Which is Better, Pay-Per-Click or SEO?

Which is Better, Pay-Per-Click or SEO?

So you’ve got yourself a website. Whether you hired a professional website development company to create it or simply made it yourself, one thing holds true no matter what: you want people to see it. Different businesses have different online goals. For some, visibility means providing a useful resource for current clients to find relevant information about the service they currently receive from you. For others, the website is to serve as a key marketing tool to increase the amount of business that company does in general. Whether that end-goal be sales, calls, requests, subscriptions etc., you will soon be faced with the choice of how to drive more traffic to your site and boost the results it produces, and this choice is not as simple as it first may appear.

There are all sorts of creative and effective ways to optimize your website to receive the best results, but the methods you choose will depend not only on the type of website you have, but also the amount of working capital you have to pull from, the amount of time you are willing to wait for results, and the nature of your company’s work in general. Today we are going to explore the two main online marketing techniques that you can use to increase the amount of traffic brought to your website and elevate your rank, both online and in your industry. We will begin first with the pay-per-click method, and follow with search engine optimization. Both methods have their pros and cons, but choosing the best option for you is important for both your company and your wallet.

What is Pay-Per-Click?

Pay-per-click, also abbreviated simply as PPC, is exactly what it sounds like. Companies simply purchase words or phrases that, when searched by users online, bring links to their websites to the top of that search engine’s result listings. Right now the largest platform on which clicks are sold and advertisements are posted is Google Adwords. Even if you aren’t familiar with the formal name, you have inevitably seen it in action. Think back to your last search submission in Google (probably only a few minutes ago). For many keywords and phrases that you search for, you’ll see the word “ad” written underneath the links in the top positions. This is Google AdWords hard at work.Today more than 95% of Google’s revenue comes from Google Adwords, but competition is always on the rise. Facebook has been searching for new ways to expand into this realm, and has seriously revamped its online marketing platform. While Google holds a strong lead for now, Facebook will soon give it a run for its money. Be sure to keep an eye out.

 Search forecast in YouTube, Google Play, Network and Other from Google;

While PPC sounds overtly simple, it is its complexity that gives its users the results they are looking for. One does not simply purchase the phrase “search engine optimization company in Philadelphia or Denver” and then the world sees their ad every time they log onto Google. There are instead a variety of parameters that users choose from in order to refine the breadth of their ad. These parameters also affect the price. First you select where you wish for your ad to appear geographically. For instance, if you are an SEO and online marketing company in Philadelphia, it really makes no sense to extend the reach of your ad to appear to users all the way in California (unless, of course, that is indeed your target audience). Instead you would most likely have the range of your ad include the city of Philadelphia itself as well as the surrounding suburbs. PPC systems will usually allow you select specific regions or a certain mile radius from a central location. Material by SEOWhat is SEO?What is SEO?How To Do SEO For Your Own Website Part 1: The Semantic CoreHow To Do SEO For Your Own Website Part 1: The Semantic Core

Next you can choose who specifically sees your ads based on their particular interests. Without trudging too deeply into the data-mining ethics debate, search engines and websites are able to learn frequent users’ interests based on what they search for and which sites they visit. Again, you’ve likely been subjected to this form of online marketing. If you visited a website that sells shoes, you probably noticed an increase in the amount of online ads displaying shoes for the next few days or so. By selecting certain criteria through which you filter your viewers, you can assure that your page will only be displayed to those likely to have a genuine interest in what your company offers. This helps you save money by honing in on your target audience. While we could explain each and every one of the particular settings and filters through which you can adjust your PPC campaign, suffice it to say that are tons of different options and combinations of options that you can work with such as age, gender, time of day, season, etc.

This all sounds great and lucrative, to be sure, but the options you select as well as the competitiveness of the words and phrases you choose can quickly bid up the cost of your campaign. If you are a niche business with limited competition, your list of words and phrases probably won’t cost you too much. If, however, you are in an industry with many different competitors all buying up the same words and phrases, targeting the same audience, and there are many different words and phrases relevant to your company, it would be totally normal for one click to cost you more than $100.

 Top-20 most expensive keywords in Google, which used for SEO and Pay-per-click

What is SEO?

If you are familiar with our blog, you know that we have already written extensively on what SEO is comprised of and the various intricacies of the search engine optimization realm. For more detailed information, scroll back through our various posts and lose yourself in the bountiful knowledge to be found there. To avoid redundancy, we will simply outline the main points of SEO below.

Search engine optimization is a series of sophisticated techniques by which a professional web development team organizes both the design and code of a website in such a way that it is received by Google as the most relevant website for a variety of keywords and phrases. In other words, building a complete semantic core for your site. This is not paid advertising, but organic promotion. In other words, if a user were to search for something such as local website optimization company in Philadelphia or Denver, the top result would be their naturally, and users would simply click it, because best positions in Google are deemed the most relevant.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of PPC and SEO

As you now know, PPC and SEO are the two main ways to drive traffic to your website. While both of these methods clearly have their advantages, nothing is perfect, and each has its drawbacks. It is important as a business owner to understand what the differences between the two are, and what they mean to you.



  1. You can very easily select and modify who sees your ads and who does not.
  2. You can start and stop your PPC campaign at any moment and you yourself set the cap for your budget.
  1. It can be very expensive, and you must pay every time your ad is clicked. Once you stop paying, your ads stop appearing.
  2. As a rule, the traffic you receive through PPC methodology is substandard at best. The failure rate hovers around 70-80%.
  3. For many over-saturated industries, PPC is simply not a feasible tool because the costs of each click are so high that there is no way the benefits can make up for it!
  4. Unless you are a professional in online marketing, managing a PPC campaign on your own will drain your bank account… guaranteed.
  5. Your ads can simply blend together with all the others, whether they be your competitors’ or other non-relevant advertisers. It is worth noting that Google is seriously struggling with this issue.


  1. SEO work that is well-done typically lasts 1-2 years and will continue to produce results well after that.
  2. It is significantly cheaper when compared with PPC campaigns conducted for the same goals.
  3. There is a higher level of trust amongst potential visitors, since they see that your position at the top is the result organic relevance.
  4. With SEO, there is usually much better traffic, for which both the conversion rate is higher and the bounce rate is lower.
  1. The results of SEO work must take time to compound and grow, with the first significant results appearing around 6-8 months after the campaign begins.
  2. If you do not allow professionals to handle your campaign, you may get the opposite of what you want. That is, instead of having the highest rank in Google, you may actually fall from where you originally started.

How to Combine Pay-Per-Click and Search Engine Optimization

Those of you with the right intuition may see where we are going with this. One brings about immediate results while the other takes time to grow and compound. The ideal scenario would be to begin both campaigns at the same time. You offset the slow start of SEO with PPC. If you have a professional working with your PPC campaign, you can actually use the results it brings about to fund your SEO work. Combining PPC and latest SEO trends will benefit your rank significantly. We always like to describe search engine optimization as a permanent adjustment strategy for your page’s rank in Google. As you see that adjustment begin to take root, you gradually reduce the money you spend on PPC and let the traffic influx become more organic in nature.

We should also note that PPC is very convenient for singular or small ventures. For instance, you are testing a new product in a specific area and what to gather statistics on it reception. Seasonal sales may also be worth using PPC. It is fast, targeted, and highly controlled spending.

When waiting for the first results from SEO, is there an alternative to PPC?

Yes there is, and in our opinion, this method is much more effective than PPC during this waiting period. We call it Marketing After Development. Marketing After Development is a set of tools and techniques that work in concert in order to bring high quality traffic to your site almost immediately after its launch. Sounds nice right? Let’s dive into the details of what Marketing After Development entails.

Tool or MethodWhat it does
Writing daily blog articles

This is done to bring people to the site so that, with the help of other tools, they can be converted into buyers instead of just visitors.

Promoting articles on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedInSo long as the articles are interesting enough to keep readers engaged, you can bring about a steady flow of inexpensive traffic
Animated e-cards for holidays and national events with your logo incorporated into the designThis is an excellent tool that not only helps to cultivate a positive image and feeling for your brand but it also can bring about new visitors, since people are very fond of sharing such things on their own social media sites.
Google and Facebook remarketingFor all people who visit our site, we show them targeted ads through PPC within the first 30 days. Usually you will find these short campaigns to be highly effective and fairly inexpensive.
Continuous site revision; anywhere from 10 to 30 hours of development per monthAfter the site is initially launched and running for a little while, it is most likely the case that you will have ideas for how to improve it. These things need to be added to the site immediately. If your site is not continuously developing, it slowly dies.
Link BuildingRegistering your site on a variety of outlets including catalogs, message boards, all sorts of lists of local businesses, etc. While you shouldn’t expect too much traffic from this method, but having a set link building strategy will give you great results. Plus this is beneficial in terms of organic SEO.
Participate in the discussions that arise from your blog postsEven just one properly answered comment under one of your more popular articles with a link to another blog post can lead to a huge increase in potential customers.
Answer questions on services such as Quora and Yahoo AnswersThis method is another simple way to slowly but steadily provide you with an influx of inexpensive traffic. The key is to specifically answer the questions that you can provide a link to your own site in the response.

If you implement all of the above-mentioned tools and techniques for the first several months, you can expect to see a steady increase in traffic to your site. And this traffic is targeted, making it more likely that your visitors will become customers. From our experience, since this method targets your visitors, the bounce rate is two-times lower than any successful PPC campaign.


It would be a fallacy to claim PPC is better than SEO or vice versa because each has different strategic purposes. However, in the long run, we have to admit that search engine optimization does offer a more preferable outlook, but this all depends on the type of person you are and the type of business you run. Both of these tools can be highly effective for online marketing if done correctly. It should also be said that PPC is simply the better strategy for some companies while SEO is better for others. Again, circumstances will always dictate what works best.

Combining the two will guarantee maximum efficiency for your company and its online pursuits, but we recommend that you do so only after you completely understand not only how each methodology works individually, but how they will work in concert. We at Direct Line Development offer a full range of online promotion services, including both pay-per-click and search engine optimization, as well as a combination of the two. If you are curious about how these methods could work for your business, call or write to us and we will gladly run a free audit of your site’s current promotion outlook. See you at the top!

The article was updated on September 25, 2017.

Alex Kudimov
Alex Kudimov


Kevin DeAngelo

This is an excellent explanation of how the two compare and contrast. A great read for any business owner or entity thinking about starting a Search Engine campaign. In conclusion SEO should be done on any site (from its inception ideally) to allow for the best over all return on ones investment.

Steve Greenspan

I get asked this question very frequently, for most people they don't necessarily see the difference but this helps to lay out the 2 most important thing to business owners. Cost over time and results over time. Great read!

Greg Queen

This is a great resource to help explain to people. Sometimes, people just need to hear a clear explanation to clarify their understanding!

It's really interesting. Good read.

It's amazing how expensive PPC can get based on how big a certain market is! SEO definitely seems like a better long-term solution, although it can be used in combination with PPC.

Excellent Article explaining the differences between SEO and PPC. It is important to keep in mind that both marketing strategies could yield results, SEO would yield long term results and keep you as a trusted authority in your market.
As mentioned, the trend is these days is for people to skip the ads, so the earlier you start doing SEO for your business the harder it would be for competitors to catch up.

Very good perspective on this. Can be a tough decision as a business owner but knowing the long term stable results that can come from SEO, you cant go wrong there.

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Stephen Greenspan
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