SEO vs PPC And When To Use Which Method

Letters spelling SEO with different patterns, representing the dilemma of SEO vs PPC.

As any digital marketing expert would tell you – traffic is king. There is no online enterprise, or local Arizona business, whose success is not dependent on increasing traffic. It’s an undeniable fact – if you want your online business to profit off its website, you need to keep working on the volume of traffic the site generates. The two primary approaches for achieving this are PPC and SEO. But which is better, and what method would be better for you? We’ll explore the ins and outs of SEO vs. PPC below!


If you want your website’s traffic to become bigger and better, PPC and SEO are definitely the two most powerful and widely used approaches for traffic generation. But what do these acronyms actually mean? In short, SEO is Search Engine Optimization, and PPC is Pay Per Click. They basically strive for the same goal, but they use wildly different methods to get there.

So, which is better? Right away, we’ll tell you the answer you want to hear the least: it depends. Sure, it sounds like a non-answer and a generalization, but we’ll spend the rest of the article explaining why that’s not the case. Depending on your particular needs, both can be a good solution. Undoubtedly, SEO has many advantages, but so does PPC. In certain circumstances, both of these may prove to be what you’re looking for. The only crucial thing here is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both, allowing you to realize when the best time is to apply either of them. 

Words spelling Digital Marketing on a wooden surface.

Both SEO and PPC are valid digital marketing strategies!

Search Engine Optimization

Okay, so the word SEO may not mean a lot to you in and of itself – and neither will Search Engine Optimization. For a moment, take a step back and think about how users interact with the Internet in general nowadays. In more than 80% of cases, people won’t type up the link to a website themselves; that would be far too tedious, and they may not know what site they’re looking for in the first place.

Instead, users will first interact with search engines and find what they’re looking for within the results. And the search results on a search engine like Google appear according to incredibly comprehensive and complex ranking algorithms. These determine whether a website will appear at the top of the first page, or be buried somewhere far down below on the 5th page.

When it comes to digital marketing, we’ll tell you right away – being anywhere else than on the first page practically means that you don’t exist. And seeing as Google is the reigning champion of search engines, a majority of SEO efforts focus on this platform. 

Are you keeping up so far? This may be a lot to take in, but the gist of it is – SEO can benefit businesses because it helps them appear at the top of search engine results for specific keywords. These keywords are actually the queries people enter when they search for stuff on Google. For example, a company selling fishing rods would focus on ranking first on the results for “fishing equipment.” To do this there are many aspects of SEO to consider, like on-site SEO, off-site SEO, and link building strategies

People writing a content strategy on a glass board.

SEO is definitely a long-term strategy!

When Is SEO better?

Keeping this in mind, when is it more appropriate to use SEO rather than PPC? To put it simply – when you’re looking for consistent results. The techniques used to optimize a website organically in a way that will naturally drive traffic towards it takes a relatively long time to produce effects. You shouldn’t expect to hire an SEO expert and have visible search engine results within a week. For local businesses in Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, and pretty much anywhere else in Arizona, you should expect at least a 3-6 month timeline before seeing page one results for any competitive keywords. 

Reaching the top will definitely take a lot of time. But on the other hand, once you do use organic SEO methods, you will have consistent results with plenty of long-term traffic. If you keep your website regularly optimized, you will get a lot of benefits from being on the very top of the rankings. 

Apart from this, you should also consider what kind of website you’re building. If you’re aiming to create an “authority” website, SEO is definitely the way to go. This is a type of website that’s an established and credible source for information on a specific niche. Once you get a site like this going, you will have an insane amount of natural traffic. But obviously – building one is not easy.

You need to have sustainable traffic that’s being generated to your pages, building the website’s popularity in the niche until it has a reputation allowing it to dominate the given market. If you want to achieve that, the only way to attain this sustainable traffic growth is through SEO planning. 

On the other hand – you should also remember that websites are the real estate of the Internet. If you want to increase a website’s value for a later sale, you should think of more than the current amount of traffic it garners. Apart from that, the traffic’s consistency is essential, as well as stuff like link popularity, page rankings, and general SEO rankings across a longer timespan. 

Sound familiar? That’s right – this is all stuff that depends on having the right SEO strategy. Sure, it takes an incredible amount of work to promote and craft content that will be optimized well enough for constant traffic generation; but it pays off in the end. 

Pay Per Click

Now we arrive at the second important branch of digital marketing – Pay Per Click. Generally, PPC refers to advertising on the pages of search engines. In other words, when someone enters the keywords pertaining to your niche – you can buy “advertising space” in the form of links to your website on the search results page. This is called Pay Per Click because brands that employ it pay for each click on the advertised link. 

As you might imagine, Google Ads is the most popular platform for PPC, though Bing Ads is a close second. There are also some niche-dependent PPC platforms, though these are far less used.

Traffic metrics on a screen.

PPC is likely to give you incredibly immediate results!

When To Use Pay Per Click?

Keeping this in mind, when is Pay Per Click the better option? There are certain situations when you need to achieve immediate results. And that’s the best thing about PPC – it delivers them extremely fast. From the second you get approval for a PPC campaign, the advertisement is on display for all search engine users to see. Hence, you will get some traffic pretty instantly. When it comes to new product launches, affiliate marketing, or seasonal promotions – PPC is definitely a better choice than search engine optimization. 

Also, it’s great if you’re after traffic that’s highly targeted. While SEO is more wide-ranging, PPC gives you the option of narrowing down to whom the ads are displayed. Plenty of PPC platforms will actually give you a set of tools to tweak the target audience based on all kinds of stuff, from age and education levels to more specific things like marital status. 

Unlike SEO that’s designed for your brand in general, and takes months to produce consistent effects – PPC is great if you’re looking to promote a time-sensitive offer. If your events, services, or products have a set expiration date, the prolonged period of an SEO campaign may prove to be too little too late. In these situations, PPC marketing is definitely the more expedient solution, that will net you a lot of traffic in what amounts to mere minutes. 

There’s also one thing we haven’t mentioned about SEO up until now; it’s very dependent on content. So, if your website isn’t rich in unique content that you update regularly, you won’t get far on SEO alone. Keeping this in mind, some sites simply aren’t designed with content in mind and won’t rank high organically according to Google’s algorithms. For these, PPC campaigns are the only way to generate traffic apart from pure brand recognition.

At the end of the day, you may also want to more easily dominate a specific keyword that’s highly contested. Remember – on a results page, PPC results have a place that’s higher up than the organic results; right at the very top. This is a meaningful thing, as about half of all people on search engines click on the first three links. That’s definitely a reason to engage in PPC, at least for a while. 

Though, you need to bear in mind that PPC is a lot more expensive than an SEO campaign; with it, you pay for every single click that directs users to your website. So, it’s really more of a short-term tactic than a long-term strategy. That’s why these two methods are not really in competition but are rather used complimentarily. You can use PPC for current gains while still developing an overarching SEO strategy for the long run; in fact, that would probably be the smart way of doing it. 

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