The key difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) is that visitors coming from SEO (organic) are free, while traffic generated from PPC is not. Hence the name, you truly pay per click.

This is also the main reason you might occasionally see the terms “organic search engine listings” and “paid search engine listings” (or Paid Search Advertising — PSA).

SEO and PPC are both a part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which is among the many tools you may utilize within your overall Internet Marketing campaign.

We will further explain this by examining the differences between the two using the following parameters: position, cost, traffic potential, conversion and simplicity of use.



In the screenshot to the left, you can expect to locate the PPC ads above, and the organic ads on the bottom.  Exactly where your advertisement will fall is dependent upon a number of factors (i.e. the keywords/phrases you target, keywords present in ad copy, keywords on a landing page and more).

Organic results can show up in the center of the page.  Whether your listing will appear in the top positions on the list will depend on how optimized your website is in terms of on-site and off-site SEO.

SEO: You are able to get first-page ranking if your website is optimized for search engines

PPC: You can get your ad to appear on the first page by paying a higher cost per click (CPC)



As a reminder, SEO traffic is free/no cost and PPC is all paid.  While this is accurate from face value, it requires a great deal of work to acquire that “free” traffic from search engines. Competition is fierce for nearly every keyword you can think of and search, so you must have an excellent website and a great optimization strategy to get into the coveted top 5 positions.

There are not any shortcuts regardless of what a few “SEO” companies may be trying to sell you. If you are not familiar with how search engines operate or do not understand the lingo of SEO, the best practice will be to employ an SEO expert to do the job for you.  It may cost more, but doing the job right will make all the difference.

On the flip side, the PPC price is dependent upon a number of different factors.

For example, the cost per click of ads with the most popular PPC system available (Google AdWords) is dependent on the popularity of the keyword, the number of advertisers attempting to use that keyword, the number of related websites that have advertising for those keywords, and many many more.

Sound confusing?  It probably is. Despite Google’s efforts to make the whole system easier to use.  The good news for PPC is that a user will only pay for the clicks your advertisement receives rather than for the views that it garners. Additionally, you are able to determine your daily balance in advance and pay no more than this.  You are able to calculate an estimate based on results to see what the average CPC (cost per click) is for those keywords that you are wanting to target.

The cost of SEO is indirect. It is impossible to just pay a flat rate for first page rankings.  An SEO service will give you ideas, manage all contributing factors and help you work your way to the position desired with a set plan.  This is why getting a professional involved in the process can be the key to success.



Traffic Potential:

Which strategy will bring more traffic/visitors to your site?  SEO or PPC?

SEO organic traffic is typically greater than PPC, so in the event that you can manage to rank your website for the keywords that you want, you will likely get much higher traffic stats than paying for all those keywords individually. The reasoning for this is because if your business is in one of the top 5 positions (based on statistics the vast majority of search traffic visits one of the top 5 sites) you can expect to have a constant stream of traffic 24×7 without having to pay anything (the true volume of traffic depends on how popular a keyword is).

Therefore, if you compare the cost and traffic of first page rankings for PPC traffic and SEO traffic, organic traffic is much better. There are a few studies indicating that PPC ads get a higher number of clicks than organic, but this also translates to a larger cost.  

If on the other hand, it’s extremely tricky to get first page rankings for a keyword, then paying for traffic/visitors might be your only choice, since second and third-page positions will likely attract hardly any traffic.

SEO: Organic traffic is constant as long as you are ranking within a few of the highest positions.

PPC: PPC advertisements can get more clicks however this usually means that you pay more.



Which customer is more likely to convert (i.e. make a purchase, register for your newsletter, or generally respond to the call to action), someone coming from organic search or PPC?

If your ads are highly optimized and targeted then a visitor acquired from PPC is far more likely to convert than a visitor from a search.  The main reason is that the webpage can rank for differing keywords than those initially intended, so the search visitor may not be looking precisely for the content in that particular page.

On the other hand, if you run a PPC campaign that is successful then you’ll only get clicks from the people that are 100% interested in your content or products/merchandise.

SEO: SEO traffic is far better than other forms of traffic (i.e. social media) but in terms of conversion isn’t quite as fantastic as PPC traffic.

PPC: Highly optimized keywords will create more conversions but will cost more.


Simplicity of Use:

Neither PPC or SEO is easy to do if you do not have the necessary knowledge and expertise to accomplish your goals.

Search Engine Optimization is a process that takes a great deal of time and energy.  It might take months or even years to rank for certain keywords. However, in order to find some good results with PPC and Adwords, you have to take a course/training or employ a PPC expert that will assist you or you may lose a few hundred dollars while you meddle through learning how it works best.


So What To Choose?

The main point is that you need to utilize both SEO and PPC as part of your digital marketing campaigns.  PPC can deliver faster results, so you could conduct a PPC campaign and test which keywords convert. Then you can attempt, with SEO, to rank for those keywords.

Use PPC when you’ve got high converting merchandise and utilize SEO when you have a limited budget to invest in digital. SEO may take some time, but the outcomes are (under certain circumstances) long-lasting, while PPC will only produce results while the spend lasts.

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