SEO & Search Marketing

SEO or PPC: Is One Better for Your Business?

Author:  Debra Murphy


Reading Time: 10 minutes
SEO or PPC: Is One Better for Your Business?

Small businesses are looking for marketing activities that can drive traffic, increase visibility and ultimately increase sales. Two effective search marketing strategies worth considering are Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While both can attract visitors and improve online presence, they each have unique advantages and disadvantages. Whether you choose SEO or PPC (or both) will depend on your business and your marketing goals.

What is PPC?

PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, is an advertising model where you pay a fee each time someone clicks on your ad. In a PPC marketing campaign, you bid on specific keywords relevant to your products and services. When a user searches using these keywords, your ad appears prominently in the search results or on relevant websites. You manage your PPC campaigns through platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, and social media advertising networks.

Note that on social media platforms, you can often choose between a CPC ad (cost per click) or a CPM ad (cost per 1000 impressions). To learn more about advertising on social media, read this post: Social Media Advertising in 2024: Costs, Types, Tips & Top Channels

Benefits of PPC for Small Businesses

Quick visibility

When your PPC campaign is running, your ads are visible and can drive traffic to your website. If you have a new business that will benefit from immediate visibility, consider implementing a paid ad campaign. Paid ads can give you immediate brand visibility in the search engine results pages or on relevant websites and social media platforms.

Precise targeting

PPC platforms allow for highly targeted advertising so you can tailor your ads to a relevant audience. This maximizes the chances of attracting qualified leads and potential customers.

Measurable and adjustable

Paid ad platforms offer analytics and tracking tools to measure the success of your campaigns. You can monitor metrics such as clicks, impressions, click-through rates and conversions. These insights help you make informed decisions and optimize your campaigns for better results.

Cost control

Although paid search ads can be expensive, you do have control of your PPC budget. Set daily or monthly spending limits to ensure that you don’t exceed your allocated budget. You can adjust your spending based on your desired outcomes.

Remarketing opportunities

I’m sure we’ve all experienced ads for products we’ve searched for appearing on every website you visit. That is called remarketing and it allows you to target users who have previously interacted with your website or shown interest in your products. Targeting your ads to these users increases brand awareness and can encourage these potential customers to complete a purchase.

Levels the playing field

Digital marketing has made it possible for small businesses to compete with larger companies even if you have a smaller marketing budget. With the right targeting and optimization strategies, you can achieve high visibility alongside your competitors.

Remember to approach PPC strategically. If you need quick visibility or remarketing, invest in paid ads. Be sure to optimize your campaigns to maximize its effectiveness to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Disadvantages of PPC


Despite you being in control of your spend, you do need a sizable budget to pay for each ad click. Costs can vary depending on factors such as keyword competitiveness and industry competition. If your business has a limited budget, click costs can become a challenge if not managed effectively.

Temporary results

Visibility and traffic are tied to your ad campaign. When you stop running your campaigns (on purpose or due to budget), your ads will no longer appear.

Competitive bidding

Popular keywords often have high competition, resulting in higher bid costs. This can be difficult if your business has a limited budget to compete effectively against competitors with more substantial resources.

Click fraud

PPC campaigns are susceptible to click fraud. This occurs when individuals or automated systems click on your ad to deplete your budget or inflate advertising costs. Click fraud wastes your budget and reduces the effectiveness of your campaigns. However, there are tools to help combat this issue.

Ad blindness

With so many paid ads appearing in the search results or on the display network, users begin to ignore or avoid advertisements. This can reduce the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns.

Limited ad space

Search engine results pages do have limited ad space, particularly for highly competitive keywords. In this case, your ad may not always appear on the first page or in the desired position unless you are able to bid higher on those keywords. This can increase your ad budget beyond what is sensible for your business.

Lack of user trust

Some users tend to trust organic search results more than paid ads. They may skip or ignore ads, believing they are less credible or relevant. This can impact the overall performance and effectiveness of your PPC campaigns.

If you do choose to implement a PPC campaign, be sure to carefully plan and optimize them. You need to regularly monitor and adjust your campaigns to maximize their effectiveness and minimize potential drawbacks.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

SEO is a digital marketing strategy whose goal is to improve a website’s visibility and organic (unpaid) search engine rankings. It involves implementing various techniques and strategies to enhance a website’s relevance and authority in the eyes of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Done right, you can improve organic traffic to a website, increase its online visibility, and ultimately attract more targeted visitors, leading to higher conversion rates and business growth.

SEO encompasses both on-page and off-page optimization, focusing on factors such as:

By implementing effective SEO practices, you can increase your online presence, attract more qualified visitors, and ultimately enhance your brand visibility and conversions.

Key benefits of SEO

Long-term results

Once you have implemented a sound organic search strategy, you continue to generate traffic and leads for your website. You do have to maintain and adapt your SEO strategy to changes in the search engines, but you won’t drop out of the results immediately like you do when you stop paying for traffic. While it may take some time to see results from SEO, the benefits can be significant and long-lasting.

Visibility and Traffic

By optimizing your website for specific keywords and user intent, you can align your content with the needs and interests of your target audience. Your content will then attract a more targeted audience, making it more likely that these visitors will convert into leads or customers.

What is the sense of having a website that gets no traffic? Unfortunately a lot of websites still don’t get much traffic. They built a website and thought people would come.

By optimizing your website for specific keywords and user intent, you can align your content with the needs and interests of your target audience. Your content will then attract a more targeted audience, making it more likely that these visitors will convert into leads or customers.

Your website should act as your premier sales person. If people can’t find you or see what you offer and how you can help, your website is not doing its job. A professional website is important to your business, but only if it is visible to those looking for what you offer. SEO is the most effective way to do this.

Credibility and Trust

Higher rankings in the search engine results also build brand awareness. When your site is on the first page of the search results, your potential customers see a brand that is the authority for the topic. This raises your credibility and authority and puts your business ahead of your competition.

Creating high-quality, relevant content can improve user experience. Landing on a page that has thin or poorly written content detracts from your brand image. If the content helps your visitors, they will come back for more. This can lead to increasing your credibility and expertise in your niche. People are more likely to trust businesses whose content appears at the top of the search results. This leads to increased brand awareness, loyalty, and referrals.

Featured snippets

A featured snippet is a brief summary appearing at the top of Google’s search results designed to answer the searcher’s query. It is an excerpt from your web page that gives your content greater visibility.

If Google chooses your content as the top answer to the search query, it can boost your traffic and your authority in your industry. It does depend on the query and the content contained within the snippet as to whether this makes sense to your business. If the content answers the question completely, it could result in a zero-click outcome.

But, for most service businesses, it could encourage people to contact your business because you have demonstrated expertise in that particular topic.


SEO does require an investment in terms of time and resources. There is work to do to ensure your content is optimized. But, it is a cost-effective way to generate traffic and revenue for your business. SEO can provide a high ROI over time and help to maximize your marketing budget.

Competitive advantage

Implementing effective SEO practices can ensure your small business can compete with larger competitors for search engine rankings. With the right strategies and optimizations, you can increase your online presence and gain visibility alongside industry leaders.

Better user experience

Improving the overall user experience of your website enhances SEO performance and increases the likelihood of repeat visits and conversions. Page load speed, mobile-friendliness, intuitive navigation and relevant content contribute to a positive user experience and can impact how your website ranks.

All small businesses should implement organic search marketing. It is an ongoing process that requires monitoring, analysis and adjustments, but in the long run has lasting benefits for your small business.

SEO challenges for small businesses

There are several challenges that most small businesses face when trying to implement an SEO strategy.

Takes time to gain visibility

SEO takes time, patience and consistent effort to achieve results. SEO is like planting your gardens in the spring and watching in anticipation for it to grow and bloom. The reality is that SEO is a long-term strategy that builds momentum over time. SEO requires that you understand the many aspects of SEO to ensure search engines can determine the value of your content to users search intent.

Quality content

Well-written, optimized content is the foundation of your inbound marketing strategy. Without content, there is nothing to optimize. Small business owners are hard pressed to find time to write content when they are dealing with other challenges in their businesses. 


SEO takes time to produce organic rankings. If you are looking for immediate return on an investment, SEO is not the strategy to pursue. But if you have patience to build your web presence using organic search strategies, your business will become visible and will continue to stay visible long after the initial effort was made. Regular maintenance and new optimized content can keep you visible for the long term. 

Technical SEO

Optimizing your content is only one piece of the SEO puzzle. There are technical aspects to SEO that need to be implemented so your content optimization doesn’t go to waste. These factors include things like website performance, mobile support, link structure, optimized images with alt tags, sitemaps and keyword research. 


Although maybe not as big as a budget for PPC ads, SEO still needs a budget. You need to hire the right resources to create and optimize your content and implement technical SEO on your website. You can try to do it all yourself, but most small business owners realize that it may not be a good use of their time. Outsourcing this to someone that knows the intricacy of content, optimization and technical SEO is worth the investment. This investment can have long-term benefits for your business.

Limited control over search engine rankings

While SEO helps improve your website’s visibility in search results, ultimately, search engines determine the rankings. Factors such as user behavior, location, and personalized search results influence rankings, and they are beyond the control of website owners.

Search engines frequently update their algorithms to provide better search results to users. These updates can sometimes result in significant changes to rankings, even for websites that have been performing well. Adapting to algorithm changes and adjusting SEO strategies accordingly is essential to maintain and improve rankings.

Highly competitive

Depending on your industry and target keywords, competing with established websites and larger competitors who have already established strong online presence can be challenging. Gaining visibility and outranking these more prominent competitors requires strategic optimization and ongoing efforts.

Despite these potential disadvantages, SEO remains a valuable long-term marketing strategy.

Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Determining whether PPC or SEO is more suitable for your digital marketing strategy depends on several factors, including your business goals, budget, timeline and target audience. Consider the following points to make an informed decision:

  1. Immediate results vs. long-term investment: If immediate visibility and quick results are crucial, PPC is a suitable option. However, if you’re willing to invest in a long-term strategy that yields sustainable organic traffic, SEO is the way to go.
  2. Budget and resources: PPC requires a dedicated budget for advertising spend. SEO demands investments in content creation, optimization, and technical improvements. Evaluate your financial resources and allocate funds accordingly.
  3. Competition and industry: Assess the level of competition in your industry and the search volume of relevant keywords. This data will provide input to the potential for organic visibility. This analysis can help determine which strategy will yield better results.


PPC advertising and SEO are both valuable components of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. The decision between the two depends on your unique business goals, budget constraints, and target audience.

  • PPC offers immediate visibility and precise targeting. This makes it ideal for businesses seeking quick results and have the budget to invest in paid advertising.
  • SEO provides long-term sustainability, credibility, and cost-effectiveness. This makes it a preferred choice for businesses willing to invest time and resources into organic growth.

It’s important to note that PPC and SEO can also complement each other. Use PPC to drive immediate traffic. Simultaneously, work on SEO to improve organic search rankings. Together, they can create a comprehensive and balanced approach.

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