SEO vs. PPC: What’s the Difference, and Which Should You Use?

If you want to grow your website’s audience, one of the largest sources of traffic is search engines like Google. However, when it comes to generating traffic from search engines, you have more options: search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC). So what’s the difference between SEO and PPC?

SEO refers to the natural ranking of your site in Google’s organic search results. On the other hand, with PPC, you have to pay in order to promote your site in the ads that appear on the same search-results page. Both are viable tactics to bring traffic to your website, and you can even employ SEO and PPC at the same time depending on your goals. Learn more about the difference between SEO and PPC, as well as how and when to implement each strategy for best results.

SEO vs. PPC: The core differences

With SEO, you’re optimizing your site to show Google that your content is the most relevant for a given search term (keyword). If you’re successful, Google will rank your content in the organic search results and you won’t have to pay for any visitors that click through your site.

While free traffic sounds wonderful, there are some important aspects to consider with SEO:

  • You cannot force Google to rank your site. You’re at the whims of Google’s search algorithm, and there are never any guarantees.

  • It takes time and effort, especially in competitive industries and niches. Sometimes you’ll need to wait months to move up the rankings, and some terms are just too competitive to rank naturally.

Pay-per-click allows you to use Google Ads to guarantee that your website appears in the advertisement section at the top of Google’s search results. This means you can:

  • Start generating traffic instantly. There’s no waiting like there is with SEO; you can see results immediately.

  • Control exactly which search terms your site appears for, whereas SEO only lets you indirectly suggest terms through optimization.

However, the trade-off is that you’ll need to pay for each and every visitor with PPC, whereas traffic from SEO is free. If you have a large advertising budget or a time-sensitive offer, PPC guarantees targeted traffic right away. SEO gives you a chance to access the same visitors for free, but it takes longer to start working, and there’s no guarantee that Google will rank your site.

You can use SEO and PPC at the same time

SEO vs. PPC is not an either/or situation, and you can employ both strategies in tandem depending on your goals.

If you want to promote something right away, you can use PPC as an immediate source of targeted traffic. However, you can also implement SEO as a more long-term way to generate traffic at a lower cost.

Start growing your traffic today

Whether you’re planning to implement SEO, PPC, or both, the best time to get started is today.

If you’re a Premium or Business plan subscriber, you can get a free $100 Google Ads credit to experiment with PPC, and you can implement these important SEO basics to start the long-term process of ranking your website on Google.

Thousands of small businesses and online stores call home.

Whether you’re looking to promote your business or share your story, we have a plan that’s right for you.

Create your own website