SEO vs. PPC in 2020: Ending the Debate

  • May 11, 2020
  • Google Advertising
  • Online Marketing
  • SEO

In the 10+ years we’ve been in digital marketing, we’ve noticed one question pop up more often than almost any other: “Should I use SEO or PPC to increase my website traffic?”

The answer might be obvious, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped the search for it. Worry not: we’ll save you the hassle of searching through the hundreds of conflicting reports that Google search results have to offer.

The answer? You need both to get the most out of your website. The reason? SEO and PPC work in different ways.

While they can work alone, they work best together. And they are definitely NOT opposites, like you might have heard elsewhere. To understand why, we need to know what each one does.

Let's paint the picture - Meet Google.

Google is a bit like your school teacher. It looks at your work (your website), scans over it to see if it matches the criteria they’re looking for, and then makes a judgement on what to do with it.

If it fits the topic well and the teacher enjoys reading it, great! Your teacher might display it as a good example to others. But if your work is messy, hard to read, or it doesn’t match what your teacher is looking for, then bad luck. Your teacher will file it away where no one can see it.

Now meet SEO - here's how it works

SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is a long-term program where we step in to play the role of the friendly parent that checks your work over time and keeps you on topic. We carefully go through your website with our professional eyes and hosts of analysing and optimisation software, make sure it’s nice and easy to navigate, and try to correct things that look like they may not fare well.

We use our knowledge of Google’s criteria and algorithms to figure out what’s best for your website. We implement keywords, we help improve your content by making it more relevant to search engines and your audience, and we use a host of other techniques to make your site appeal to Google as best as it can. Basically, we make sure it checks all the boxes that your teacher is looking for.

Don’t expect to see results overnight though: just like it takes your teacher a while to form an accurate opinion about you, the relevance, authority, and credibility that SEO brings takes time to build. The great news is that users often attribute more credibility to an organic listing boosted by SEO: unlike PPC listings, organic listings don’t imply that you paid for your higher position, which lets your potential visitors know that your business is legit.

What about PPC?

PPC (or Pay Per Click) goes by many names: Google Ads, Google Adwords, PPC Advertising, Search ads, and plenty of others. It functions a little more like a helpful friend than a teacher: It finds people who are looking for services like yours on platforms like Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, and introduces you to them by making sure you appear where they’re looking.

The only real difference is that (hopefully) unlike your helpful friend, PPC charges for each introduction by click (hence the name). There is a fee for every new person Google finds that agrees to visit your site, which varies depending on how many people are looking for someone like you.

Just like in real life, people who get to know you through someone else will be notified that there was a middleman involved. The way they find out about this through Google changes form time to time - it used to be through a little green tag next to the URL of your Google listing, and is currently shown through a few small, black letters right before the URL.

Google Ads until 2019
Google Ads until 2019
google-ad-2019-compressed
Google Ads in 2020
Google Ads in 2020

Fortunately, just like in real life, most people don’t care who introduced you, as long as you get along fine and work with them to build a good relationship.

The great thing about PPC is that results can be seen pretty quickly, and the service can be turned on or off as needed. PPC is a great way to launch or boost visibility of a new product, service or advertise a short term offer.

The takeaway - they're both great!

SEO and PPC aren’t opposites or enemies; they just encourage people to view your content in different ways. SEO makes your website more relevant over time, while PPC ensures you are in front of the people who are looking for you right now.

Which one you should put the most effort into definitely depends on your business model and goals, but both are great options to help you get the most out of your website. PPC tends to give immediate results, but it also stops working after you stop paying for it. PPC can also help drive traffic to your website when Google changes its algorithms, giving you a little time to update your SEO and bring your site into line again.

Where to next?

As we all know, a better online presence in today’s digital age means more potential customers, and a great site that’s visible and functional can put you a long way ahead of your competition. Our free digital marketing audit can help you see how your site stacks up and how we can help improve it.  For advice on how SEO and PPC could boost your online presence and get your website to attract more customers (or to discuss a plan to implement them on your site), request a free website review here.

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