Digital Marketing

SEO vs PPC – Which Should You be Using?

November 8, 2019

One of the most effective ways to grow your business is by driving quality traffic towards your website. Digital marketing aims to do just this by getting more eyes (and potential customers) in front of your products and services online. However, Google receives about 63,000 search queries per second, which amounts to 5.5 billion searches processed in a day. With all that action, what does it take for your business to be noticed?

There’s more than one way to get your website ranking at the top of search engine result pages. The two primary vehicles for boosting your ranking include search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Both with pros and cons, there is undoubtedly a science to understanding which to invest your marketing budget and efforts in. This article will help you understand what each entails, and most importantly, cover which form of paid or earned media we recommend for your business goals. 



SEO is about organically improving your search ranking in search results, which is to say without any paid intervention. As Googlebots crawl your site, they assign a value based on the quality of your site, which reflects in your ranking for relevant search queries. A website of higher perceived value to searchers will appear higher in search results. There are several ways to go about improving your SEO, and it begins with your website itself.

You may consider integrating keywords you would like to rank for into your website copy, adding more relevant and quality content, improving your site load speed and encouraging backlinks from other credible websites to improve your search ranking. Giving the mobile version of your website some TLC will also go a long way, especially since Google introduced mobile-first indexing in July of this year.

By improving your site, you will naturally also improve your search engine ranking. However, a common misconception is that the results of SEO can be observed immediately. If we think in terms of the tortoise and the hare, SEO is the slow and steady approach to climbing the ranks! One of the major disadvantages of SEO is that it requires a lot of time, effort and resources upfront as well as in maintenance – and the impact isn’t felt until further down the road (we’re talking months). However, investing in SEO lets you spend less in the long-term as your business establishes itself higher in search page results without the need for paid campaigns. Being returned at the top of organic results also gives your website credibility as it demonstrates that your site deserves to be at the top thanks to its useful and relevant content. 


If SEO is the tortoise, PPC is the hare. The quickest way to have your business displayed at the top of search results is to pay for it to be there. Using paid ads such as Google Ads and Bing Ads, you can bid on relevant keywords and have your website listed in the ads section of search results, which sits just above organic results. As the name “pay-per-click” suggests, a fee is charged each time your ad is clicked. One of the beauties of PPC is that it can get you far when you don’t have the time or resources to spend optimizing your site. PPC also has the additional advantage of quickly validating whether people are searching for your product/service with the keywords you are targeting, expediting what can otherwise be a long experimental process via SEO. 

Similarly, because of their quick ROI, PPC campaigns work well with time-limited promotions or other instances when immediate traffic and conversions are critical. Not to mention, with explicit media costs, estimating your return on investment can be a lot more precise than SEO – albeit more expensive.

So, which is better?      

Do you bet on the tortoise or the hare? By putting your money into just one, in either case, there will be a point in the race where you’re not in the lead. We suggest this: an optimal strategy will include a balance of both.

If your business is new to the digital world, you’ll be battling against the most established incumbents to rank well. These competitors have had the advantage of time to build their organic standing. In this instance, the best way to put eyes in front of your website immediately is to compete for an ad position using PPC marketing. PPC campaigns over time can become pricey, though, so by building your SEO simultaneously so you can 1) rely less on paid traffic, and 2) ensure that you’re sending your paid traffic to an optimal version of your website. The findings from your PPC campaigns can also help to inform the keywords you use in your SEO strategy – adding even more incentive for a dual-method approach.

What about once you’ve put in the SEO work and you’re ranking high in search results naturally? Is it still important to maintain PPC campaigns?  It’s often regarded as a good practice to continue to bid for your brand terms and high-converting keywords. However, you can afford to be more strategic with your use of PPC, as you’ll have a better sense of what keywords are most valuable for your business, which will ensure maximum conversion both from a paid and organic perspective. Think of it this way: if it’s not you occupying that ad spot, it’ll be someone else.

At Art & Science, our performance marketers are experts at balancing PPC and SEO to leverage the benefits of each to the fullest. Want to learn more about how we do this while working within your budget and business goals? Get in touch with us!

To kickstart your SEO strategy, or to make sure it’s on track, download our Ultimate SEO Checklist for 2020!

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