SEO vs PPC which is best?

Written by Neil Ashton.

SEO vs PPC which is best?

When people read about online marketing, they generally consider 2 of the more popular methods that a business can use to enhance its visibility on the Web: organic search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.

In an ideal world, you would use both tactically to increase your site's profile. Having said that, budgetary constraints often make this impossible, and attempting to do both on a limited budget or with nominal resources may result in neither campaign generating ideal results. In this instance, it's usually better to concentrate on one or the other. But which is best for you?

Organic search engine optimization

Organic search engine optimization campaigns offer several distinct advantages over pay-per-click promotional initiatives, as numerous recent studies have demonstrated. What follows is a brief listing of a few of the findings.

Propensity to Click

Comprehensives research indicates individuals are less likely to click on paid search ads as opposed to results from organic search engine optimization . For instance, one investigation learned that search users are up to six times more likely to click on the first couple of organic results than they are to choose any of the paid results, while an eye tracking study showed that 50 percent of users start their research by scanning the top organic results. Other studies have shown that only Thirty percent of search engine users click on paid listings, leaving a formidable seventy percent who are clicking on the organic listings. And a 2003 analysis found that Eighty-five percent of online users report clicking on paid links in less than 40 percent of all of their searches, and Seventy eight percent of all the participants claim that they found the details they we searching for through sponsored links just 40 percent of the time.


Research is starting to show that the trust level for organic results is much higher than that of paid results, and that paid results are viewed as a nuisance by some searchers. One analysis found that a mere 14 percent of searchers trust paid listings, and Twenty nine percent report being "annoyed" by them. Another study learned that 66 percent of consumers doubt paid ads. Clearly, it's not generally recommended that you upset potential customers before they even click on your link.

Value of Visitors

Organic search engine results tend to be considered as non-biased, and they therefore are able to provide website visitors which are more valuable. The overall conversion rate, or the rate at which searchers take a desired action on a site, is 17 percent greater for unpaid search results than the rate for paid. Tendencies also have shown that more of the sales that result from search engines originated in organic search listings.

Visitors Starting To Be More Aware of Pay-Per-Click as Advertising

As more and more individuals use the web for research and knowledge, more searchers have become aware of paid results as a marketing strategy. One study established that not only are Thirty eight percent of online users are aware of the difference between paid and unpaid results, 54 percent understand the distinction on Google, which is widely recognized as the most popular search engine.

Pay-Per-Click Costs Rising

In the mean time, pay-per-click costs are rising steadily. Between October 2004 and December 2005, average keyword prices rose by about 100%. And the cost of keywords can increase by up to 100 percent during the holiday season. These costs aren't going unnoticed either; one study of problems experienced by U.S. companies found that Fifty seven percent of respondents thought that their desired keywords were "too expensive," while Fifty one percent expressed concern that they are overpaying for some keywords. Alternatively, when you outsource to an organic search engine optimization company, your costs will probably stay more stable than the prices for pay-per-click marketing.

Long Term Benefits

While a pay-per-click campaign might generate results more quickly than an organic search engine optimization campaign, organic search engine optimization campaigns can give you results that last. When the budget runs out for a pay-per-click campaign, or when your company decides that the pay-per-click campaign ought to be terminated, the results end as well. With organic search engine optimization , the optimized site content and other changes made to your site can have an impact on your search results until the next change in a search engine's algorithm, or possibly even beyond.


Users also have rated organic search engine results as more appropriate than paid results. On Google, 72.3 percent thought that organic results were more relevant, while only 27.7 percent rated paid results as more appropriate. Yahoo provided similar results, with 60.8 calling organic results relevant compared to only 39.2 percent for paid.


Whilst the above statistics may make organic search engine optimization appear the obvious choice in all cases, in certain situations it actually can make more sense to do pay-per-click marketing. For those looking for fast results on a small budget, a pay-per-click campaign may be the solution.


As previously stated, the results from pay-per-click advertising are instant. Whereas, an organic search engine optimization campaign may take up to three months or maybe more for results to be apparent. In this case, pay-per-click is effective if you're looking to promote an initiative that will go live in a short period of time, or whose business is seasonal by nature and who only do promotion during certain months of the year.


Small businesses with extremely limited budgets might find that pay-per-click is a better investment than organic search engine optimization as a pay-per-click strategy will almost always cost less - good search engine optimization firms simply do not work for R100 per month. By limiting a campaign's keyphrases to extremely specific terms highly relevant to a company's business, there will not be a great deal of traffic generated, but the traffic that is generated will be specific to the required result. Plus, choosing such specific phrases can make them cheaper on a per click basis. Furthermore, in niche markets with a high average rand sale, where there's not a great amount of search activity because the prospect pool is limited, it may not make sense to engage a quality organic search engine optimization firm at several thousand rands each month when you can instead buy varying niche-specific key-phrases and generate traffic in that way.

Simpler to Manage In-House

Uncomplicated pay-per-click campaigns can be handled much more easily in-house than an organic search engine optimization promotion. Such campaigns generally require business to business and high-end, service oriented companies, not those geared toward a large consumer base. Since organic search engine optimization requires a steep learning curve and since there are numerous doubtful techniques that can put a web site at risk of penalization, it may make more sense to run a pay-per-click campaign. Since you are dealing directly with the engine, i.e., Yahoo Search Marketing and Google AdWords, there's no need to pay an intermediary, and these sites offer helpful guides on how to use pay-per-click marketing. Perhaps most importantly, the concept of pay-per-click is much easier to understand from the outset.

No Contracts

Most organic search engine optimization campaigns need a contract of a specific duration because SEO firms realize that meaningful results will rarely happen immediately. When dealing with an in-house pay-per-click campaign, obviously a contract isn't a problem. However in general, even when you are dealing with an agency, you won't need to sign a contract because the company instead makes money on a percentage of the spend, although there might be a setup fee. Without a contract, you are free to reallocate marketing rands somewhere else if you discover that the pay-per-click campaign isn't giving the desired results.


Clearly, organic search engine optimization has some distinct advantages over pay-per-click advertising. However, there are undoubtedly specific situations and scenarios where pay-per-click marketing will work better financially and strategically. With a high enough budget, you would be able to have an effective organic search engine optimization campaign working in tandem with an effective pay-per-click campaign. But if you have to pick one, look into your specific situation prior to deciding.

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