SEO vs PPC: Who is the Clear Winner?

Updated on: 25 July 2019

It’s been a long time since people in the industry have been pitting the merits of paid search advertising against organic search marketing, hoping for a clear resolution. Every single person has ever asked the question: “SEO or PPC? Which one is better and should I use?”.

And our answer to that? Both are necessary.

While this is not an entirely original answer – the topic has recently resurfaced, with the same arguments being rehashed all over again. Here’s a reiteration of the final conclusions between the SEO vs PPC debate.

1. Neither one can replace the other

Paid search and search engine optimisation are two entirely different dimensions of an expectational marketing strategy, and neither can fully substitute the other.

Paid advertising can be highly useful in driving non-branded traffic to a site. In the scenario where a user is unaware of a brand that fits exactly what they are searching for, PPC can be useful in exposing them to your displayed ad at the top of search results – thereby moving them further along the conversion path. While it’s true that organic search can do the same, consider the fact that even the highest-ranking organic search result won’t be displayed at the top of the page.

On the other hand, organic search does a great job of driving branded traffic to a site. When a user who knows your brand looks you up online, your site instantly shows up at the top of the organic search rankings. It is a great way to put your keyword research into good use and create regular content to keep consumers engaged.

While using PPC alone may cause a user to question the legitimacy of your brand – SEO alone may not be as effective. Ideally, both should be used in tandem for the best results.

2. Neither tool is free

PPC naysayers often argue that it’s expensive having to pay each time someone clicks on your ad. But think about it – for businesses that have their accounts professionally managed either in-house or externally, you are paying for that too.

But the hard truth is – SEO takes just as much time, money and expertise. If you want something done well, expect to have to pay for it, whether you like it or not.

An alternative is to get hands-on, and join an SEO course to learn the ins and outs of the trade.

3. Don’t mistake it for a zero-sum game

SEO versus PPC is not a zero-sum game — and if you somehow believe that just investing in one is enough; you’re gravely mistaken. The chances of your marketing strategy fully taking flight are incredibly low, since SEO and PPC draw their results from entirely different pools and typically do not end up cannibalizing each other.

Regardless of how much higher the percentage of sessions and leads each tool generates as compared to the other – both are needed to fully maximise your brand exposure on the web.

4. Don’t take statistics at face value

Amidst the fierce debate, advocates of each side were able to draw findings from past studies and statistics to support their case. But before agreeing with either one too quickly – you’ll want to take a closer look at the stats. Looking at the engagement alone may not be sufficient evidence to determine how well either SEO or PPC is doing.

For example, call-only campaigns. Traffic generated by these campaigns aren’t directed to a client’s site at all – and thus aren’t accounted for as part of your engagement statistics. This is why it is important to work with a Digital Marketing Agency that is experienced in factoring all the relevant information.

5. Look beyond just traffic

You’ll notice that certain studies have “found” organic search generating a far larger percent of site traffic as compared to paid advertising. While these findings imply that SEO is more effective than PPC, there are some problems with this:

  • Firstly, the number they use for organic search traffic includes the traffic generated by any and every possible kind of search inquiry—including ones where ads may have been displayed.
  • Is traffic the goal, or should more attention be paid to leads and conversions instead?

With this, is it not yet obvious? Every business should harness the strengths of both SEO and PPC for the best of both worlds!