SEO Versus Paid Search: Which is Better?

Generating qualified traffic is the heartbeat of all search engine marketing efforts. Whether it’s by the means of search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC), appearing near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) is every marketer’s goal.

So which tactic is better—SEO or PPC?

The short answer is that both SEO and PPC can be effective. To succeed with either method, or with both, manufacturing marketers need to know the advantages and disadvantages of each. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions on where to allocate your resources.

What is SEO?

SEO, often called organic search, is the process of optimizing your web pages so that they organically appear near the top of SERPs for specific keyword searches.

What is PPC?

PPC is a marketing program in which manufacturers create advertisements that appear on SERPs for specific keyword searches. You pay a set amount each time your ad is clicked on.

When looking at a typical search engine results page, you’ll see that the sponsored PPC ads take up the first few positions (and sometimes the last few), and the organic, or SEO results, take up the rest of the results listings.

What are the advantages of SEO?

  • It may take a long time to achieve high rankings, but once you’ve reached the position you want to be in, you can often maintain a consistent, persistent presence on SERPs for specific keyword searches.
  • Websites that organically appear near the top on SERPs are often considered authority sites. If you are ranking high on specific SERPs, you will be perceived as an expert, which should help you build trust with your target audience.
  • You don’t need to pay for clicks, including those from unqualified users.

What are the disadvantages of SEO?

  • SEO is a long game. It can take months to rise in the rankings and there is no guarantee that you will.
  • Search engine algorithms can change, causing you to lose hard-earned high positions.
  • While you don’t have to pay for clicks, SEO is not free. You need expertise, time, and budget to research keywords; develop keyword-focused page content; write meta tags, descriptions, and snippets for search engines; execute an incoming link strategy; stay abreast of search engine algorithm changes; and more. SEO is both a specialized science and a creative art.

What are the advantages of PPC?

  • You can gain instant top-of-the-page positions and dominate SERPs for a given keyword category, if you’re willing to pay for that position.
  • Campaigns can be up and running quickly.
  • It’s your only alternative if your website isn’t built to be optimized for search engines.
  • You can target beyond keywords: by geography, for example, or by demographics on social media sites.

What are the disadvantages of PPC?

  • Costs can climb quickly, particularly for competitive keywords.
  • Many searchers ignore the paid ads and only focus on organic results.
  • Invariably, you will pay for some amount of unqualified traffic.
  • You must create ads and manage campaigns and budgets, or pay someone to do it.

Are there similarities between SEO and PPC?

  • Extensive keyword targeting is required to be successful at either.
  • Both require effective landing pages to convert users who click and visit your site.
  • Either tactic can get you near the top of SERPs.

How can you use SEO and PPC together?

Ultimately, both SEO and PPC belong in your search engine marketing strategy. How you use them in conjunction with each other depends on your timeframe, budget, and goals.

As stated above, SEO is the long game. Use it to gain visibility for your best products, services, and value propositions—those that are foundational and don’t change much over time. Find the keywords that are the best fit and optimize specific pages for them.

While waiting for your SEO efforts to deliver results, you can fill in with PPC ads. You can also use paid search to quickly make a splash in new markets or to promote a time-sensitive offer. Additionally, having a website with good SEO will mean that when users visit your site after clicking on an ad, they’ll find what they’re looking for.

Used together and deployed appropriately, SEO and PPC can be effective tactics in every manufacturer’s marketing portfolio.

6 thoughts on “SEO Versus Paid Search: Which is Better?

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  1. Very informative article with good info. If your interested, I am writing a related piece on how manufacturers can best approach direct to consumer strategies while navigating around their current distributors. You can see it soon at

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