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SEO vs. PPC: Where Should I Invest My Marketing Budget?

You’re planning out your marketing budget, and like with most businesses, you want to maximize results with minimal spend. I get it, we’ve all been there. It’s why I often get asked the question: if I had to choose between search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising, where do I invest my marketing dollars?

There’s a couple of different ways to answer this, but first, let’s start with definitions:

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): determining the keywords or phrases that a potential customer will plug into a search engine to find a solution to their problem or need, and then optimizing the content, meta descriptions, titles, images (and over 200 other characteristics) on your website to reflect those keywords or phrases. The ability to show knowledge and authority on a topic is how the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing will determine your website ranking.

PPC (Pay Per Click Advertising): paying for advertising on a search engine such as Google Adwords or on social media. PPC advertising is targeted based on a number of factors, including keywords on search engine result pages, demographic, location, interests and more. You get the benefit of people seeing your ad based on the targeting and search term, but only pay when someone clicks on it.

You might be thinking, “Hey, SEO sounds way more cost effective. All I have to do is build in a bunch of keywords to my website content and I’ll be a search engine superstar.”

Sorry to take the wind out of your sails, but that assumption is wrong. Let’s break this down.

A case for SEO

The top five organic (non-paid) search results on the first page of Google net approximately 75 percent of the clicks. So yes, it’s important to make SEO part of your marketing budget. But when it comes to cost you have to think of it in terms of time and money.

To properly optimize your website, you must first research the keywords and longer tail keyword phrases your audience is most likely to be searching. Google Keyword Planner is a great resource and it costs nothing, but it’ll take you time to do that research. You have to sift through many keyword options to find the one(s) that will attract quality leads in your niche. Remember: if you go too broad, the wrong people will land on your site.

Next, you have to create the content, and it has to be good, compelling, relevant content. It must be the type of content that builds your online authority and positions you as a thought leader. Will you do that all yourself, or do you need a content specialist? Start watching the clock because this all takes time and your time is actually worth something. This is why many businesses hire SEO specialists or digital marketing agencies to handle SEO, simply because it’s too time-consuming and they don’t have the expertise.

And speaking of time, you have to be patient with SEO. It is a longer term play and you won’t necessarily see the benefits immediately. You have to build more content and authority, and have your pages indexed by the search engines (which happens behind the scenes and is out of your control). So invest the time, and reap the rewards later.

An argument for pay-per-click advertising

Now let’s turn our attention to pay-per-click advertising. In 2016, online advertising will surpass TV advertising in terms of dollars spent globally — and with good reason. More people are starting their research into products and services online, than any other source.

The attraction of PPC is the immediacy. You set a budget, set your targets and you start seeing immediate, measurable results based on actions that matter to you, i.e. clicks, conversions and cost. Let’s consider Google Adwords first. In many cases, the cost per click for a Google ad is low, especially if you are creative with the keyword targeting and choose a keyword with low or medium competition. For example, if you own a hair salon, you may not want your ad to bid on the search term ‘hair salon’. The competition and cost would be fierce. Instead, you place your ad bid on a search term such as ‘best hair salon in Barrie’. Not only will this search term cost less, it will also generate more targeted search traffic, and therefore, more qualified leads.

Now, let’s take the same example and apply it to a social media ad, such as Facebook. You’re removing the keyword bid aspect when you run a social media ad. Instead you are purely focusing the ad on region, demographics and interests. This means your ad is showing up in people’s social feeds even if they weren’t necessarily searching for it. They are seeing your ad because they fit the demographic you set in your targeting, and to use the same hair salon example, their interests and posts are related to hair or beauty related interests. Just as with Google ads, you only pay when someone clicks, so these ads can arguably be even more cost effective than Google because you don’t have to bid on keywords.

But there are downsides to PPC: when you stop paying the traffic dives and many people simply ignore paid and sponsored ads. That’s why it’s important to make PPC part of an overall strategy that doesn’t only rest on paid ads.

SEO vs. PPC: The answer

You probably knew this answer was coming. You need to find the right combination of both search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. This combination will really depend on your business and its goals. We typically recommend investing some of budget into content creation to generate the long term SEO benefits, and some in PPC for immediate results specifically when you have a new product, service or big announcement to make.

If you want to learn more about the SEO vs PPC debate, connect with us and we’ll be happy to shed more light.

Corey Shelson, Digital Marketer

Author Corey Shelson, Digital Marketer

A diverse leader with a strong entrepreneurial background, Corey has been managing teams and delivering projects on time, on budget and on scope for over 10 years. With a Computer Hardware Engineering Degree from the Royal Military College of Canada and MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business, Corey has an innate ability to dissect complex problems, create clear and concise strategies and execute projects with precision. Corey founded 44 North Digital Marketing in 2015 and has led the company's rapid growth ever since.

More posts by Corey Shelson, Digital Marketer

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