SEO vs. PPC: Are They Bitter Rivals or Teammates?

SEO, PPC, SEM. There are quite a few three-letter acronyms in digital marketing. All those acronyms can get confusing when you first start researching Internet marketing.

In this post, we’ll take a look at two of the most prominent of these terms — SEO, or search engine optimization, and PPC, or pay-per-click advertising.

What do they mean? Which should you use? Can they work together?

Find out below — or contact the Keystroke Marketing team to learn more.

SEO vs. PPC meaning

First, let’s discuss the meaning of SEO vs. PPC and the main differences between the two marketing methods.

SEO refers to a collection of strategies you can use to help your website show up in organic search engine results.

You can’t pay for organic results. Instead, you need to optimize your site and create useful content. If you do, Google will start displaying your web pages when users search terms related to your business, products, and services.

On the other hand, PPC is an approach to buying digital ad space in which advertisers pay each time someone clicks on their ad. You can display PPC ads in search engine results and relevant websites across Google’s Search Network.

In search, PPC ads appear above organic results.

Here’s an example of the organic results for the search term “learn how to play piano”:

And here are the PPC ads for the same search:

Pros and cons of SEO

Like any business strategy, SEO has both advantages and drawbacks. Its benefits have led to 89% of marketers believing that SEO is successful. Some of its main advantages include:

  • Sustainable, long-term results: SEO helps build your site’s authority and credibility, which consistently improves your search engine rankings over the long term.
  • No direct costs for SERP positions: With SEO, you don’t pay directly for your spots in SERPs. For the best results, you may pay to work with SEO professionals — like the team at Keystroke Marketing — but SEO’s high return on investment (ROI) makes the cost well worth it.
  • Qualified leads: SEO brings people to your site who were already searching for topics related to your business. Because they’re actively searching for this information, they’re likely interested in your product or services.

Some of the limitations of SEO are:

  • Longer time to see results: Improving a website’s SEO is a longer process than creating a PPC campaign. It may take some time before you start seeing significant improvements.
  • Positions below PPC ads: PPC ads are placed above the organic results, so you won’t get a spot at the very top of the page. However, some users skip ads and go directly to the top organic results.

Pros and cons of PPC

PPC has several characteristics that make an ideal strategy for certain goals. Some of these benefits include:

  • Quick results: PPC allows you to get your site on the first page of results more quickly than SEO does.
  • High conversion rates: Users who are ready to make a purchase often click on ads. In fact, people who come to your site via an ad are 50% more likely to convert than those who arrive there organically.
  • Top positions: PPC ads appear above the organic results, making them highly visible.

Some of the drawbacks of PPC are:

  • Direct costs: With PPC, you have to pay for your position in search results directly. These costs may be in addition to the costs of hiring a company to manage your PPC campaigns.
  • Short-term strategy: Because you’re paying for your position in SERPs, as soon as your campaign ends, you lose your position. PPC ads don’t typically build much site authority or credibility, so the benefits are not long-lasting.

SEO vs. PPC: Which has a better ROI?

One of your main concerns is likely the ROI of SEO vs. PPC. 

Smart SEO and PPC strategies both have impressive ROIs but deliver it in different ways. PPC tends to produce results more quickly but offers short-term benefits. SEO requires investments over time and provides long-lasting results.

Of course, the ROI for each SEO and PPC strategy differs, but industry averages can give you an idea of what to expect.

  • Average PPC ROI: $2 for every $1 spent
  • Average ecommerce SEO ROI: $2.75 for every $1 spent


Be sure to calculate your ROI for any campaigns you’re running to help measure your success.

Should you use SEO or PPC?

So, is SEO or PPC the right choice for you?

Use SEO if:

  • Your goals are more long-term, such as building site authority
  • You’re providing helpful and informative content, such as articles, guides, and infographics related to your business

Choose PPC if:

  • You want to get your site in front of people quickly
  • You’re promoting a special product offer

PPC and SEO working together

While PPC and SEO have different benefits that make them the ideal choices for different goals, the best approach is often a combination of PPC and SEO.

Using both methods results in a well-rounded approach. When PPC and SEO are working together, you get a quick boost and get your products in front of people who are ready to buy, but you also build brand awareness, site authority, credibility, and a loyal following over the long term.

Creating an SEO and PCC strategy: Get started today!

To maximize your digital marketing success, you need to create a strategy that considers your immediate and long-term goals, as well as the potential benefits of SEO, PPC, and other digital marketing strategies.

The most effective way to do this is by working with an experienced digital marketing company like Keystroke Marketing. We’ve been in the digital marketing business for more than 20 years and have a team of more than 200 experts who are ready to put together a custom digital marketing strategy for you.

To learn more, explore our free resources on SEO, PPC, and other digital marketing topics, or contact us today to discuss how our services can help you grow your business.

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