• SEO vs Paid advertising


What is SEO and PPC?

SEO and PPC can both fall under the umbrella of search engine marketing. This article focuses on the Google search engine as it has by far the greatest proportion of the search market. First and fore most it is important to understand what these two marketing methods are. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of manipulating your website so that it appears high in the organic search listings for relevant key phrases. Pay Per Click (PPC) is a paid advertising method where the advertiser pays the publisher each time their ad is clicked. One of the most popular PPC marketing platforms is Google AdWords. These ads are displayed on the Google search results pages (see below). The sponsored search results display an ‘Ad’ logo preceding the URL, making it clear to users that it is a paid listing.

Pay per click advertising

Organic search results appear according to Google’s algorithm which determines where to place a website for a particular search phrase. Google’s algorithm considers over 200 website factors in order to decide its ranking position. The algorithm is not influenced by whether the website pays for Google ads or not. Google often displays organic search results slightly differently depending on the search phrase. For example, if a user location is considered important to the search phrase then Google is likely to display ‘local results’ in a map box (or otherwise known as the snack pack – see below).

Local and organic search

Traffic Potential

There are many studies which report varying statistics for click through rate of organic listings vs. sponsored listings, however, they usually all conclude that organic listings generate a much higher proportion of clicks. A study carried out by GroupM UK and Nielsen, based on 1.4 billion UK searches, found that organic listings got as much as 94% of the clicks vs. only 6% of paid listings. This is thought to be because users trust that the website is ranking naturally without paying to be there.

Click through rate will also depend on the ranking position of your website on the page. The position one paid ad and the position one organic listing will get more clicks than position two etc.


Whether you employ an expert or not, PPC requires a certain amount of advertising budget in order to appear in the sponsored search results. Exactly how much ad budget you spend is up to you but is usually determined by your industry and how competitive the phrases are that you wish to bid on. You can set a daily budget allowing you to manage your expenditure, but if the cost per click (CPC) is high and your daily spend is low, then your ad budget could run out early in the morning and your listing will not be seen again until the budget refreshes on the following day. On the other hand, you only pay for users who click through to your website and not when the ad is seen (an impression). If your ads are set up well, you should be able to attract relevant traffic to your website and generate a good conversion rate.

PPC can get quite complicated and it usually requires an expert to set-up a well optimised campaign and run an effective marketing strategy. It is necessary to manage the campaign budget, cost per click, split test campaigns and key words and maximise quality score to get the best return on investment, so you may have to consider paying a management fee on top of your ad budget for best results.

SEO can be done completely free if you know what you are doing and wish to optimise your own website. However, in most cases it is recommended to employ an expert as SEO can be quite difficult if you are in-experienced. Good SEO agencies will have a thorough knowledge of the most influential ranking factors, both onsite and offsite, and will keep up-to-date with any industry changes on a daily basis. Great SEO agencies will also have a large number of web contacts, knowing where to acquire high quality and relevant backlinks from for your industry (references to build the trust of your website) which are essential to improve your rankings. These may be difficult to find if you are attempting to optimise your website with little previous experience. An internet marketing agency will also have subscriptions to valuable SEO tools which make managing and analysing your SEO campaign much easier and more successful, but could be unaffordable if you are doing this alone.

The cost of a successful SEO campaign, again, will vary greatly depending upon your industry and whether you are targeting a local, national or international market, though there are affordable SEO campaigns for most businesses.

What is Best Value?

One thing to consider is long term investment. SEO takes times to build up the trust of your website to overtake other websites competing for your target key phrases and achieve first page rankings. However, once you have invested in improving your website optimisation, this cannot just be turned off overnight. So, if you stopped investing in SEO work your website would maintain a certain level of trust for a period of time making it a brilliant long term investment as well as generating impressive return on investment figures.

Pay per click advertising can carry an equal, if not higher cost than SEO to run an effective campaign and whilst it can bring quick results, if you decided to turn off the ads your website visibility would disappear immediately with nothing to show for the marketing budget spent.

It ultimately comes down to your industry and online competition. There are certain circumstances where one method would be more highly recommended than the other. In general, on the basis of long term investment, potential click through rate and ROI we would recommend that SEO is better value for money.

If you are not currently getting enough traffic to your website, or you’re not getting the right type of visitors we’ll be happy to have a chat with you about it. For a free, no obligation website audit, call us today on 01226 720 756 or email [email protected]