Organic SEO vs PPC – Which Is Better For Your Small Business?

Travis Van SlootenSmall Business SEO

organic seo vs ppcThis website (and my business) focuses almost exclusively on local SEO and how to use it to your advantage. However, Pay-per-click (PPC) is another strategy to consider for more visibility and sales online.

PPC is all about driving paid traffic to your website by short, succinct ads that appear along with the organic search results in any customer’s search.

organic seo vs ppc

You do not pay for the ads unless someone clicks on them. So if the target keyword has a CPC or “cost-per-click” of $1, and someone clicks on the ad to visit your website 100 times, then you would pay $100 for your advertising costs. If they only clicked 50 times, you’d pay $50. Of course, a truly effective ad and website are turning a good percentage of those clicks into sales, creating an investment that should, theoretically, pay for itself.

SEO and PPC have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at them.

Organic SEO

Advantages of SEO:

  • 85% of all of the clicks that a customer will ever make will come from organic, or SEO based, search results.
  • Customers trust organic search results more, to the tune of 86% of all customers. However, this data is slightly skewed by the fact that many customers honestly can’t tell the difference between paid search results and organic search results.
  • The return on investment is typically higher since SEO based content tends to pay for itself and because it generates the majority of your traffic.

Disadvantages of SEO:

  • SEO can be very time-consuming and requires on-going maintenance. This is especially true now that Google is measuring “freshness” for SEO purposes.
  • SEO can be a tough nut to crack. You can do your best to provide updated, unique, and interesting content that is keyword focused and still have difficulty appearing where you need to appear in those organic search results. Local search techniques help this to an extent, but SEO is just never entirely going to be in your control.
  • A simple change in Google’s algorithm can wipe out your organic traffic, and thus your leads and your money, even if you’d managed to do well on a previous algorithm. It can take months to retool your site in a way that lines up with the new algorithm.
  • If you’re in a highly competitive marketplace you might find SEO to be an uphill battle where you have little to no chance of getting on the first page.


Advantages of PPC:

  • PPC provides almost immediate results. If you have an AdWords account with Google already, you can have an ad up and generating clicks to your site within a few hours!
  • If you use keywords with “high commercial intent,” or “buying keywords” then 50% of your visitors are likely to actually buy through PPC, vs. SEO traffic which generates a lot of people who are merely “researching.” This factor makes PPC especially important for those who are selling products online.
  • You can make immediate updates to PPC campaigns, and use split testing to see what’s working and what isn’t. There’s far less guess work involved.
  • PPC holds its place on the Search Engine Results page so long as you’re paying enough to keep it there. For the most part, you have full control over your “rankings.”

Disadvantages of PPC

  • Many customers quickly develop “banner blindness.” Some customers routinely ignore ads to the point where they no longer even see them.
  • PPC can become very costly, especially if you make mistakes with your campaign or are in a highly competitive niche. The legal niche in a large city, for example, can cost as much as $50 for a single click to your site!
  • You are at the mercy of other companies that might be able to outbid you on keywords. As soon as they do, PPC may no longer be cost-effective.
  • There is a slight danger that your competitors may attempt to harm you through a series of fraudulent clicks to run your ad costs up.

SEO vs PPC – So Which Is Better For Your Small Business?

In spite of the pros and cons of both methods the reality is, in an ideal world you would do both. In fact, the two strategies work very well together. For example, you can use data from your PPC ad campaigns to discover which keywords actually drive “buying behavior” in your customers and which generate the most response. You can then use that behavior to tweak your SEO campaigns in a way that focuses around the most useful keywords, preventing you from having to guess.

Using both strategies also means that you have a back-up that continues to generate leads and traffic if one strategy fails. If PPC becomes too expensive you’ll already have your SEO in place to keep generating traffic and leads. And if your website loses rankings in another round of sweeping algorithm adjustments you’ll still have your PPC to bring in leads and traffic while you adjust your SEO campaign.