Is SEO Better Than PPC In The Long Run?

The two main forms of search engine marketing includes search engine optimization, or optimizing the organic listings, or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.  But which will benefit your business in the long run?

Many small businesses come to us with the ultimatum that they have X dollars to spend, and will either choose to spend it on SEO or PPC, but not both.  The fact is, they should consider spending in both areas.  Here is why:

  • The PPC ads can provide instant traffic, and simple campaigns can be set up in a matter of hours.  SEO will take weeks to set up, and months to achieve noticeable results.
  • Setting up your PPC campaign will provide some of the necessary keyword research to start your SEO campaign anyway (although the targets will likely be different, it’s a good starting point).
  • The PPC campaign click-throughs and conversion rates can provide some intelligence back to the SEO campaign; however, be aware that PPC visitors will behave differently than an organic visitor.
  • The SEO campaign will force you to develop more keyword-rich content, driving more long-tail searches.  The PPC campaign will force you to create well-designed landing pages that you can A/B test for best results.

So why then is SEO more beneficial to my business in the long run?

It essentially comes down to the cost, and what stays with you after the cash is spent.  Check out the graphic below.  You can see the slow, gradual increase in performance of the SEO campaign, while the PPC campaign is more “instant”.  Once the SEO effort performs well and you start to appear on the first page of results for some of your primary keywords, you get this area of what we call “maximum exposure” – where your paid ad and organic listing appear on the same page.  It has been said that this type of exposure can lead to a higher chance of getting a click – on the organic listing – up to 7 times more likely.  That’s interesting that the paid ad provided the necessary brand exposure to get a user to click on your FREE organic listing.

seo vs ppc


So let’s consider what happens after you stop spending in both areas.  Maybe you are in a budget crunch, or you ran out of funding.  The PPC ads come down immediately, and you are no longer visible to potential customers.  With SEO, your time, effort and money will sustain itself for weeks, months, or maybe even years.  This means you’re not going to lose your rankings overnight, and the SEO work will still give you exposure to new potential customers and drive more leads and sales to your business, even though you’ve stopped spending in that area.

Also consider the ROI on both programs.  A click in PPC for a competitive keyword can cost you $4 (let’s say), whereas an organic visitor can cost you merely pennies (take you monthly SEO spend and divide it by the total organic visitors during the same period).

So if you only have X dollars to spend, don’t count out your SEO program.  Instead, split your budget across both and get the maximum benefit for your money.

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