Adwords and SEO are the main components of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and are among your most valuable tools when running digital marketing campaigns.
They have differences and similarities and there are situations that you should use them together or separately depending on your business and marketing goals.
What is Google AdWords?
If you are new to digital marketing, you may have heard people talking about PPC, Adwords, and terms like CPC, bids, and campaigns without knowing what these buzzwords mean.
Don’t worry, the purpose of this post is to clear things out. Let’s get started.
Google Adwords (now known as Google Ads) is an advertising platform owned by Google.
Advertisers can use this platform to position their ads in the Google Search Result Pages, Google Products (YouTube, Gmail, etc) and to thousands of other websites that participate in the AdWords program as publishers (that’s Google Adsense).
As an advertiser, you can choose to pay when someone clicks on your ad (Cost Per Click or CPC) or when people see your ad (CPM or Cost per Thousands of Impressions).
The whole Adwords system works like a big auction where advertisers compete for available advertising places.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO has to do with getting better rankings in the search engine results pages of Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other major search engines.
In order to achieve that, you need to make sure that your website is search engine friendly.
A search engine friendly website can be ‘read’ easily by search engines and used with ease by users.
You can read my SEO tips for the most important configurations you need to apply to your website to make it search engine friendly but the general idea is to have a fast and functional website with unique content that offers a good experience to the end-user.
AdWords VS SEO
Now that you have a general idea of what is AdWords and SEO let’s see how they compare:
- Adwords is for Google sites and websites that use Google Adsense while SEO best practices, are applicable for all search engines.
- Adwords traffic is paid while organic traffic is free
- Adwords ads appear on the top and bottom of Google Search Results and under certain conditions you can get one of those ad positions, but with SEO you have to work much harder to get one of the top positions in the organic search results.
- Adwords is more immediate than SEO since you can create advertising campaigns almost instantly and start getting targeted traffic while with SEO you need a lot more time (especially for new websites) to get good rankings and traffic.
- With Adwords is easier to calculate the ROI while with SEO is more difficult because there are a lot more factors that play a role and not just ad spending and revenue.
- When you stop your AdWords campaigns traffic also stops but once you start getting organic traffic with SEO, this will continue long term.
- With Adwords, you can target many keywords at the same time while with SEO you need to focus on a few keywords for best results.
- With Adwords, you can advertise on other Google websites and websites that use Google Adsense but the results from SEO are only for the search results pages.
You can also read my previous article: What is the difference between SEO and PPC for more examples of how these two tools differ.
Which is the best for your Marketing?
New companies can start with AdWords
When we started out as a pure SEO agency, the main goal in our internet marketing campaigns was to help our customers get traffic from Search Engines through SEO.
This is still our major goal today but through the years and from our experience working with clients in different niches we realized that business owners sometimes need results faster and more immediate and this is where Adwords comes into play.
The biggest advantage of Adwords over SEO is that it can generate results faster.
You will have to pay for each of the visits you get from Adwords but if your campaigns are profitable you can justify the investment in PPC and meet your business objectives.
Adwords is ideal for startups and new companies that want to get targeted traffic quickly for the purpose of making sales, finding new customers or even for testing their products, procedures, website effectiveness and any other component in their sales or marketing processes.
The above is true if you use AdWords wisely and carefully. It is very easy to start spending money on AdWords and if you don’t have proper monitoring and control tools you will end up making losses instead of profits.
What I always tell my clients about Adwords is that if you don’t use it correctly it will be like playing in a Casino where you spend money with the wishful thinking that sometimes you will get it back, but you never do!
So, while the system is easy to use (so that you spend more), if you don’t have the knowledge and experience to run Adword Campaigns, save your money and hire professional companies (preferably Adwords Partners) to do it for you.
This is the best approach so that you don’t lose money but benefit from the use of Google Ads.
Don’t forget about SEO
While is a good idea to start with Adwords because it’s faster, you should also begin working with SEO, Content marketing and social media for best results. These 3 tools are all you need for long term online success.
Content marketing will help you create the right content, SEO will help you optimize your content for search engines and get more organic traffic and social media will promote your SEO optimized content to a wider audience.
Should I use Adwords and SEO at the same time?
Some people argue that when you get SEO traffic you don’t need to use AdWords but this is a wrong approach.
Even if you have good rankings, you can still use Adwords and get more exposure for the same keywords that you get SEO traffic.
You can measure the performance of your Adwords campaigns and if they are profitable you can even increase your budgets for a higher ROI.
So, which is the best to use for marketing, SEO or Adwords?
The answer is straightforward, both. Use Adwords to start getting traffic and in parallel work on your SEO, content marketing plan and social media campaigns so that you get organic traffic and visits from social networks.
Adwords and SEO are not competitors but they are two powerful tools available in your digital marketing arsenal.
You can use Adwords when you want traffic fast but you need SEO for a long term and sustainable online success.
amit khatkar says
i think seo is better than adwords because with seo we don’t have to pay a bunch of money to anyone ,we can do seo at our own
While this is true, Adwords is a faster solution than SEO if you need traffic immediately. Of course, to create a sustainable online business, you need SEO traffic.
I think when you start early to test your offers adwords is a good tool but for better roi you need to concentrate on seo as there is nothing like organic traffic and the success one can have with organic traffic can’t be replaced with paid traffic.
Totally agree with you.
Bhim Rai says
I think it depends on what your business is and some few other factors such as your budget in instance. Say you have 10k to spend on monthly ad and you spend that 10k in ad and on the other hand your seo is good too (you are in top 3). Now that is a win-win situation here.
My point here is if you have the budget and good grasp of seo than that I called a good marketing.
Stefan Martinez says
Both SEO and AdWords are great tools. They certainly compliment each other. I always encourage clients to take advantage of both as this will only give you additional “real estate” on Google and other search engines should you decide to go the paid route on Bing or Yahoo.
I look forward to reading more of your posts.
Stefan T. Martinez
Thanks for your nice comments.
Both tools are useful if used properly. Adwords is a great tool with branding and new products. SEO is more like a long term strategy. To test conversions, adwords is very useful and comes in handy while seo targets are not yet reached. It is costly but you get what you pay for. I agree too that seo – if it works could be the winner in the long run.
I agree with you that adwords is great for new products. It will give you an idea on what works (and what doesn’t), until your SEO starts to generate traffic.
Bryant J. says
Great article, thank you for sharing.
I think that SEO and google adwords are not competitors, but complements to one another. They should be used together to rank up your website. Adwords helps you chose the keywords you want and should use, while SEO is used to support your website and rank it up.As Jan said above in his comment “Both tools are useful if used properly”.
Very well said!
Hi guys thanks for sharing your knowledge. We really appreciate your advices about SEO. We are trying to get same good positions in Brasil. Your advices really helped us. Thanks again
Sukhen Tanchangya says
Impressive, I’m very happy to say thank you so much.
Thank u for sharing. Both search enginee optimization and AdWords are excellent equipment. They unquestionably compliment each other. But I prefer AdWords.
This is very useful!
Thank you very much!
I’m like really new to SEO, Adword, etc. but your blog has enlighten my knowledge on the field.
So it’s a good start 🙂
Gretha Quinlan says
Thank you Chris!
Ganesh SARAVANAN says
Yes both are important for a website , especially for a business’ traffic. But with so many changes happening in Google’s algorithm I wonder if Google is slowly moving towards showing only ads on page 1. What are your thoughts on it?
Great post by the way, thanks.
It is true that Google Adwords Ads are shown above the search results (currently Google may show up to 4 ads), but still top positions organically are very important.
As you said, both are needed especially for ‘business’ traffic.
This is a very valuable post and does a great job of explaining the difference between seo and adwords. Thanks for posting.
Sergios Charalambous says
SEO off course!!! expensive in short term but at the end it pays out
Jens Lundgren says
You’re definitely right, I get questions from clients all the time asking whether I recommend Adwords or SEO, the answer is almost always: both. Unless the rare cases where Adwords is too competitive to make a profit of course. Any business that wants to compete for real typically needs both though. Solid article.
Paula Daniel says
Good article and a question that my clients ask all the time. I tell them it is like salt and pepper – each is OK but together they are everything. Also adwords gives you the quick but expensive results whereas search engine optimization takes longer but also is more long lasting. good work. thanks
Mike Wiseman says
I find SEO to be a better way of marketing, you get long term results not like adwords. I find it especially better for conversion rates as SEO helps target consumers actively searching for a specific product or service.
Chris Wyatt says
Sometimes Adwords is good for immediate traffic, but SEO is always the best practice for a long-term business investment/goal. Only a fraction of all the Adwords campaigns are shared among them all, while a third of all clicks go to the top spot alone, so I’m on the same page it sounds like.
Corey Hartmann says
I should say that both Adwords and SEO are both useful tools in the internet marketing field. What matters more is how knowledgeable you are in using them.
Alasdair Walker says
I feel mixing both together yields best effects, being able to target specific key searches with your website through organic SEO, then from a branding perspective, you can have PPC working for you as well to target other searches.
grant mcarthur says
i think for more local terms, SEO is better in the long run and definitely more of an investment.
Adwords work if you have a massive national budget and target. Also for selling products in an ecommerce store, rather than a service like a gardener or plumber!
Ben McDavid says
I think the marketer for a given firm really needs to consider the channels that are appropriate to the niche. Ad Words/Ad Sense display networks have an advantage that SEO does not, and that is showing people something they didn’t know they needed.
If you released a new media product (Video/TV series, online game, etc.), fashion product, or another luxury item, the ad words display network gets the word out to generate the searches that SEO needs to produce revenue. It’s critical to keep this synergy in mind when developing an all-encompassing strategy.
Nick P says
Good article and very accurate.
For all businesses it is important to have many channels to get customers. You don’t want to put all your advertising eggs in one basket. If that “basket” breaks or is not very effective then you are just throwing money away.
I start off a clients campaign with PPC such as Google adwords or facebook advertising to get them immediate results and build an email list. While promotions and PPC campaigns I am ranking them organically for their keywords using SEO. Once they are ranking for their money keywords they do not need to spend as much, if anything on PPC.
Todd Daugherty says
Long term, we recommend to our clients SEO. We encourage to treat their digital properties as assets. Until built, PPC is great to get targeted traffic. Getting all of your traffic from one source be it PPC or search engine isn’t advisable. Proper SEO will allow your traffic to come from engines and other websites.
Yes, diversity of traffic is very important for long term success.
Thanks for commenting
Katongole Johnny says
Thanks for the differentiation about these 2 words Adwords and Seo where we need both to build our business,for faster traffic need Adwords,long lasting traffic use Seo but need the combination of both for better results
Fact: Combining both SEO and Adwords can get you the best possible results.
Grant Finlay says
Like a lot of people have said in the comments (and I agree with) by doing SEO and Adwords at the same time, it can build more trust for a website and lead to better results
I believe using Adwords can help business owners test out if the keyword they want has a good search volume before they invest in SEO. Both these tools are powerful to increase your online presence.
Thanks for this post! I’ve always pushed SEO and haven’t really taken the time to analyze the benefits of Paid Traffic. This article gave me a better perspective. Thanks again
Alex, thank you so much for sharing this.
I often talk to potential clients about this, and generally, the message they have taken from so many sources is that they should just get SEO, or they should completely avoid it and use AdWords out of fear they will get their site de-indexed.
It usually becomes a fairly long conversation, however, after sharing things in pretty much the same way as you have here they see the light and the advantage of doing both at the same time.
Adwords is a great way to achieve a good increase in traffic and sales, and SEO provides a long-term win for ensuring success.
Thanks for sharing this, great to know it will help so many!
Alex, exactly my thought. We have been working with an SEO company and had been with them for a year. The traffic didn’t turn out great despite the improved content marketing in place. Through experience however, I noticed a sudden rise in Adwords placements, enough to convince me that for exposure Adwords works best (pay for visibility) for immediate results or short term goals, but continue with SEO for stabilized searchability ranks which is for the long term goal. Thanks for your valuable explanations that gives it proper conviction.
John Smith says
I can say that, clients must invest in Adwords initially along with SEO. And after some time, they must invest in SEO. Because SEO is more powerful tool that adwords.
SEO is a long term and sustainable process. Where adwords depends on money.
The biggest difference is – You can start SEO just from $100 USD per month, but you will have to spend huge money on adwords.
Jayaraj Chanku says
Thank you for this awesome article. I think Adwords and SEO are complimentary and each of them have its own advantages. Your article enlighten my knowledge by making it more keen and clear about both.
Thank you for this amazing post.
Mohammed Saqlain says
Thank you for taking out your busy time to write this article. Literally, I was confused between AdWords and SEO. Now I got to know what is the difference between AdWords and SEO.
Great post. This is a very informative post to understand the difference between SEO & Google Adwords and its impact on marketing platform. It will be more convenient to explain to the client about their benifit.thanks for sharing such an informative post.
Alex Chris says
Thanks a lot for your feedback. All the best!
Very hard to find a great SEO company. Over the past few years i have used few local & few international SEO companies with great reputation but the results were very poor. I don`t think a third party can help you out a lot. I manage to bring all my companies on the first pages on Google with tones of unique articles, good links & business postings.
I found some very good Google Shopping companies that could help a lot with google ads but SEO is a different story
Really a nice piece of writing. We liked this very much.
Waiting for next blog.
Sandeep G. says
A good read for new marketers and is an eye-opener for clients. Most clients either assume or fail to differentiate between paid and organic search results. This blog hits the bullseye mentioning how both forms of marketing are different and can be very beneficial when used in combination.
Very simple and clearly explained content.