Both SEO and PPC share the same broad objective, namely to get your website a prominent
listing on search engine results pages (SERPs) so potential customers can find you online.
But they go about their business in completely different ways. SEO is all about ‘playing the
search game’, optimising web pages so they fulfil all the different criteria search engine
algorithms look for when deciding which pages to list for a particular query, and in that way
trying to secure a top ranking in the results.
With PPC, on the other hand, you pay for your place on the SERPs. By bidding on certain
search terms, the top bidders get their pages listed in the sponsored results section each
time those search terms are used, and pay for each time someone clicks through to their
So two approaches, on paid for, the other ‘organic’ - but which delivers the better results?
Let’s take a look at three important criteria in digital marketing campaigns - brand building,
conversions and ROI.
Building a brand
One of the core principles of online brand building is that it takes time - you cannot build a
site and expect people to flock to it overnight. There are simply too many other sites out
there already, and it takes patience to cut through.
PPC is useful if you want to raise profile quickly, or push a certain campaign message. But
PPC campaigns are usually time limited - once the budget runs out, the ads stop. Brand
building requires a continuous drip-drip of awareness raising, which organic SEO is better
Web users also tend to ‘trust’ organic search results more than sponsored ads. Ads are
useful if you are ready to buy, but for people who are just looking for information or browsing
out of curiosity, they will choose a page from the organic results instead. The most useful or
informative pages they find will encourage return visits, which is where long-term brand
building comes into its own.
The aim of both SEO and PPC is to get people to click through to your site, or to turn
appearance on SERPs into traffic. How much of that traffic then converts into sales depends
on lots of different factors, and the two disciplines have different strengths here.
It is easier to optimise PPC for conversions - you can test different pages linked to the same
search terms to see which has the best conversion rates, or provide different calls to action
unique to specific key terms. Plus, as mentioned above, people trend to click on ads when
they are ready to buy. It is important, however, to consider that testing is not limited to PPC and can be done successfully across SEO.
SEO will deliver more traffic over a longer period of time - and traffic is a
prerequisite for online conversions. However, high traffic from SEO depends on a high
SERP ranking - it is well known that click-through rates tail off dramatically as you drop down
the rankings, and in many cases the only positions that matter are one and two.
For popular categories, gaining a prominent position can be very competitive and take
months of painstaking work. Without a top organic ranking, PPC can be the better option on
the principle that it is better to appear somewhere than not appear at all.
Return on investment
What businesses really want to know, of course, is the ROI they will get for their marketing spend - so out of SEO and PPC, which delivers the best results per pound spent?
Although it sounds like we’re sitting on the fence, the honest answer is that it is difficult to
separate the two because they work in different ways. With SEO, you have to be in it for the
long haul to see good returns. But if you can consistently hit top rankings for a range of your
pages across your key topics, you will reap the rewards in terms of much higher traffic and
stronger brand awareness.
With PPC, it is easier to measure results in the short term - whatever you spend tells you
exactly how many click-throughs you get. Done right, these will also give you a high
conversion rate. But PPC will not give you the same amount of traffic and campaigns need
to be refreshed and renewed frequently. What you get out for what you put in can be good,
but overall returns may be limited.
At Ultimate Creative, we recommend running SEO and PPC campaigns alongside each
other to complement your digital marketing objectives. Get in touch with our team today to
find out more.