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The Battle Between PPC and SEO: What Gets You the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

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Executive Summary

  • PPC is a sort of concentrated inbound marketing method which delivers immediate results at a specific cost.
  • Search engine optimization is an effort stretched over time and has to be done continuously
  • SEO is often the primary choice for many marketers since it is cost-effective.
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When you are developing a marketing strategy in a world where online presence differentiates the successful from the less successful, you absolutely have to pay attention to two online marketing methods that can launch you above the competition. These two marketing models are search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC).

Since you are operating in the business world, finances play a crucial role. This is why you should pick a marketing model that gets you the biggest bang for your buck. And we are not here to talk about putting your money and time into efforts that will simply drive traffic to your website. Instead, we are focusing on investing in methods that will bring high-quality traffic to your website.

Both SEO and PPC are viable methods to drive traffic that is nurtured to convert. On the other hand these two are very different in terms of money and time they require, as well as in the amount of time that needs to pass before they can get you results.

Here is everything you need to know about the battle between PPC and SEO before you decide which one to choose as your primary marketing modus operandi.

Wrapping the Head Around the Stats


PPC and SEO are measurable online marketing methods, both in terms of usability and the results they provide. And in a business world there is no place for hearsay when it comes to making decisions that might impact the future of your establishment.

Here are the statistics that may help you make an informed decision. If you want to explore marketing statistical reports in depth, feel free to visit HubSpot and WebpageFx websites.

SEO and Local SEO Statistics for 2017:

  • Approximately 90% of the entire internet traffic starts with a search on popular search engines.

  • SEO is a top inbound marketing priority for more than 60% of businesses.

  • Google alone registers more than 100 million searches per month.

  • 89% of online marketers state that SEO is bound to bring results.

  • More than 70% of B2B marketers start their research on one of the search engines.

  • 78% of local-mobile searches have resulted in offline purchases.

  • 29% of mobile searches include a location in the inquiry.

  • 52% of customers who perform online searches visit a local store in the next 24 hours.

  • 68% of the clicked search results are organic.

PPC Statistics for 2017:

  • 65% of people looking to buy an item online will click on an ad.

  • Organic visitors make 50% less purchases than the PPC ones.

  • Businesses earn $3 for each $1.6 invested in an AdWords campaign.

  • 30% of companies who sell directly to the customers use PPC.

  • The clickthrough rate in AdWords is 1.90% for search and 0.35% for display.

  • 80% of companies that incorporate a PPC marketing model use Google AdWords.

  • 65% of high-intent searches result in an ad click.

As you can see, PPC and SEO are widely adopted marketing strategies across the industry. Also, the numbers are quite impressive and they lead to a conclusion that the outcome of both strategies is approximately the same – you will increase your website traffic, the traffic will consist of a significant amount of qualified leads, and you will improve the conversion rates across the board.

In order to understand what the differences between these two marketing marketing models are, let’s quickly go through the pros and cons of each one of them.



PPC is a sort of concentrated inbound marketing method which delivers immediate results at a specific cost. The fact that 65% of online customers looking to buy an item will click on an ad, if there is one, pushes the marketers to rely on PPC campaigns in order to drive traffic and increase sales. Here are the major pros and cons of PPC marketing efforts.

PPC Pros

Let's start with the most obvious benefit of PPC. It delivers immediate results. The instant results of PPC advertising are very attractive for marketers who want to generate as many as possible website visitors in a limited amount of time.

This is very convenient for online business interested in bringing only qualified leads to their websites. If a person clicks on an ad in the search results, the chances are that they will complete a purchase on the target website.

PPC is a valuable ally to a new business with close to no brand visibility and equity. Instead of relying on SEO and waiting for it to kick in, these businesses can immediately drive traffic to their websites and become more visible to the vast online audience.

When it comes to the conversion rates, PPC is an absolute winner. Regarding the value of the investment and the time in which it brings results, PPC wins over SEO. On top of that, according to SEOmoz, thanks to custom optimization of the landing page and ad text, paid search results are 1.5 times more likely to convert. The good results are also guaranteed, since business specifically target high-intent keywords in their PPC ad campaign.

The ability to diversify PPC efforts is another advantage worth mentioning. While Google AdWords is the most used PPC platform online, you should know that there are others that might be more suitable when it comes to reaching  your specific target audience. There are more than 10 viable ad network options out there beside Google AdWords (Bing,  Facebook, AdRoll, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, AdBlade, and so forth).

PPC Cons

First, and foremost, PPC is not really a budget-friendly option. Upfront costs of PPC ad campaign can make a hole in your finances as some of the keywords are ridiculously expensive. For instance, “Insurance” is the most expensive keyword with a $54.91 price tag, followed by “Loans”, “Mortgage” and “Attorney” with $44.28, $47.12 and $47.07 price tags on them. Besides, trends show that PPC costs are not going down anytime soon, instead they are increasing.

So the price of a PPC campaign is not the only issue. It’s important to find keywords that convert and are in the optimal price range, and to keep your metrics in check at all times. That way your budget doesn't get drained by possible black-hat targeted clicks of your competitors. Don’t be surprised, these are also some of the concerns marketers face on a daily basis.

In addition, in order to have the best possible ad, you will have to optimize it. This process is both time-consuming and hard. The ultimate goal would be to have minimal CPC and a CTR at maximum. If you are not experienced with PPC, you will have to spend a lot of time to get acquainted with the desired platform and learn how to optimize your ads.

Sadly, once you cut the money fuel to the PPC engine, it stops bringing traffic to your website. You will have your fun as long as it lasts, but once you stop putting your money into PPC, you will go back to the starting point. This is why business turn to social media marketing, SEO, email marketing in order to build a stable stream of website traffic.



While the search engine optimization is an effort stretched over time and has to be done continuously, it is still the primary inbound marketing strategy for 60% of businesses. If you are wondering why, here are some insights.

SEO Pros

The one thing that differentiates PPC from SEO is the budget needed for effective marketing. SEO is often the primary choice for many marketers since it is cost-effective.

Why it is cost-effective? Because, unlike with PPC where you will pay for your traffic, with SEO you have no costs related to the amount of people flooding to your website.

In order to start an SEO campaign, at least basic one, you don’t need a considerable amount of money. In some cases, even in-house inbound marketing experts can implement the best SEO practices on your website. With PPC this is not the case.

First of all, PPC campaigns do not come at the same cost for all business –  it depends on the industry. While the cost per click (CPC) in the legal industry may go as high as $5.88, the CPC in ecommerce peaks at $0.88. So, depending on the industry, you might actually need to pile a considerable amount of cash to fund your PPC campaign and keep it up and running.

PPC’s very nature diminishes the ROI simply because it boils down to you paying for the traffic of your website. Simply put, PPC is paid traffic, while SEO means free traffic for your website.

However, while you won't need a lot of money to kickstart your SEO campaign, you will need time. This is why businesses with smaller budgets refer to SEO as their only inbound marketing option.

Marketers say that SEO is much more friendly to people who are new to it. After reading a few “Best SEO practices” type of articles on authoritative websites, anyone can implement the basics of SEO. On the other hand, PPC marketing is much more complicated endeavour. The learning curve is much steeper than the SEO one. For instance, you have to learn what CPC, CPA, CTR and many other abbreviations are and understand how these things work.

SEO also offers long-term results, and long-term results are far more attractive to marketers. What we are trying to say is that SEO needs some time before it starts bringing results, but once they come, your further SEO efforts will keep them on the same level, while PPC brings immediate results which tend to diminish over time.

If you stop your PPC campaign the the click-through and website traffic metrics will immediately drop. If you do the same with SEO, you won't experience a drop in either of those two. This is because building up traffic via SEO is organic.

Marketers quite often choose SEO over PPC because it is more sustainable. Over the months and years, SEO is bound to bring organic and high-quality traffic to a website.

SEO Cons

The number one enemy of SEO is, as you might have already guessed, changes in the search engine algorithms. According to Ascend2, 40% of marketers have the same opinion – the biggest challenge in SEO are ever-changing search algorithms.

If you build your online marketing around leaning exclusively on one search engine, you will end up depending on the stability of the search algorithm it uses. One slight change can cause devastating consequences to your online presence.

For instance, Google’s Panda update penalizes sites with thin and duplicated content, as well as those that contain keyword stuffing. The Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, Mobile, RankBrain, Possum and Fred updates followed and each one of them had an impact on the best SEO practices.

The need to constantly stay tuned to the latest SE algorithm changes and ready to act on them can be considered as one of the major cons of SEO. If you don’t employ proper SEO practices, you might face some of the penalties that new updates bring.

The severity of these penalties is another obstacle from the SEO cons arsenal. For instance, you can lose up to 90% of your website traffic, get your website delisted from the search results or get marked as an untrusted website.

How to overcome this? By staying on top of your SEO game while implementing only white-hat methods, and creating highly valuable and original content for your clients and customers.

Also, you should be prepared to wait for the results of your SEO efforts. They don’t follow immediately as the ones from PPC do. The estimate is that sometimes it may take up to four weeks before Google indexes your new content.

In the end, it may take up to several months before you see the results of your SEO strategy. In any case, if you decide to go SEO, be ready to wait and don't get discouraged because SEO is like an orchard – it takes a while before you can savor the fruits of your efforts.

The last con of SEO comes from the fact that there are no guarantees that you will succeed in making it to the first page. And let's be honest about it, getting a website on the first page of Google search results is every marketer’s dream. This dream is also supported by the fact that more than 70% of internet surfers never go to the second page of the search results.

In the end, it very much depends on the keyword phrase that you’ve chosen. Besides, there is a plethora of factors that will determine your website's position in the SERPs. This is why many marketers get discouraged when they don't see the website they have been working on for the past year on the first SERP.

When is PPC a Better Option


Let’s start by defining a scenario in which PPC is a good option. In this scenario a business must have financial resources and be in need of quick results. If you meet these two prerequisites, PPC advertising is definitely something you should focus on.

PPC is also a viable option if you want to put yourself in front of your competitors’ audience. A smart choice of keywords and ad optimization can get you a significant increase of website traffic. This is especially beneficial for businesses that didn't have the time to build a stable core online audience.

If your target customers consist of different demographics, you should also consider using PPC. As we have already mentioned, there are numerous PPC platforms beside Google AdWords and you can use them to reach exactly who you want. We can see many marketers using Bing Ads and Facebook platforms to launch their PPC campaigns nowadays, simply because they have many active users and sophisticated paid ad settings.

PPC is a powerful ally for business who want to test new products and services. Short PPC can get you quick answers that you would otherwise have to wait for months for. Furthermore, business can use analytic data from their PPC campaigns (better converting keywords and phrases) to strengthen their SEO efforts.

When is SEO a Better Option


Generally speaking, SEO is a better option for all those businesses with small marketing budgets. These businesses don’t have the resources to support the PPC campaign, at least not for the desired keywords and desired period of time. Since SEO requires more time than money, this option is feasible for a great number of startups, small- and medium-sized businesses.

SEO is a better option in scenarios when a business wants to invest in sustainable long-term effects. As we have already mentioned, the results of the SEO effort take months to kick in. However, once they do, your website will generate more and more traffic, as long as you respect the basic SEO principles and stay tuned to the best practices according to the latest search algorithm updates.

SEO also makes sense when you are not desperate to immediately reach your online marketing goals. This is why businesses plan in advance and do their SEO well before the Black Friday, Christmas and New Year sales. On the other hand, if you have started your dropshipping ecommerce website a week before the big sales, SEO might not be the best option.


As you can see, determining the winner of this battle is hard and it depends on many factors. In our opinion, every business is unique in terms of needs, long-term and short-term goals, customers and financial resources. All of this has to be taken into consideration when deciding between PPC and SEO. There is no “one size fits all” solution. This is why every digital marketing strategy is custom-tailored for every business. In the end, since SEO and PPC are complementary and reciprocal, it would be best to run both SEO and PPC if you have the budget for it.

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