting (the process of editing away the needless bulk on your site) and site architecture, as well as backlinks, or how many other websites organically link to yours. 

What is PPC?

Pay-Per-Click, to put it simply, is a form of paid advertising on search engines intended to increase traffic to your website. When you conduct a search on Google, you’ll usually notice that the listings have an “ad” beside the URL with up to eight ads appearing on the top and bottom of the page. 

With PPC, you pay each time someone clicks on your ad to visit your site or call your business. You can also tweak your ads to reach target audiences (based, for instance, on their location or interests) or to push a promotional campaign. 

Google’s PPC platform is called Google Ads, and it awards the most prominent spot to ads that are most relevant (based on a combination of search query and bid). Google’s platform also offers the opportunity to feature your ads on relevant websites in the Google Display Network, which is composed of thousands of websites.

It’s important to note that PPC strategies will not improve your organic search rankings. Only SEO will do that.

SEO or PPC: Which is the Better Investment?

That largely depends on your goals, resources, and even the type of product, service, or content you’re offering.

SEO has become a foundational cornerstone of digital marketing, and few companies – whether big or small – can afford to ignore whether search engines are finding their websites. A sound SEO strategy is likely to pay off; companies spending more than $25,000 a year on marketing reported that search engine optimization provided the best return on investment, with 65.9 percent listing SEO as an extremely high priority or very high priority going forward.

SEO is not a quick fix, however, and both a comprehensive audit and a long-term plan for content development and strategic linking will produce the best results.

PPC, meanwhile, could be very helpful for a younger company that otherwise will not be able to achieve prominent placement among search-engine results. A PPC campaign is also a great way to spread the word about a specific product or promotion or to reach a specific target demographic.


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It certainly is worth considering how people are finding your site. A study of all web searches in May 2018 found that the click-through rate for the top-ranking search result was just under 30 percent – a number that plummeted to four percent for the fifth-ranked result. By the ninth result, a meager one percent of searchers on average were still interested in clicking. Ultimately, both SEO and PPC can serve an important purpose and help your website avoid being lost to search engines.

Find out more about BrainStation’s certificate courses in Search Engine Optimization and Google Adwords.