So you have some money to spend on your next marketing campaign, but where do you begin? We know paid advertising is an effective way to drive immediate traffic, and Google Ads is one of the most popular pay-per-click (PPC) platforms on the web. But what about search engine optimization (SEO)? Is it worth your time and money?

Now, we aren’t going to bore you with a dry comparison – we’ll leave that to Wikipedia. Instead, we want to focus on some of the key benefits of both marketing tactics, so you can decide which strategy will work best for your business.

What Is PPC?

PPC marketing is a form of internet advertising that requires the advertiser to pay each time one of their ads is clicked. You can execute PPC through Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords), Microsoft adCenter or any other popular PPC platform.

Online advertisers benefit from PPC because it allows them to target specific keywords. For example, when potential customers search for products and services your company offers, your ads will appear near the search results when advertisers match those terms in an auction format.

The strategy works well because there is less competition for these critical phrases than there would be with organic SEO. You’re also able to place a maximum bid on how much you’d like to spend on a particular keyword. For example, if you bid $2.50 on a keyword like “free background check Texas,” you will not pay more than $2.50 for any click that the keyword receives, even if your competitor bids $5 or more on the same keyword.

The better you know how to set up Google Ads campaigns, the higher your returns with them will be. Make sure to include negative keywords in all of your campaigns – this helps ensure that Google only directs qualified traffic towards your site.

The Pros of PPC:

Fast Results

SEO can take several months to start working, while PPC is one of the fastest ways to drive targeted visitors and build brand awareness.

Easy Setup

PPC campaigns are easy to set up and monitor, so long as you know your platforms and tools. You can set up a campaign in just minutes, with no additional costs for customizations or consulting fees.


There is no way to track who came through your website or how they found you with SEO. However, with PPC, the advertiser knows precisely where their clicks come from and which keywords work best for their campaign. This ability enables them to fine-tune their strategies constantly and aim for the highest return on investment.

The Cons of PPC:


Spending money on PPC campaigns is just the beginning – you have to pay each time people click your ads.

Unknown Results

Pay-per-click marketing comes with many risks because even though your ad could be performing well, it’s impossible to know if you’ll make back what you spent on it until much further down the road. You could end up paying for clicks without building any lasting value for your company.

Issues With Selective Targeting

PPC works by allowing businesses to focus their message on very specific groups of people. However, this also means that they are missing out on potential customers who don’t fall into that category or who may not be ready to purchase at that moment.

What Is SEO?

SEO is a long-term strategy that requires you to optimize every aspect of your website so it fits within search engines’ criteria. When done correctly, these optimizations can lead to free traffic from major search engines, like Google and Bing.

The most common types of search engine optimizations are on-page and off-page. On-page SEO includes keyword research, title tags, meta descriptions, content optimization, internal link building, image optimization, etc. Optimizing external links is known as off-page SEO. The process could be as simple as linking to authoritative sites in your niche, or it could be as complicated as building links for a brand-new site or rebranding effort.

One factor that sets this strategy apart from PPC marketing is duration. Depending on the scope of your initial SEO efforts, it can often take months before you start seeing results. However, these results typically come without any additional investment after the initial setup phase.

The Pros of SEO:

Slow and Steady Growth

This type of marketing is long-lasting as opposed to PPC, which has a sense of urgency to it. In almost every case, SEO leads users straight from search engine results pages (SERPs) into your website.

More Targeted Than PPC Traffic

Early on, this often comes in the form of long-tail keywords that fit within your niche. Long-tail keywords are far more popular with search engines because they accurately describe what people are searching for, whereas broad match terms like “background check” rarely send high-quality traffic. The longer window between initial outreach and conversion means that you can better understand what is working for your company before making additional modifications or investments.

Aligned With Branded Search

Recently, we’ve seen a rise in “brand” searches. SEO helps you control the conversation and build trust with potential customers by showing up when they search for your brand and related keywords. This gives you more opportunities to influence how people perceive your company before making a purchase decision.

The Cons of SEO:


As mentioned above, SEO is slow-moving and takes time to show results.


It requires knowledge of proper on-page and off-page strategies that you can either learn or hire someone else to take on. Businesses that need speed typically avoid it because the payoff isn’t worth the effort.

High Penalty Risks

The risk of being penalized by Google is high. In recent years, Google has stepped up its efforts to combat over-optimization, link building scams and other black-hat SEO practices. The most significant risk for business owners who are trying to play by the rules comes in the form of a penalty.

PPC vs. SEO: Who Wins?

The choice between SEO and PPC ultimately comes down to your company’s goals. For example, if your business is trying to bring in immediate leads, then PPC is likely the better option for you as it will give you instant results.

However, if your goal is long-term growth, SEO may be the right way forward. In either case, using both methods together can lead to consistent traffic from search engines. And the faster you can set up your SEO strategy, the faster it shows results.

If you are still struggling to choose between SEO or PPC, consider both. Using them together is often the best option for businesses that need quick results.

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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