Back to Basics What Is the Difference between SEO and PPC And which is Better

What is SEO?

SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, is the process of gaining traffic to a site through free, organic, natural search engine results.

What is PPC?

PPC, also known as Pay Per Click is a method of advertising via internet service providers to gain traffic for a website.

SEO and PPC both serve the same purpose – driving online traffic towards a site.

However, there’s a core difference between the two. The traffic coming from SEO is organic, that is free. Traffic from PPC on the other hand isn’t free, as it’s made clear in the name (Pay Per Click).

But both practices are variations of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), a key tool used for Internet Marketing campaigns.

Actual Differences between SEO and PPC

When you run a search through Google, you’ll sometimes find search results that are highlighted as advertised results. These advertised results are commonly found either at the bottom or top of the search results list and are born of an arrangement with Google to promote the advertised sites on the front-page of search lists in exchange for payment (Pay Per Click).

On the other hand, organic search results are those sites listed naturally on a search page without any indication of being an advert. These are sites who have earned their place on the search result sheet through hard earned points gained by optimizing their SEO. They might not have paid for their spot on the search result in cash, but they surely earned it with sweat, tears and craft.

The position of a Pay Per Click ad on a search page depends on – the targeted keywords, the number of said keywords in the ad copy, the number of keywords on the landing page, and other factors. But they’re usually positioned at the top or below the organic results. This just goes to show that even if paid for, a certain degree of SEO still needs to be done on a site for it to be optimally represented on a search result.

Simply put, if you choose to apply an SEO tactic, you can get top page positions on search results if your website is search engine optimized. But if you’re running a PPC campaign, your ad gets on the first page by paying a higher cost per click.

Do you need your site to appear on the first page of a search result? And what will it cost you?

I did mention earlier that SEO is a free way to get traffic, that is, from a cash standpoint, unlike PPC which is paid for in cash. While this is true, it also raises my other point, which is, it takes loads of effort to get top SERP ranking and free traffic via SEO.

Competition is always tight for keywords, especially popular ones. A professionally built website operating the perfect SEO plan sounds like a great recipe for gaining the top 5 positioning on search engine results. “But that’s easier said than done, unless there’s a specialist handling it on your behalf”,

Regardless of what some SEO themed blogs or workshops might have preached to you, if you are not familiar with the inner workings of how search engines work, you’re better off getting an expert to either train you or do the actual work for you.

But true and trusted SEO experts aren’t necessarily cheap.

On the other hand, the cost for a Pay Per Click service depends on a host of factors. For example, the cost per click of advertising on Google Adwords will be calculated by considering popularity of the chosen keywords, the number of advertisers interested in that particular keyword, and other elements.

But there is a silver lining when it comes to PPC, and that is, you pay for only the clicks your ad receives.

Which actually drives more traffic to a site? SEO or PPC?

Overall, organic traffic through SEO is usually overwhelmingly more than PPC’s traffic. Which means, if you manage to tweak your website to perfection and optimize your keywords, you’ll actually get more traffic in the long run than with paying for those keywords through PPC.

This is because when you are organically ranked on search engines’ top positions (the majority of internet users only click on the first five search results), it’s expected that your top ranked site will enjoy a continuous flow of traffic without having to pay Google for it.

Organic traffic is continuous as long as you are ranking in one of the top positions.

Simply put, organic traffic provides better and longer lasting results for your site in both quantity and quality.

Also, if you were to gain the same amount of traffic via PPC, that would translate to a bigger cost because you’d have to pay your Pay Per Click provider for every one of those clicks on your ad. Picture it this way; if your PPC campaign is hugely successful and you get a million clicks, you’d have to pay for those million clicks. And pay you will, because trust me, you don’t want to owe a Don like Google.

But if you tried going the SEO way and couldn’t reach your targeted audience, then you really have no choice but to indulge in PPC to achieve your goals.


Conversion is when a site’s visitors become paying customers or loyal visitors.

When ads are highly optimized and targeted, they are more likely to convert a visitor through PPC than through an organic search.


If your web page is ranked because of multiple keywords and good SEO, an online searcher might visit your site, but not because he/she has found what they’re looking for.

With a successful PPC campaign, you get your ad clicked on by visitors who are totally interested and have invested in your content because your ad has shown them that they’ve found precisely what they’re searching for.


The truth is, using either SEO or PPC comes at a unique price. And the said price can be a high one especially if you don’t possess the requisite knowledge.

Getting the best out of SEO takes time and maximum effort. The worst part is, your effort might be for nought if Google suddenly changes its algorithm to one that spites your SEO tactic. But if you win, you win big.

PPC is more or less a sure-fire method that can grant you short term, instant gratification if your PPC campaign is successful.


“To get more bang for your buck, how about running a PPC and SEO campaign at the same time if you can afford it?”

You can’t go wrong with running such a strategy and you end up with the best of both worlds. But like I said, “…If you can afford it…”

If not, move forward with a PPC campaign if there’s a product that draws high conversion on your site.  

And if you’ve got shallow pockets, buckle down and tread the narrow path to heaven by using the more pocket friendly SEO. Results take time, but if done right, the longer lasting results are worth it.

On a final note, it’s worth remembering that a site that’s SEO optimized will do better running a PPC campaign than a site with a poor SEO rating.

One Comment

  1. October 10, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Excellent post! I read your blog often and your knowledge
    is amazing. Looking forward to your next post. – ShiftWeb

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