There are a lot of differences between search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click services (PPC). Before we delve into those, let’s first take a look at what happens every time you look something up on Google.
Let’s say you are on the lookout for a clothing store in and around the city of Manchester. So, you look up “clothing stores Manchester” on Google. You may be specifically looking for jackets. In that case, you type in “jackets in Manchester” instead.
Regardless of what you’re searching for, the search results page on Google will probably include a few paid ads on top, some GMB (Google My Business) listings from Maps, followed by a list of “unpaid” organic results. And here we stumble upon the first and major difference between SEO and PPC: the former is, theoretically, free while the latter is obviously not, hence the name “pay per click”.
But before we delve in and discuss the other differences between the two, let’s first take a look at what SEO and PPC entail individually.
What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?
SEO is the process of improving your website’s organic traffic and SERPs (search engine results pages) ranking in a multitude of ways. These include producing high-quality content, researching keywords to use, creating a link building strategy, and much more.
Think of it as the way of convincing search engines to recommend your content above the competition whenever someone looks up something related to the services or products you offer.
Search engines such as Google use bots that crawl through websites in order to create an index. That index is then reviewed based on a bunch of different ranking factors in order to determine which pages are worthy of appearing above the rest for each possible inquiry made by people.
At its essence, search engine optimisation is a continuous, time-consuming process since, surprise, surprise, it’s based on optimising your site’s pages. In other words, your content should always be up to date, and it should include relevant keywords, links, and more.
What is pay-per-click (PPC)?
PPC refers to one of the most common models of Internet marketing in which advertisers are expected to pay a specific fee each time someone clicks on their ad. It’s basically a way of buying visits to your website(s) rather than trying to get those visits through organic traffic (SEO).
The most popular form of PPC, and the one we are focusing on today, is search engine advertising. As the name suggests, this form of paid advertising allows advertisers to bid for placement on a search engine’s results page.
Let’s say, for example, you run a clothing store in Edinburgh. Your obvious choice for a keyword would be “clothing store (in) Edinburgh”. You bid for that keyword, and people will most likely receive your ad the moment they type that up.
And every time someone sees and clicks on your ad, you pay the search engine a fee. This fee can be insignificant compared to what you might make from a purchase when someone visits your site. That especially applies if you’ve set up your PPC campaigns in the right way.
Not as easy as it seems, though
Still, don’t be fooled into thinking that PPC is just an easy cash-up. There are a lot of things that you need to do in order for your PPC campaign to succeed, from researching the right keywords to utilising them to creating the right landing pages and more – much more.
Moreover, search engines appreciate the efforts of advertisers who create campaigns that are relevant to the keywords being targeted. The better your ads and landing pages are, the less they’ll charge you for a click.
Difference between SEO and PPC
The difference between SEO and PPC is vast, and it covers many aspects of digital marketing, some of which are:
As we have just mentioned above, search engine optimisation is theoretically free of cost, while PPC is, well, paid advertising. What we mean by “theoretically” here is that although SEO in and of itself doesn’t cost money, you still have to spend some cash to get content, build links, etc. Granted, you can take care of the whole process yourself to avoid spending money, but you’ll have to put in a lot of hard work and patience to get it right. This is because the competition for almost any keywords out there is extremely high.
So, what most of these companies try to sell you about how there are shortcuts around SEO is false. You need to familiarise yourself with the nitty-gritty details of SEO to generate the right amount of organic traffic.
PPC, on the other hand, depends on a lot of other factors when it comes to the final cost. With Google Ads, for example, the cost depends on the overall popularity of the keyword that you are bidding. It’s also affected by how fierce the competition around it is and several other factors.
Ease of use
Neither SEO nor PPC is easy to do if you don’t know your way around their respective platforms.
For starters, search engine optimisation requires a lot of hard work and time. It can take some people months to rank for a specific term. Other keywords may take years to pull it off.
In the case of PPC, you would need to have the minimum knowledge of paid advertising to use a platform such as Google Ads. If you don’t, you would have to hire a PPC expert to show you around and teach you about Adwords management and the different elements of the Google Ads editor in order to avoid losing dollars on little to no conversions (PS: we can help with that).
In the case of Google, for example, PPC ads show up above as well as below the organic results.
The exact location of your ad will depend on a number of factors. These factors include the keyword that you’re going for, how much you are willing to pay per click, the quality of your landing page and content and more.
Organic results, on the other hand, will only appear in the middle of a search results page. Your rank on a search results page will, of course, depend on how optimised your site is. If it is well-off at that, then your chances of appearing on the first page are higher.
So, which visitor of your website is more likely to convert (sign up to a newsletter, make a purchase, etc.); someone who is coming from an organic search result or from an Ad?
Well, if your ads are very well targeted and properly optimised, then the chances of a visitor converting from them are higher than one coming from an organic search result. This is because a well-optimised page can rank for a multitude of different keywords, some of which might not be the intended ones. However, a successful PPC campaign will ensure that you only get visitors who are surely interested in your products, services, or content.
Difference between SEO and PPC – Uses
While SEO and PPC are technically two sides of the same coin, digital marketing, they still have different, situational uses.
Improving your organic traffic
Search engine optimisation is a great way of generating a steady flow of organic traffic over long periods of time. Such an increase in traffic will create more business opportunities for you and your brand. It will also drive awareness up.
Increasing brand awareness
Ranking well in search engines will put your business in front of loads of potential customers. That’s similar to what would happen if you went for paid advertising.
It can be free!
Search engine optimisation is perfect for businesses that don’t want to spend much on marketing and would instead allocate that budget on something else, such as improving production. Yes, the time and effort behind optimising your website will cost you money one way or another, but it can still be free if you take care of everything yourself. Of course, in that case, SEO will take a lot of time and effort to work.
Unlike PPC, search engine optimisation will not magically disappear the moment you stop paying. In other words, your efforts will not be lost as long as they are built on the right foundations.
Paid advertising is perfect for those who want accurate conversions. As mentioned, if you run a successful ad campaign, chances are you will end up getting a great ROI. In addition to targeting people based on keywords, you can target them based on other paramters. Those parameters include the time of day, the device they are using, their location, etc.
PPC ads such as Google Ads provide you with an amazing level of control over your space. You can include anything from location, phone numbers, prices, and much more. All of that can be seen by a person from the search engine results page.
While organic traffic through search engine optimisation is great, it does take a while to build up. PPC, on the other hand, can be set up and put on display in just a couple of days. In other words, marketers who are looking to quickly get the attention of customers should look no further than PPC ads.
What PPC ads lose in sustainability in comparison to SEO, they gain in stability. This is in reference to the fact that a PPC method such as Google Ads rarely suffers from the same instability issues that organic traffic can suffer from.
Changes in the way things function rarely have an impact on paid ads. Even if they do, it is minimal in comparison to organic results.
We’re here to help
If you feel confused as to which strategy would work best for your business, fret not, as we can help. Contact us, and an expert from our team will be in touch to establish a marketing strategy for your business.