Article updated, November 2023.
SEO vs PPC. Do we have to choose?
I hate making choices, especially when the options provided will give me the same outcome. Like taking crystal meth or crack, either way, I’m going to feel that soaring hit of dopamine.
Disclaimer: I don’t do drugs and I do not condone the doing of drugs.
Something weird went down online (bad-weird happenings are increasingly more commonplace in the virtual arena, no?).
An online conversation escalated (I know, that NEVER happens). I thought the vitriolic bite-backs from this guy were unwarranted, and you might agree, particularly when you consider the subject matter: SEO vs PPC.
Yes, the internet is a hellish landscape of overreaction.
Looking back, the conversation (it was more of a rant on this person’s part) was pretty funny because it was ridiculous. And it’s inspired me to write this useful post. Do you realise what I go through for you? You’re so damn lucky!
What is SEO and PPC?
For those of you totally in the dark, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the organic way to get website traffic, or the free way (well, unless you think your time is free). PPC (Pay-per-click) is the paid ads route.
This belligerent private message convo with Man On Internet was also pretty frustrating.
Here he was, telling me how SEO “doesn’t work”. This dude was mansplaining in the true sense of the word. He was schooling me on a subject I knew pretty well, and one that he admitted, knew nothing about.
Because let me tell you friends if he understood even the rudiments of SEO, if he’d bothered to look on Google, he’d know that SEO is kind of a big deal.
He’d also know that this combat between SEO and PPC is imagined, and not one digital marketer would agree it exists.
Both methods live alongside each other because they offer different things. So before you say shit like this:
“I get piles of cash from paid advertising. You’d be better off telling your punters which paid options to go for.”
Or my favourite:
“I can treat every day like it’s Saturday. Why? Paid ads.”
“Organic SEO is how no one sees your stuff. Organic or paid? Hmmm… let’s go with paid.”
By the way, “Organic SEO” isn’t a thing. It’s not cheese. “Ooh let’s get some Organic, outdoor reared SEO as a treat. That would be like saying ‘SEO SEO’.
I couldn’t be arsed to argue (very unlike me) because sometimes, just sometimes there are better things to do like pull your frontal lobe through your nostrils.
SEO or PPC?
The short answer: it depends on what your goals are.
Both approaches can and do work together. Let’s suppose you take your SEO very seriously but you have a product to sell, for a set period of time. You could create an ad for that product and voila!
But focusing only on paid ads, without knowing your market’s search behaviours could be money down the drain.
Well, users are searching on Google with different kinds of intent.
If Lucy wants nipple clamps, she’s looking on the web with transactional intent (intent to buy). PPC, in this scenario, is a great option. Getting in front of your customers quickly, with a tailored, precision-focused ad, makes bloody sense.
And Lucy gets the thing she wants, sore nipples.
But if Lucy is keen to know how to reduce nipple chafing, she’s looking on Google with informational intent (intent to find answers to a problem) and a paid link with that information will likely be avoided.
Because we TRUST organic links more.
We actively avoid the paid ads. Especially when we’re seeking information. We (rightly or wrongly) assume organic website links contain trustworthy content. Ads make us feel icky so we leave them alone.
I know I don’t like them and that was long before I got into SEO content writing.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with a paid ad, they have their place.
And SEO can take its sweet-ass time to yield results so a new business might rely on PPC to speed the process up but it will be for nothing if they don’t have an SEO strategy to fall back on.
A website cannot survive on PPC alone.
Neglecting SEO is an FBI (Fucking Bad Idea).
If you don’t bother with organic reach and only favour PPC it’s because, like Man On Internet you have no idea what it means. SEO should be something you do for your overall, site health.
The traffic you gain from targeted ads will dry up, and unless you’re going to keep ploughing money into them—all the damn time, you’ll have nothing sustainable.
SEO is a huge industry for a reason.
We LOVE the taste of organic.
We do, around 70% more, that’s huge.
SEO is my kind of sexy.
No, it isn’t tall and Scandinavian but like the A40 around 3 pm, it builds more traffic over time.
Unlike the short-term gain of PPC, SEO brings forth traffic for much longer. Just like blogging, SEO is the long game to attraction. Building a website full of relevant, beautiful, trustworthy content takes more effort but it pays long term.
Nothing is free.
Even love comes at a price, so don’t start giving me a list of things that are, on the face of it, free.
You’re going to need to pay, one way or the other. A small fortune on regular ads or invest time building your website’s SEO. But avoiding SEO isn’t a choice you should be making so don’t be like Man On Internet and think it’s one or the other.
If you’d like to start to invest in your SEO via the medium of content, click here to find out how.
I’m a freelance business content writer at The Sarky Type®. My thang is SEO-informed blurb that sets your words on fire (ablaze with LOLs and engagement not to be confused with real fire that destroys everything in sight. Metaphors are better when they don’t require explanation. Note to self).