For the better part of a decade, a debate has raged on over whether organic SEO (search engine optimization) or PPC (pay per click) is smarter and more fruitful when it comes to online marketing. The reason the debate isn’t more clear-cut is actually quite obvious: PPC (which involves paying a search engine money to bid on targeted keywords) has a lot to lose if big companies with big marketing budgets decide that organic SEO is a better way to market their businesses online.

It’s not that organic SEO doesn’t cost money or require a budget. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Without an SEO expert by your side, optimizing your website and content can seem akin to learning a new language or traveling to the center of the Earth.

But with the right help, and above all, a lot of patience, organic SEO will help you improve almost every aspect of your website, from title tags to conversion rates, social media updates, articles and more.

To really understand the logistics surrounding the discussion over whether organic SEO or PPC is superior in online marketing, we must first learn how to use each tactic.

SEO vs. PPC – What’s the Difference?

To make an educated choice between SEO and PPC, you’ll want to understand how each one relates to your business specifically. Every business is different, and making a decision between SEO and PPC will often come down to industry, company size, budget constraints and the amount of online presence a business has.

Organic SEO involves optimizing a website and its content with keywords, terms and information to improve online visibility through increasing relevancy to specific search terms, which helps the website rank higher on SERPs (search engine results pages). It’s called “organic” because it is less process-oriented than PPC, meaning no money exchanges hands for the purpose of increasing search rank. You are simply putting the right information in the right places to make your website more visible to those it should be relevant to in the first place.

PPC (also sometimes called SEM or search engine marketing) requires you to bid on specific keywords in order to run an advertisement at the top of the results page that is paid for based on the number of clicks it receives.

At first glance, it may seem that both SEO and PPC are necessary parts of running an online business, or any business with a hefty online presence. That notion isn’t wrong per se, but the benefits of each tactic are as different as apples and oranges.

For example, most experts agree that SEO takes time to work well. You can’t optimize your website one day and expect your traffic to double the next. But PPC can increase web traffic the moment you start a campaign, if it’s executed properly.

Here’s the catch: search engines have reported that the overwhelming majority of clicks resulting from a search (over 80%) are on the organic links rather than sponsored PPC links, so SEO is likely to bring in more traffic than PPC in the long run.

Which Traffic Source is Really Better?

Often online marketers will tell you that it’s about striking the right balance when it comes to choosing between SEO and PPC. The right amount of both will undoubtedly help you increase traffic to your website and boost conversion rates. But there are other things to consider when it comes to running a business, and online business owners know that all too well.

Traffic that comes in from SEO is free, while traffic that is directed to your site via PPC costs money. Every click you get from a PPC ad means another person has seen your website, which is great, but that also means you have to pay up. For every click.

Targeted or PPC ads can be easily recognized because they are shown at the top of the search results page (with a little yellow box next to the URL that says “Ad”), while organic search results are shown in a list below them.

Truth is most people who have used Google more than a few times are trained to look below the fold when it comes to search results. After years of being the target of targeted advertising, people don’t want to be advertised to anymore. They want to find their own goods and services based on research, web presence and customer reviews. This is what SEO is all about: optimizing your website with key information people are searching for so they can easily find you.

However, people that click on targeted ads tend to be more highly qualified leads, meaning the people that click on your ad are more likely to want the goods and services you sell than just any person searching the web. This can increase conversion rates, but it is not a long term solution.

Therefore, online businesses and ecommerce shops looking for fast product sales or short term testing data should try out PPC, provided they have the budget to pay for it and the know-how to execute well.

Businesses interested in attracting a large amount of traffic over time, improving their website’s overall appeal and establishing trust and loyalty with visitors should definitely dive into SEO.

At the end of the day, SEO promotes more valuable long-term relationships and engagement with visitors, period. And that’s what keeps people coming back to your website.

It’s what great online marketing is all about.

Aniket Warty

Aniket Warty

Adventure Capitalist. I need no sanction for my life, permission for my freedom, or excuse for my wealth: I am the sanction, the warrant, and the reason. The creation of wealth is merely an extension of my innate freedom to produce.
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