SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay Per Click, also known as Google Ads) are two different approaches that can be used by Digital Marketing Agencies to drive quality traffic to your website. Each one aims to capture users who have demonstrated interest in your product, your service or general information that’s related to your offering.

When it comes to deciding which one will generate the best results for your business, you first need to sit down and figure out what you’re looking to achieve. Once you have a clear set of objectives, it will be much easier to determine whether SEO or PPC is the right path for you.

SEO and PPC explained

As the name suggests, SEO is the practice of optimising your website to improve visibility in search results. PPC on the other hand, is a collective term that describes multiple digital marketing channels, including Google Ads (search advertising), display advertising, Google Shopping, YouTube advertising and more.

When weighing SEO against PPC, search advertising is probably the most comparable alternative as it provides your business with a text-based presence in Google search results. As other forms of PPC are displayed in varying digital settings with the use of images, videos and animation, it is challenging to directly compare it to SEO. That being said, there will be situations where PPC will be a more suitable option than SEO and vice versa.

The advantages of SEO

While SEO is geared toward improving the visibility of your website, it should also involve improvements to your User Experience (UX). From website speed through to content and navigation, every aspect of your site can impact UX as well as SEO.

By putting the needs of the user first, your site will in turn rank more favourably and attract higher quality traffic. It will also be better equipped to cater to an increased number of visitors, with greater ability to generate conversions.

SEO can significantly improve overall website performance, but when opting to use SEO over any form of PPC, there are three key factors that you should take into consideration.

Sustainable results

Good SEO should deliver lasting results. When done well, you should be able to hold your position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) for the long term. However, it’s important to remember that SEO is not a set and forget exercise. It needs ongoing attention and fine-tuning to consistently generate results over time.

When you first start to optimise your site, there may be a lot of work involved in getting it up to scratch, but as you continue to make refinements, your site should require less maintenance down the track. During those early days of optimisation, there is potential to gain some quick wins, with further opportunities to obtain even better results in the longer term.

Where SEO involves building momentum and enjoying the fruits of your labour, PPC can provide more short-term results. As it is campaign based, PPC is generally used to generate leads over a set period of time, from a few weeks through to a series of months

While you can run ongoing awareness campaigns via PPC channels, the moment you pause your ads you will stop yielding results.

Establish credibility

Users sometimes dislike and distrust paid advertising, so much so that they will scroll past a Google Ad to click on an organic result.

To rank on page one for a given search, your website has to demonstrate relevance, authority and trustworthiness. While users may not be aware of these specific factors, they’re familiar enough with how Google works to know that page one results are likely to offer the best match to their search query. When your brand has presence in the upper end of the SERPs, you are demonstrating credibility, making users far more inclined to trust your business.

Your Google Business Profile (GMB) profile is another aspect of your SEO that could appear in search results related to your business. The aim is to have a comprehensive profile that’s regularly updated and supported by positive Google reviews from real life customers. Not only will this strengthen your local SEO, it will also build trust with prospective customers online.


SEO is often more cost-effective than PPC in the long run. As it does not require an ongoing advertising budget, you will only need to invest in management fees for the SEO work itself.

With an effective bidding strategy, you can make the most of your PPC budget and generate a strong campaign ROI, but it may incur greater expense than SEO in the long term.

As the click-through rate for organic search results often higher than paid ads, SEO is likely to generate stronger ROI in the long term.

The challenges of SEO

It is possible to gain short term rewards from SEO activities, but it should never be considered an instant fix. Much like committing to an exercise regime to improve your fitness, SEO will get better over time, you just need to be patient and follow best practice.

The biggest challenge with SEO is trying to factor in the unknown. Digital marketers use a combination of data, experience and insights to understand the Google algorithm, but no one will ever have a complete picture. Following an algorithm update, you may experience some fluctuations in rankings as your site adjusts to the changes.

The Advantages of Google Ads

When deciding whether to use SEO or PPC, you should first look at the message you’re trying to communicate and the action that you want the user to take.

If there is urgency around the message, such as a special offer that’s only available for a limited period, PPC is probably the better option.

There may be times when you need to use visuals to convey a certain experience or showcase a product, in which case PPC will be more effective. Google Display and YouTube advertising allow for the use of imagery, animations and/or videos.

Fast results

Building a PPC campaign is a relatively quick process. If you have all of the relevant assets ready to go, you could easily put together a campaign and have ads up and running in no time.

PPC campaigns also have the ability to drive results more quickly than SEO. Instead of gradually strengthening your website to climb up the rankings, a well-executed PPC campaign can start to generate leads and enquiries from the moment it goes live.

The key to PPC success is to craft compelling ads and leverage specific audience targeting to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

More control

PPC takes a more focussed approach than SEO. While the latter opens your site to visitors across varying demographics, PPC enables you to narrow down the field to users of a specific age, location and more.

With Google Display and YouTube, you also have the opportunity to reach new audiences who have demonstrated interest in relevant topics and themes.

There are many ways you can control your PPC campaign to maximise its impact, from delivering different messages to different segments of your audience, to setting the times of day when your ads are shown.

As data comes through, you can quickly and easily stop, start and modify your ads to improve your click through rate, conversion rate and more.

Remarketing opportunities

PPC also provides a unique opportunity to reconnect with past visitors to your site. Remarketing enables you to deliver ad content to people who are already familiar with your brand to keep your business top of mind and reiterate key messages. It’s a way to drive them back to your website for a second time to capture leads that may have otherwise been lost.

Why not both?

As SEO and PPC approach the same end goal from different angles, there’s a lot to be gained from taking an integrated approach that combines both techniques. A well-rounded marketing strategy should consider short as well as long term business objectives, and by taking advantage of both SEO and PPC, you may be able to reap the rewards from both.

You could use PPC to test out new messages and offers, while SEO continues to accrue in the background strengthening the organic presence of your evergreen products and services. Where you notice gaps in your organic traffic, you can use Google Ads to support your efforts and improve keyword visibility until your SEO activities begin to gain traction. With Google Ads, you can also measure keyword performance on a granular level and use the insights to improve your SEO content.

Find the right approach

What may work for one business, may not be the right approach for your unique situation. We’ve shared some high-level SEO and PPC recommendations, but it’s best to take a deeper look into your business and your objectives to determine the best way forward. To get expert advice that’s tailored to your needs.

Get in touch with our digital marketing team today.

Alistair Hinchliffe

SEO Specialist