Is Paid Search Advertising Better Than SEO?
It’s very common for businesses new to the world of digital marketing to ask whether paid search advertising is more effective than SEO. Most of the time, the answer is never as black and white as “yes” or “no”. Both strategies have strengths and weaknesses, what works well for one organization may not be successful for another, and it’s really up to each company to decide how they want to pursue growing their traffic.
The Value Of SEO
Search engine optimization is no longer a luxury item for businesses that want to generate traffic online. These days, it’s an absolute must. Even without an aggressive content marketing strategy, basic website and on-page SEO is critical for search engines to find and index a company’s website.
For businesses that do pursue content marketing to improve SEO, there can be substantial benefits. For example:
Trust & Authority: When a company website shows up in organic search results, it builds credibility, trust, and authority with the audience. Most people skip over ads when searching and go straight to the organic results. Showing up on the first page lets people know your business is a leader in the field.
Cost: Creating great content that will rank well and drive traffic is not cheap or easy, but it is almost always more cost-effective than any other digital marketing tactic that will generate the same results.
Sustainability: The great thing about SEO is that it keeps working long after the money has been spent. Great content will continue driving traffic for months, and sometimes even years, after it’s been published. With paid search advertising, the ads stop appearing the moment a business stops paying for them.
The two biggest drawbacks with SEO are time and competition. Businesses that are considering investing in an SEO content strategy need to understand that good search rankings come to those who wait. It’s common for a new SEO campaign to take a year or more before any real results start to appear.
There is also more competition than ever for those precious few slots on the first page of search engine results. SEO is no longer a secret weapon only wielded by bleeding-edge tech companies. It is now the de facto method of marketing for businesses of all sizes, in all industries. This means that the content a business creates has to be truly unique and valuable to earn a place on the first page of search results.
The Value Of Paid Search Advertising
With paid search advertising (pay-per-click / PPC), most of the hurdles that come with building a strong SEO campaign can be overcome. The catch, of course, is that it comes with a cost.
For those that have money to spend and no time to wait for SEO to kick in, paid search can be incredibly effective at giving a business’s marketing efforts a huge shot in the arm.
The benefits of paid search advertising include things like:
Top Listing: Paid search ads always show up above organic search listings, which means that users will always see a company’s ad before anything else in the search results. Even if a user doesn’t click, they’re still seeing the company name.
Audience Targeting: Unlike with organic results, paid search gives a business the ability to define exactly who they want to see their ads. If a company only wants to target women under forty living in San Diego (for example), that can be easily accomplished.
Instant Results: There’s no waiting for paid search advertising to “kick in” like there is with SEO. Once a PPC campaign launches, ads go live right away. If the results are promising, the campaign can quickly be scaled up.
Stability: Unlike organic search rankings, which can fluctuate pretty wildly sometimes, maintaining a particular position in paid search results is far easier. While there is some competition, increasing the bid amount and improving ad copy is often enough to stay at or near the top.
Paid Search Advertising Drawbacks
As alluded to earlier, the biggest drawback to paid search advertising is right in the name itself: paid search advertising. It’s not “free search advertising”. The moment a business stops paying for ads, they stop showing up in search results.
This means that PPC requires a continual investment. While not every paid search campaign costs an arm and a leg, competition for popular products and services can drive prices up very quickly. Bidding wars with other advertisers are commonplace, and there’s no laws or rules preventing a competitor from copying another business’s ads and/or strategy.
Getting The Best Of Both Worlds
It probably won’t come as a surprise that here at Search Box SEO, we generally advocate for an SEO-first approach. This is especially true for small businesses and businesses new to digital marketing.
Investing in quality content to improve SEO almost always provides better ROI in the long term than going in guns-blazing with paid search advertising right at the start.
With that said, once a solid SEO campaign has been created, there are a number of reasons why adding some PPC into the mix might be beneficial. Using SEO and paid search together often lets businesses get the best of both worlds.
To learn more about SEO and content marketing, please contact us today.
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