SEO or PPC: Use One or the Other, Right? Wrong.

SEO or PPC: Use One or the Other, Right? Wrong.

We often get asked whether a client should focus budget on SEO or PPC in their on-line strategy. The answer is often ‘both’. They’re not mutually exclusive…

16Jul 2015

If you’re not familiar with SEO or PPC, or even search engine marketing (SEM) in general, you will, by now at least, realise that it’s a melting pot of confusing acronyms. However, it’s important to understand the differences between each of the methods. SEM is a general term which incorporates both SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (pay-per-click advertising). Both, if done right, are extremely effective at driving relevant traffic to your website. Both disciplines are used as a way to get your website appearing as high as possible in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google displays its search results differently, according to whether they’re Paid listings (PPC) or Organic listings (achieved naturally and through SEO). See below to understand how Google treats each type.


SEO or PPC – Advantages & Disadvantages

Both methods have distinct advantages and limitations.

PPC is quick and effective, and if you select search terms with intent behind them – ‘buy brown shoes’ for instance, your ads will be shown to people who are actively looking to make a purchase. Once you’ve entered your payment details into Adwords (Google’s PPC platform) and set your campaign to run, you can be appearing on the first page of Google, in front of people looking to purchase the products & services which you sell. And you only pay each time these prospects click through to your site.

However, there are limitations with PPC. No matter how much budget you spend on a search term and how far up the paid listings you appear, Google will not rate your site any higher in the organic listings. Savvy web users often avoid clicking on paid listings, as they understand that the company has paid to appear at the top of the results, rather than appearing there on merit because the page content is genuinely relevant.

SEO is a far longer process and involves a great deal more time than PPC before you start seeing results. On-page SEO (optimising keywords, headings and meta tags) is no longer enough to get Google to rank your site highly. Modern SEO involves producing helpful, relevant content and linking your site to other sites with decent Google authority. Also, due to the sheer amount of competition for search terms with intent, it can be difficult to rank highly for the more profitable keywords.

However, by far the biggest advantage of SEO is that it’s free (apart from your time of course). Unlike PPC, once your listing is appearing high enough to attract clicks from prospects, you don’t have to pay for any of these visits. Another advantage of SEO is the more you do it, the higher Google rates your site in terms of authority and displays your site more prominently in search results.

SEO & PPC Working Together

Marketers often make the mistake of using SEO or PPC, but fail to appreciate the benefits that one brings to the other.

PPC campaigns provide a wealth of useful data that can be used to make your SEO more effective. For instance:

  • The most popular keywords at any given time
  • Which keywords resulted in a purchase
  • Which keywords did NOT result in a purchase
  • The exact search term that a visitor typed into Google before making a purchase.


All these insights enable you to understand ‘purchase intent’ and concentrate your SEO activity on more profitable searches, and focus less on terms that rarely result in a purchase.

SEO can bring huge benefits to a PPC campaign and actually help you pay less each time someone clicks your listing. In Adwords, the cost you pay for a click on a keyword is determined by 2 things:

  • Your competition (think of Adwords as an auction for keywords)
  • Google’s internal ‘Quality Score’ (QS)

Google calculates Quality Score using a combination of the following:

  • Expected click through rate (CTR) – The extent to which a keyword is likely to be clicked
  • Ad relevance – How relevant the ad copy is to the keyword
  • Landing page experience – How quickly the page loads and ‘other’ metrics

Google is very coy about what makes a good landing page experience. However, our experience tells us that if a page is search engine optimised for a particular keyword, Google will have a good experience with the same PPC keyword. This positive landing page experience will help increase your QS, and reduce the price you pay each time a potential buyer visits your site.


We’ve seen it time and again, SEO can work hand-in-hand with PPC. There are some extraordinary benefits to be had. Your SEO benefits from the insights that the PPC data provides and your PPC benefits from having a lower cost per click (CPC).

The difficult part is ensuring your SEO providers and PPC managers work closely enough together, to ensure their efforts (and your best interests) are aligned.

If you’ve read this far, you will appreciate this quote: “The best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google search results”.

The same applies to your website.




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