PPC vs. SEO: Which is Better?
  • July 1, 2021
  • PPC

PPC vs. SEO: Which is Better?

As one might expect, neither PPC nor SEO is inherently superior. Instead, each has their own advantages that make them preferable for specific situations. Of course, “both are good” isn’t a very satisfying answer, which is why we won’t stop there.


The truth is, one is better than the other, it just depends on your needs and preferences. In this article, we’ll provide a high level overview of both marketing styles and their pros and cons to help you decide what you need. You’ll even learn why it’s rarely PPC vs. SEO and often PPC plus SEO. We’ll explain all of this and more as we explore the following questions and sections:

  • What are PPC and SEO?
  • Pros and Cons of PPC
  • Pros and Cons of SEO
  • Should you Choose PPC or SEO?
  • How to Integrate Both into Your Advertising and Marketing Campaigns

What are PPC and SEO?

PPC and SEO are two different methods of marketing and advertising that focus on generating traffic to a webpage. Between the two, PPC is more akin to a traditional advertising campaign in that it is paid for on a consistent basis and can be deployed fairly quickly.


SEO, on the other hand, takes significant time investment. Most SEO work looks very unlike traditional advertising. It focuses more on site maintenance and trust-building to naturally increase search rankings over time.


To help you better understand how both PPC and SEO work, here’s a quick overview of each.



PPC (pay-per-click) is an advertising method that falls under search engine marketing (SEM). This style of internet marketing allows companies to buy ads at the top of search engine results pages (SERP’s) on a group of relevant searches that contain the target keyword or keyword phrase.



Unlike a billboard, which costs a set amount of money over a period of time, PPC is charged on a per-click basis. This means that when your ad appears in a search, you pay a set amount when a searcher clicks on the ad.



SEO (search engine optimization) refers to the practice of improving your website in the eyes of search engines. Over time, improving certain elements of a website such as keyword distribution, uniqueness, load times and authority, can boost the overall ranking of your site in a search engine. The ultimate goal of SEO is to become the highest ranked page for a specific set of keywords or keyword phrases.



SEO hardly resembles advertising or marketing in the traditional sense. Most SEO specialists focus their effort on making pages more efficient, both in terms of user experience and search engine crawls. Some common elements of these campaigns include blogging/content marketing, site optimization, link pruning and site cleanup.


Pros and Cons of PPC

To get a true sense of who the winner is in a battle of PPC vs. SEO, we need to compare them directly. Like any marketing initiative, PPC excels in specific areas. There are also areas where PPC won’t be the best tool in your arsenal. Here’s a brief overview of the distinct advantages of PPC along with some situations where another tool may be better suited.



  • Speed: A PPC campaign deploys far more quickly than any SEO initiative. Additionally, you won’t need to wait months for your site to naturally gain organic rankings. Instead, a PPC ad ensures that your page appears at the top of a SERP as soon as it is initiated.
  • Guaranteed Rankings: Because SEO targets an ever-changing set of search criteria, there’s no way to guarantee a specific ranking spot. PPC ads are guaranteed to appear at the top of a search engine results page, making it much easier to gain page visibility.
  • Affordability for Certain Industries: Some industries have lower cost-per-click on PPC ads. While this advantage is only true of specific industries, it does increase the usefulness of PPC campaigns if your company falls within one of those fields.
  • Easier to Track: As a more traditional style of paid advertisement, the impact of PPC is much easier to track than the impacts of SEO improvements. These concrete numbers are particularly helpful when determining whether or not to continue a campaign.


  • Requires Consistent Payments: The cost of PPC can be somewhat flexible by its very nature. While you can apply upper limits on total spend per a period of time, you will need to keep paying in order to keep the ads in place.
  • Slightly Lower Average Conversion Rates: Because PPC ads are disclosed as ads, they often have a lower conversion rate than a well-optimized SEO page. This is because a PPC ad page may not be as well optimized to a searcher’s query as the top page on a SERP.
  • Does Not Change the Nature of Your Site: While PPC can improve your overall site slightly through an increase in traffic, it does not fundamentally alter your site in the eyes of search engines. Once a PPC ad campaign concludes, you should not expect your organic search ranking to rise.

Pros and Cons of SEO

As one might expect, the advantages of SEO actually help cover for the minor weaknesses of PPC. Conversely, the advantages of PPC help to cover for the weaknesses of SEO. This is why most web marketers don’t view it as PPC vs. SEO, but rather PPC and SEO. To help you gain a clearer picture of this, here’s a quick explanation of the pros and cons of traditional SEO.



  • Longevity: A well-executed SEO campaign can improve the overall rankings of your site for a significant length of time. This stands in contrast to PPC, which only boosts the rankings of a site or page while the campaign is in effect.
  • Affordability: SEO work is not necessarily cheap, but you can dictate exactly the amount you want to spend over a period of time. In general, the more you spend the faster your site will improve. But if you want to conserve resources you can improve your site at a slower pace.
  • High Conversion Rates: Organic traffic focused search engine marketing regularly leads to higher conversion rates than any ad campaign. This is because it relies on creating content that directly answers a searcher’s query, and only shows up for searchers whose needs could be met by your website. This results in site visitors already primed to engage with your product or service.


  • Difficult to Track: Without the dedicated attention of an SEO firm, it can be difficult to keep an eye on the keyword rankings and page rankings for your entire site. PPC, as a more targeted form of advertising, is much easier to monitor.
  • Impossible to Guarantee: Unlike PPC, which relies on the purchase of guaranteed ad space, there is no way to guarantee the number one ranking on any particular set of keywords. The end result of well-done SEO is almost always an improvement to site ranking and traffic, but no reputable SEO will guarantee a specific ranking or page position.
  • Slower Deployment Process: Because SEO relies on improving everything from content to site performance, it can take a long time to deploy. In addition to the lengthy deployment time, it also relies on search engines like Google to notice these changes and update the page ranking. This element can result in delays to page ranking increases even after the site has been improved.

Should you Choose PPC or SEO?

If you have the option, choose both. As you can see in the above pros and cons sections, SEO and PPC balance each other out in a near perfect manner.  Each marketing style covers for the weaknesses of the other, making them an excellent pair if you have the ability to carry out both simultaneously.


In the event that you can only choose one, you should make your choice based on your particular needs. If you need to get clicks right now, then PPC will be your best bet. If you can wait awhile to get traffic, but require greater consistency of traffic, then you might consider an SEO campaign.


The only way to choose the right marketing initiative is to take a careful look at your needs and then consider how both PPC and SEO could be used to address them. That said, common wisdom typically dictates that it is best to start with a PPC campaign to gain web traffic quickly while you work on improving your site organically in the background. This way, you increase and maintain traffic through ads until your site can naturally achieve higher search engine rankings on its own. A well-executed PPC campaign even plays a role in improving overall site SEO as search engines prefer pages that attract more visitors.


How to Integrate Both into Your Advertising and Marketing Campaigns

As you can see, PPC and SEO work best when used in tandem. To ensure that your campaigns are working together to improve conversion and site rankings, make use of the following tips:

  • Lean into PPC First: PPC campaigns get results much faster than SEO. Deploy your PPC ads quickly to make up for traffic that your site doesn’t get naturally. While these ads gain additional site visitors, you can work on content marketing and SEO improvements.
  • Overlap and Share Keyword Data: Run your campaigns simultaneously and you’ll receive twice as much useful data. Find out which keywords are more effective at gaining conversions and refine both campaigns simultaneously.
  • Use SEO Keywords to Improve PPC ads: By running analytics searches using an SEO tool, you can gain insight into high-performing keywords and search volume. Once you do the research, target the high-volume keywords using your PPC ads.
  • Test Your Organic Search Keywords Using PPC: Use the keyword information from your PPC ads to determine what will be most effective when writing content. PPC campaigns are more agile and adjustable than SEO. This makes them a perfect for testing out keywords you want to rank for organically.
  • Repeat Cycle by Using PPC to Cover for a Lack of Organic Rankings: Once your organic traffic reaches a satisfactory level for a certain set of keywords, you can retire your PPC campaign and move to a new set of keywords. Once you choose the new set, deploy your PPC ads and use that data to further improve organic rankings.

Using the above tips, you’ll be able to create a cycle of constant improvement for both your SEO and PPC marketing campaigns.


Improve Your Site with a PPC Campaign Today!

Like any form of marketing or advertising, it’s best to work with a professional when doing PPC and SEO. If you’re looking to improve your site rankings quickly and in an easy-to-understand way, PPC is the perfect way to get started.


At PPC Ad Editor, we have the experience you need to devise a successful campaign. That expertise is then coupled with our revolutionary ad editor, which is designed to make the ad creation process smoother and more intuitive for marketing professionals no matter their level of familiarity with PPC. Contact us today or get a free ad build to see how we can set you up for PPC success!


Share this post? Twitter Facebook Google+
by albert somlith
About author
Albert Somlith

Co-Founder of PPC Ad Editor. I am a leader in digital marketing, specializing in strategic planning, implementation, and optimization.