Which is better, SEO or PPC?

While search engine optimisation [SEO] and pay per click advertising [PPC] can both be used to generate traffic, there are benefits of choosing one over the other or using them together to generate website traffic – as I will now explain.

Let’s start with SEO.

Search engine optimisation [SEO] is a complicated process used by most companies and websites to generate organic traffic from search engines. The advantages of using SEO to promote your website is it’s (kind of) free targeted advertising. The ability to organically list as number one for your product, field or expertise on all the major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! is invaluable.

A company I co-owned back in the late 2000s, which specialised in offshore hosting, implemented SEO as its primary source of traffic and sales. Using SEO alone, the two of us took a company which had been losing money and generating debt to making just over $1,500 a day. (Despite being a UK company we operated internationally and traded in USD).

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. SEO relies on somebody who knows what they’re doing and takes a considerable amount of time to get established. To get the company previously mentioned to the number one position for our targeted keywords took time, about 2 years to be precise.

There’s a common misconception around the cost of SEO. Is SEO free or cheap? No. If you know what you’re doing, it’ll cost you a substantial amount of time and a relatively modest amount of money. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll need to hire a professional and, depending on the intensity of your competition, it could end up costing you a small fortune. It’s down to you to work out if it’s worth it or if you need to investigate alternative and more cost-effective methods of traffic generation.

So, SEO is perfect for businesses and individuals looking for long-term results. With the correct techniques and people behind you, SEO can take your business to the next level.

What about PPC?

PPC, otherwise known as Pay-Per-Click, is similar to SEO from the view that it’s used to generate website traffic however, it differs from SEO in terms of how visitors are acquired.

Essentially, PPC is a method of buying targeted visits to your site, rather than attempting to generate those visits organically. PPC is popular for three reasons.

  1. PPC is an easy method for generating traffic. Anybody can do it with a little bit of homework.
  2. PPC is instant. Unlike SEO, the moment you start a PPC campaign you’ll see results whereas SEO takes months to establish a good flow of traffic.
  3. Where SEO is limited to Search Engine Results – PPC advertising has a far greater reach across not just search engines but private websites, blogs, social networks and on some occasions even your competitor’s website!

Now for the negatives. PPC, depending on your competition, can prove to be expensive. Because you’re paying-per-click [basically, per visitor] even if you have a more generous of budget, it can be blown out of the water relatively quickly.

Another aspect of PPC advertising is that you’re competing for that ad space in the form of bidding. If your competitor comes along and says they’ll pay another £0.20 per click, then they’ll take your spot and take your potential traffic as a result. Again, this means pricing can escalate quickly.

What’s best?

SEO and PPC Advertising are two very different beasts. While they achieve the same end goal of generating traffic, PPC will give almost instant results but will suck up any money you put near it while SEO is significantly more cost-effective however takes more time to get established.

When speaking with clients, I always recommend a combination of the two. While SEO is a cost-effective solution for individuals or businesses with a long-term game plan, PPC provides that extra exposure SEO just can’t offer on its own such as advertising on Social Networks, Blogs and Websites.