SEO vs PPC – When Should You Pay for Traffic?

When you’re a new business, it can be hard to know where to invest your money, particularly in terms of marketing. Should you focus primarily on SEO, and limit your PPC budget, or start out with PPC as your focal point?

When you’re a new business, it can be hard to know where to invest your money, particularly in terms of marketing. Should you focus primarily on SEO, and limit your PPC budget, or start out with PPC as your focal point? There’s no simple answer to this question, as it will depend on things like the size of your business and your industry. 

As a general rule, SEO should be your main priority, but this might not be the case when you’re just starting out. To help you get to grips with SEO vs PPC, we’ve explored this topic in more detail below:

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which is exactly what it sounds like. When you practise SEO, you tailor and optimise your content so that search engines rank it higher. This in turn makes it more likely that your audience will see and trust your content. The main thing to remember with SEO is that it’s free – you’re not paying for traffic but getting it organically. 

When consumers are looking for a particular product or service, they’ll often enter a search term into a search engine like Google. For example, if someone were interested in buying a second hand car, they might type something like ‘used cars near me’ into the search bar. And as a seller of second hand vehicles, if you’ve used the right keywords and other SEO tactics, hopefully your site will be listed on the first few pages of Google search results. The consumer would then find your website and look at the options you have available. 

Should You Just Focus on Google?

Most marketers tend to focus on Google optimisation, rather than other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. This is because Google holds over 92% of the search engine market share. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t optimise your site for search engines like Bing though – although they’re only responsible for around 5% of online searches, that still equates to thousands of searches a day. 

You should also consider your target demographic. The main users of Bing are aged between 55 and 64, and are in receipt of a higher income. So if your audience fall into this bracket, it may be worth looking at Bing as well as Google. 

What is PPC?

PPC, or pay-per-click, is a marketing method where you pay a publisher (generally Google or a social media platform) for every click you get on an ad. This means that you’re only paying when someone who is interested in your product or service finds your website. Hopefully this will result in a high conversion rate.

PPC ads will run alongside organic search results, but will usually be placed much higher up the page. These adverts can help your business stay competitive, particularly if you’ve not yet built up the domain authority to rank well organically.

ppc vs seo
Pros of SEO and PPC

When it comes to the benefits of SEO and PPC, there are numerous advantages to both. First, we’ll look at the benefits of Search Engine Optimisation: 

1. SEO is Cheaper Overall

There are some initial expenses associated with SEO, such as employing freelancers to create content, and purchasing SEO tools, but it should be much cheaper in the long run. Once you have customers coming to your website organically, you’ll no longer have to spend as much money getting traffic. SEO is also incredibly scalable – it doesn’t rely on a huge budget and should just keep improving over time. 

2. Build Brand Authority

If your site is appearing near the top of search results on a regular basis, this will help build your brand authority, as well as trust in your products and services. Ranking highly should also indicate to Google that you’re an expert in your field, which can lead to backlinks from other sites, increasing your ranking further.

3. SEO Content is More Diverse

With SEO, you can create all sorts of content, from blog posts and guides to podcasts and videos. This means that you’ll be able to reach a much wider audience, who prefer accessing content in different formats. You should also be able to meet your audience at different stages of the sales funnel – with PPC, you’re only interacting with people at the start of the sales journey. 

SEO is also a more stable form of marketing. With PPC, because you’re essentially paying for traffic, how much you get will depend on your budget. With SEO, on the other hand, if you’ve laid the groundwork, you should get steady traffic each month. 

There are also many benefits of Pay Per Click advertising. Most marketers use a combined strategy of both PPC and SEO, in order to get the best results. Let’s look at the main advantages of PPC below:

1. See Fast Results 

It can take months to get results from a SEO campaign, but you could see the difference a PPC ad campaign makes in minutes. And because ads appear above organic rankings, your website should appear on the first page of Google, which should mean even higher traffic volumes.  

2. Target a Specific Audience 

When you set up a PPC ad campaign, you can choose the exact type of audience you want to be shown these ads. Whether this is geographical, age related, concerns their interests, or any number of factors, you can target a very specific demographic.

3. Easy to Measure Results

Most marketers choose to run A/B tests with PPC ads, so that they can see which strategies work well and convert better. You can quickly see the results of each campaign, looking at analytics such as click through rate and conversion, and then adjust your strategy accordingly.

Cons of SEO and PPC

In terms of the disadvantages of both SEO and PPC, there are obvious limitations to each. We’ve outlined the main three cons of SEO below:

1. SEO Takes Time

The key disadvantage of Search Engine Optimisation is that you’re highly unlikely to see instant results. You probably won’t benefit from the fruits of your labour until six months down the line, which is largely due to the way Google ranks websites. 

2. You Have to Update Regularly 

Not only do you need to update your content on a fairly regular basis to optimise your site as much as possible, you’ve also got to keep up to date with the latest search engine algorithm changes, and amend your copy accordingly. Google in particular has done a lot of significant updates over the last few years, so you have to be mindful of how that will impact your SEO strategy. 

3. SEO Isn’t Easy

Implementing a SEO does require some level of expertise. You need to understand your target audience, as well as how to write optimised content, and how to create a link building strategy. Just learning these skills can be time consuming, let alone the time it takes to see significant results!


When it comes to the limitations of PPC, the most obvious is the expense. Unlike SEO, you have to pay for traffic. Other disadvantages include lower profit margins, and the need to change up your content regularly. 

1. PPC is Not Cheap

You can’t run a PPC campaign without a relatively large budget. Each time your audience clicks on a link, you’ll have to pay a fee, and depending on the keywords you bid on and your industry, each click might be expensive. 

2. Lower Profit Margins

Although you’re likely to see short term wins with PPC, overall this strategy tends to have lower profit margins than SEO. This is because the cost of acquiring customers usually gets higher, while the price of your products and services may not change. 

3. Ads Need to Be Updated

You can’t just keep running a successful ad with PPC. After a while, the advert will become stale, and other businesses may imitate your wording, to try and get the same level of success. There are only so many things you and your competitors can say with a limited word count too!

marketing strategies


Generally speaking, there isn’t really a way to avoid using both SEO and PPC in your marketing campaigns. You’ll probably focus mainly on PPC after launching your business, and will gradually build up your SEO strategy so that you don’t have to spend as much on ads. And each marketing method can be useful for different things. 

For instance, if you want to get quick results, are promoting a limited time offer, or want to target a specific audience, PPC will be the best option. But if you’re looking to build up your brand authority, spend less money, and maximise your ROI, SEO is the strategy for you. 

Overall, the best thing to do is combine the two strategies, experimenting with what works most effectively where. Keep testing until you see the results you’re hoping for, and even then, it’s best practice to make the occasional tweak. No marketing strategy is perfect, but you can strive to get as close to perfection as possible!