SEO vs. PPC – Part Two: The Shootout

Part One of this post tried to briefly explain the most important basics of Organic SEO and PPC.  So, welcome back, to Part Two.

Here we’ll come down to the wire and compare their most crucial pros and cons. We’ll also try to give our two cents’ worth about which is the better way to go. (Sneak preview: it depends on …).


Organic SEO is a complex process. For small to medium websites, implementation won’t take months, but for high rankings to actually materialize it will take time. The speed of success depends on the chosen keywords, the competition you are facing and your website’s general SEO quality. Thus, good search results can sometimes be achieved within weeks but often take longer. Don’t forget: your competitors for the high ranking spots aren’t sleeping!

Some reckless SEO marketers claim they can get high rankings for their clients to “within a day”. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. It’s irresponsible humbug. They might use some “black hat” (i.e.: illegal by the search engines’ rules) tricks to get good rankings but those will be very short-term, if at all.

Also, Google, with its sophisticated algorithms and tools, is now much more vigilant and strict about black hat tactics. “Guilty” websites will get penalized by losing rankings. This means that instead of higher rankings, the exact opposite will happen. Ouch!

The great upside of organic SEO: if done properly, good rankings can be very stable, long-lasting and rewarding. They can greatly increase a web site’s popularity as well. Serious SEO expert work doesn’t come cheap, but for websites that are not too complex, it won’t cost an arm and a leg. Also, for SEO there are no advertising or per-click costs to consider.

Good organic SEO is a long-term foundation for success. That’s exactly what organic means: rooted in, and growing out of the website’s structure and quality. As opposed to PPC, SEO-generated rankings, visibility and traffic are solid and stable, not short-lived. (More about this just a few paragraphs further down).

However, here comes the caveat: further optimization and monitoring are crucial.  Briefly stated, SEO progress and status must be regularly monitored, and if necessary, fine-tuned and adjusted. No website can rest on its laurels. Rankings can go down, too, if a site is not properly cared for. You business owners, CEOs and managers may want to read our 8 SEO monitoring tips article, specially formulated for quick, useful reading.

Pay per Click is very different. (For the sake of simplicity, we’ll only discuss Google Adwords here, though there are several PPC tools). The Adwords system is not easy to navigate. And it’s getting more complex as new features are implemented. But it’s still simpler and less time consuming than SEO. That said, an Adwords expert costs money, too – in addition to the per-click costs.

PPC is much more direct. Clicks can start coming in within hours after an ad’s appearance. This can be great for website owners who want to see immediate visits. And because results can be fast, you can test different new ads and keywords much more frequently, and evaluate success or failure faster than with SEO. That’s a big plus.

Another plus is that Google lets you target your ads by geographic areas and, albeit not always accurately, even by demographics such as gender, age and marital status. (It should be mentioned that as far as targeting goes, Facebook PPC ads can potentially do an even better job. We’ll discuss this in another article).

Adword’s first big downside is the cost: even a small campaign of, say, $ 10-15 per day can run into hundreds of dollars per month, and even more if you raise your budget just a little. You can of course limit and adjust the cost per click and the daily or monthly budget. Also, ads can be paused or cancelled at any time – but this can then limit your campaign’s reach and the scope of success.

All that said, a good PPC expert who knows Adwords’ ins and outs will be able to strike a balance and save you a nice bit of money, while at the same time getting good results. (Yes, even a PPC campaign can be “optimized” in some ways).

Another major PPC issue is that, unlike SEO, it has a super-short shelf life. Once an ad stops running (for example due to cost considerations, company vacation, or for any other reason), the ad vanishes, and ad-generated traffic stops immediately.

Incidentally, when you read about “steady” SEO vs. “fast” PPC, doesn’t it somehow remind you of the famous fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”? (Though in real life and today’s web world it’s not certain who wins).

So – who wins the shootout?

That’s a big question. One should never generalize but we generally [ :) ] recommend a mix of the two strategies to combine the upsides of both. After all, SEO and PPC have different qualities that can complement each other very positively if professionally applied.

But which one should be predominant? As so often in business, the answer is: it depends. It depends on your scheduling, short-term and long-term expectations, your ability to target your ads. It also depends on how well you can make PPC and SEO interact. (Another brain teaser!). From a financial point of view, it will depend on your company’s budget, cash flow projections and actual cash flow. And there is more.

We’re sorry if this sounds a bit vague but there is no way assessing all these factors and generalizing, as each case is individual. There are many web- and business-related facets of this issue. We believe a SEO / PPC consultant with business expertise can secure an edge for you.

We hope this has helped a bit. Visit us again. We’ll always try to write some interesting (and hopefully useful) posts and articles.

Question? Comments? Challenges? Reach out to us. We’re good listeners and are here to help.