SEO vs PPC: which one is better, differences, pros & cons


Is it better to invest in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or PPC (Pay per Click) advertising through Google Ads? If you are an entrepreneur or a marketer and you are asking yourself this question, you are in the right place. In this article we will look at the main characteristics of these two marketing channels, the pros and cons and which is the best choice.

SEO and PPC: what are the differences?

When we talk about PPC as an alternative to SEO, we almost always refer to Google search ads, shopping ads or local ads and not to display and video ads. The main difference between SEO and PPC certainly lies in the fact that while in PPC a cost is charged every time a user clicks on the ad, in SEO there is no cost for clicks.

Wait, if you are thinking that then it pays to invest in SEO because it is free, then you’re mistaken! Let’s clarify all the differences:

  1. The first difference, as we already mentioned, is the cost per click.
  2. The second difference is the positioning. Traditionally, paid ads are placed above or below organic results. In reality, this statement is no longer valid because, with Google’s implementation of the infinite scroll in search results and the continuous updates to SERP layouts, paid ads are no longer positioned solely above or below organic results, but among them.
  3. The third difference is the ranking factors. In the case of PPC, Google Ads determines the positioning on an auction basis every time a search is carried out. The factors that influence it are the offer, the quality score (expected CTR, relevance, landing page experience) and the expected impact of extensions and other formats. As for SEO, organic positioning is more meritocratic and depends on the quality, relevance and authority of the site. In fact, it is not possible to pay Google to obtain better organic positions than competitors.

PPC: Pros and Cons

The benefits of paid advertising through Google Ads are as follows:

  • Speed: both in terms of execution and ROI. A Google Ads campaign can be set up in a few hours and the ads can quickly generate traffic, leads and sales with a consequent return on investment in a short time.
  • Budget Control: Google Ads allows you to have total control over the budget spent daily and monthly as well as update it at any time. It is therefore easier to make estimates and forecasts.
  • Positioning: unlike SEO, it is easier to position your site at the top of the search results, precisely because that space is reserved for paid ads.
  • Targeting: with PPC campaigns you have a high level of control over targeting that allows you to show ads in a targeted manner based on various factors such as: search intent, geographic area, gender, age, etc. With organic traffic, on the other hand, you have less control.

The disadvantages of Google Ads campaigns are:

  • No budget, no ads: unlike SEO which is a strategy that brings lasting results over time, with Google Ads when the budget runs out or campaigns are deactivated, visibility disappears.
  • High CPC: Costs per Click in some geographic areas or markets can be very high and generally tend to increase over time as competition increases. As a result, the cost of acquiring leads or sales over the long term may be higher than SEO.

SEO: Pros and Cons

The advantages of search engine optimization are mainly the following:

  • Free CPC: Traffic from organic search is free. Of course, to achieve certain placements and a certain degree of visibility will require economic resources, but no cost is charged for clicks, unlike PPC.
  • ROI: in the long term, the return on investment generated by SEO is higher than that of PPC and other marketing strategies.
  • Sustainability: unlike the traffic generated by Google Ads, organic traffic is long-lasting even when the company cannot temporarily dedicate resources.
  • Authority: being present whenever a user seeks information about a product or service or expresses a need, increases perceived credibility and strengthens the identity of the brand.

SEO has drawbacks too, here are which ones:

  • Time: as mentioned above, SEO is a medium-long term strategy and it takes months and months of work before seeing appreciable results. Time will depend on various factors including the resources invested and the competitiveness of the market. This means that the earlier you start, the better it is – so as not to leave too much advantage to your competitors.
  • Uncertainty: although SEO is a strategy that can bring great lasting results over time, guarantees can never be given for the simple fact that there are aspects that are beyond the control of who performs the activities. Google works through algorithms that take several factors into consideration to determine the ranking. These factors can change and be updated at any time causing loss of positioning and traffic drop.

SEO or PPC: which one to choose?

The choice of marketing strategies and channels in which to invest always depends on the short and long term objectives. In order to be able to give an answer, several questions should therefore be asked.

The ideal answer is undoubtedly: both in such a way as to synergistically exploit the advantages of both.

The basic mistake is to think of SEO and PPC as alternatives rather than complementary strategies. As we know, the touch points that lead a user from the awareness phase to the purchase phase are different and take place on different digital channels and do not include Google and social networks.

The best strategy is therefore always to oversee as many channels as possible depending on the target and objectives.

Some examples of the use of SEO and PPC in an integrated way could be:

  • Test the ranking for some search terms through PPC ads and then decide to invest to rank organically.
  • Start with PPC to have achieve a faster increase in ROI and then gradually increase the investment in SEO.
  • Actively invest in SEO and use Google Ads to cover some keywords for which you do not have a good organic ranking.
  • Invest primarily in organic positioning and use Google Ads at certain times or for certain campaigns.

In this article we have seen the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of PPC and SEO and how to best use them in an integrated way.

If you still have doubts about which option is the best choice to bring results to your business or if you need SEO and PPC experts to help you, contact 4Sight Group!