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The Difference Between SEO and PPC

SEO or PPC, which is better for your small business? Well, let’s discuss the differences and the costs involved. You’re deciding how to budget your marketing dollars while increasing web traffic to your site, thus achieving more conversions, which strategy is best? First, we’ll define the key differences between SEO and PPC. Let’s get started.

What is Paid Search vs. Organic Search:

Paid search is where advertisers pay to have their ads show up when people search for certain keywords. You'll see them at the top or bottom of search results with a little "Ad" tag. (See below) Organic search, on the other hand, are the natural search results that pop up based on how relevant they are to what you're searching for. No money changes hands for these spots; it's all about having good content and playing nice with search engine algorithms.

SEO and PPC - Paid search and organic search

What is PPC?

PPC (pay-per-click) is a paid ad for your website appearing on the first page of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Usually, the first 2-4 website results are ads in SERPs. The majority of marketers use “Google Ads” or “Google Adwords” to manage their PPC campaigns. 

PPC and Google Ads

When using the Google Ads platform, marketers select keywords they would like to rank for and then set a budget they would like to spend on their PPC campaign. After setting the keyword and budget, Google will display your Ad on Google. 

When a user clicks on the ad, the search engine will charge the advertiser a dollar amount. How much you’re charged depends on the keyword competition (search volume) the keyword has within the search engine. 

For example, a keyword like “men's shoes” (a short tail keyword) will generate more volume than keywords like “men's shoes for big and tall men” (a long tail keyword). Short-tail keywords are much more general search queries consisting of one or two words, while long-tail keywords are more specific and contain a keyword phrase that consists of three to five or even more words. Understanding keyword competition with Google Ads is helpful in understanding PPC and SEO. Another example is the keyword "hotels" vs "hotels in Boston." If you’re a hotel in Boston, you would pay much less per click with the specific keyword phrase, "hotels in Boston." Why compete with every hotel in the world when you’re competing for customers visiting Boston only?

What is SEO?

SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of optimizing a web page to achieve higher organic rankings in the SERPS. Google intends to provide the best possible results higher in the SERPS for its users. Google will index (search) pages online to display and rank the web pages according to relevance and authority.

Relevance and Authority

The cornerstone of SEO centers on building relevance and authority with Google. Relevance naturally relates to a user’s search query and how well Google serves up results that are relevant to the user’s intent. If I search for plumbers and get lawyers, that's not relevant to my intent. Authority relates to the trust Google has in a site based on topic expertise and other factors such as backlinks. The more links to a website usually refer to that site’s perception as a thought leader and thus, commands authority.

To increase your small business’ organic ranking, you should be honing your site’s relevance and authority. This is a long-term strategy and can lead to long-term positive results.

Managing and producing relevant and compelling content is key in attaining not only relevance and authority but also enhances your overall success online. With an SEO strategy, your site will read better and convey your message to your audience as a leader in your industry, consequently resulting in higher conversion rates.

Key Differences Between SEO and PPC

While they share certain similarities, there are some key differences between the two strategies:


There are short and long-term results with the two approaches, respectively.

PPC: Quick Results

PPC serves small businesses that are looking to increase website traffic in a shorter time span.

SEO: Long-Term Results

For SEO, it takes time to establish relevance and authority with Google. Depending on the size of the business and industry, first-page rankings will typically take about 12 months to attain.

SEO proves beneficial for many businesses and organizations beyond ranking alone. It allows your small business to rank for a larger array of keywords and keyword variations. Keyword variations extend the reach of a particular keyword. Without using variations of a keyword it is possible to lose out on potential traffic. Additionally, most people trust organic search over the paid-ad section of SERPs.

SEO and PPC Cost

The cost of SEO and PPC is an important detail when deciding which strategy to employ. 

PPC, Pay-Per-Click

With PPC, you’re charged every time a user clicks on your ad. Hence the term, “Pay-Per-Click”. This means that you have to continue to pay to maintain website traffic and visitors. 

You can set a budget in Google Adwords for the month and set the amount you’ll spend for the campaign. If the budget or campaign is canceled or paused, your source of website traffic will end. 

SEO, Organic

With SEO there’s no cost for every time a user clicks on your site through an organic search. The result is more trusted so that equates to a more qualified lead, generally speaking. However, it’s no small task to rank on the first page through organic keywords. But you can rank more easily locally or regionally with the proper long-tail keywords and a great content strategy.

A quality link-building strategy along with consistently updating content, which will cost time and money, should prove profitable in the long run. SEO is a long game and organic traffic from SEO should not decline once you stop paying like PPC does. However, you should be consistent in sustaining SEO efforts to keep ranking ongoing.


Tracking successes and expenses for either type of marketing is crucial. The metrics for SEO and PPC can help drive pivotal decisions.

PPC: Tracking

PPC allows you to track data easily. Precise PPC metrics contain:

  • Keyword Research: Search volume, CPC (cost-per-click), for each keyword.
  • Track website traffic: Impressions, Clicks, and Conversions.
  • Budget: Exact Spending, Specific Monthly Budget.

SEO: Organic Search Growth

SEO metrics can be a bit more difficult to track. Budgets vary and hinge on what type of projects your business is engaged in. Specific search volume for keyword research can be difficult. 

Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console allow you to track organic traffic, impressions, and clicks. SEO allows for more variables, but organic growth means more traffic. Additional traffic can lead to additional revenue in the long run if planned and carried out appropriately.


So which is better? SEO or PPC? Both strategies can provide considerable benefits for your business. The right strategy depends upon your short-term and long-term goals and what it is you’re aiming to accomplish.

PPC will give you quick results and can help boost sales in the short term. If you are looking for long-term organic growth, and who isn’t, SEO provides astounding benefits for your business.

Should I use SEO and PPC together?

Absolutely. We recommend it wholeheartedly. SEO and PPC campaigns can be, and should be, put-to-use together. In fact, businesses that utilize both of these digital strategies drive higher traffic and revenue than those that only employ one or the other or neither. Plus, with paid ads and organic search, Google recognizes your credibility and trust. 

If you’re looking for some additional SEO assistance, Nick France Design is here to help! Check out our Services page today to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.

About the author:

Nick France has been designing everything from ads to websites for over thirty-five years and it’s obviously engrained in his DNA at this point. When he’s not designing or writing he’s usually found loving on his family or strapped to a guitar, singing his heart out. 

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