The main difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) is that traffic coming from SEO (organic) is free while traffic generated from PPC is not free (as the name implies you have to pay a cost per click).
This is also the reason why you may sometimes see the terms organic search engine listings and paid search engine listings (or Paid Search Advertising – PSA).
Both SEO and PPC are part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which is one of the tools you can use as part of your overall Internet Marketing campaign.
I will try to explain the other major differences between the two by using the following parameters: position in search results, cost, traffic potential, conversion, and ease of use.
Organic Traffic vs. Paid Search Advertising
Position in Search Results
As you can see in the screenshot above you can expect to find PPC Ads above and below the organic results.
Where exactly your ad will appear depends on a number of factors (i.e. the keywords you are targeting, keywords in your ad copy, keywords in your landing page, and many more) but it’s either on top or below the organic results.
Organic results can only appear in the middle of the page. Whether your listing will appear in the top positions or first pages depends on how optimized your website is both in terms of on-site and off-site SEO.
- SEO: You can get first page positions if your web site is optimized for search engines
- PPC: You can get your ad on the first page by paying a higher cost per click (CPC)
I have mentioned above that SEO traffic is free and PPC is paid and while this is absolutely true, you should understand that it needs a lot of effort and hard work to get free traffic from search engines.
The competition is high for almost every keyword you can search and you really need to have a high-quality web site and a great SEO plan to get one of the top 5 positions.
There are no shortcuts despite what some “SEO” companies are trying to sell you. If you are not familiar with how search engines work or don’t know anything about SEO then the best way to get search engine traffic is to hire an SEO expert to do the work for you.
On the other hand, the Pay Per Click cost depends on a number of other factors.
If we take for example the cost per click of advertising with the most popular PPC system, Google Ads, then it depends on the popularity of the keyword, the number of advertisers who want to use the particular keyword, the number of related web sites that have ad positions for the particular keyword and many more.
If it sounds a bit complicated then it probably is, despite the efforts made by Google to make the whole system easier to use.
The good news with PPC is that you only pay for the clicks your ad receives and not for the views.
In addition, you can determine in advance your daily budget and pay no more than that and you can calculate an estimate of what is the average cost per click for the keywords you want to target.
As you can see from the screenshot below the Google Keyword tool (which is part of Google Ads) gives you an estimate for the CPC (cost per click) for each keyword.
- SEO: The cost of SEO is indirect. You cannot pay to get to the first page but you may have to pay for SEO services if you cannot do SEO yourself.
- PPC: You pay only when people click on your ad. You can use the Google keyword tool to calculate how much you can pay.
Which method can bring more traffic to your website, SEO or PPC?
SEO (organic traffic) can get you more traffic than PPC, so if you can manage to rank your website for the keywords you want, you will get much more traffic than paying for those keywords.
This is because when your website appears in on of the top 5 positions (according to statistics the majority of search traffic visits one of the top 5 web sites) you can expect to have a continuous flow of traffic 24×7 without having to pay anything (the actual volume of traffic depends on how popular a keyword is).
So, if you compare traffic and cost of first page positions for SEO traffic and PPC traffic, organic traffic is better. There are some studies suggesting that PPC ads get more clicks than organic but this also translates to a bigger cost.
If on the other hand, it is very difficult to get first page positions for a keyword then paying for traffic may be your only option since second and third-page positions will probably bring 0 or very little traffic.
- SEO: Organic traffic is continuous as long as you are ranking in one of the top positions.
- PPC: PPC ads can get more clicks but this means that you pay more.
Which visitor is more likely to convert (i.e. make a purchase, register to a newsletter, and in general respond to call for action), someone coming from PPC Ads or from organic search?
If your ads are highly targeted and optimized then a visitor from PPC is more likely to convert than a visitor coming from search.
The reason is that a web page can rank for different keywords (other than those initially intended) so the search visitor may not be looking exactly for the content (or product) presented on the particular page.
On the other hand, if you run a successful PPC campaign then you will only get clicks from visitors who are interested 100% in your content or products.
- SEO: SEO traffic is better than other forms of traffic (i.e. social media) but in terms of conversion is not as good as PPC traffic.
- PPC: Highly optimized keywords will generate more conversions but will cost more
Ease of use
Neither SEO nor PPC is easy to do if you don’t have the necessary knowledge and experience.
SEO is a process that takes a lot of time and effort. It may take months or even years to rank for specific terms or not rank at all!
On the other hand, in order to get some good results with PPC and Adwords, you either have to take a course or hire a PPC expert to help you or you will lose a few hundred dollars before you understand how it works.
The bottom line: PPC first and then SEO
The bottom line is that you need to use both PPC and SEO as part of your Internet Marketing campaign.
PPC can bring you faster results so you can run a PPC campaign and test which keywords convert better and then try with SEO to rank for those keywords.
Use PPC when you have a high converting product and use SEO when you have a limited budget to spend on advertising.
SEO may take time but the results are (under some conditions) long-lasting while with PPC when you stop paying for clicks, traffic will also stop.
Ataur Rahman says
Thanks for clear my idea about SEO and CPC. I’m very happy to look your post. Really amazing post. Excellent step by step guide.
Thanks, I hope that now is more clear on what is SEO and what is PPC.
Cameron Brown says
Many thanks for the great post, organic SEO is now very much in demand.
Organic SEO will ALWAYS be in high demand. To create an online business that will last for years, you need SEO traffic.
Arthur Costa says
Thanks for the amazing post. This reading really taught me something! Congratulations!!
Janis Medni says
Thanks for the analysis. In my opinion both are better be used: PPC for short-term, nearly instant results while organic traffic builds up and eventually brings you a nice surprise.
I agree with you, ppc can produce results short term while SEO it takes more time.
Thank you Alex for this informative post.
I am a newbie to blogging and, as of right now, I have no intention of selling any products.
Do you think that SEO is more appropriate for my type of blog? I just need to have more traffic to my blog.
SEO is appropriate for all types of blogs. Getting organic traffic will take time but the benefits at the end are a lot so the sooner you start with SEO, the better.
Neeraj Kumar says
Thanks for the quite conceptual difference between SEO and PPC. You have given the good examples.
Anjali Desai says
It is an excellent step by step guidance towards PPC and SEO.I have cleared my idea about both.Now a days organic SEO is much in demand. In my opinion both are better be used: PPC for short-term, nearly instant results while organic traffic builds up and eventually brings you a nice surprise.PPC can produce results short term while SEO it takes more time.
And thank you for sharing this post. Please share more post like this. Do you think that the click rate between having a #1 organic ranking and a paid ad are much difference when it comes to conversions?
Shon Anto says
Hi Alex, That’s a great explanation!!!
Differentiating SEO and PPC with the best step by step guide which makes even a novice to understand it in a better way. Keep up the good work. Cheers!!!
Thanks for giving such useful information about PPC and SEO. I’m a beginner in the SEO so these things are important for me to know it well.
Tarek Dinaji says
I like to think of PPC as a compliment to SEO. Sometimes People can spend money on PPC before they get a hold on their SEO. It is especially true for new business when they have less amount of content thus has limited capacity to rank on google.
PPC works as a short and quick solution where SEO works as and evergreen and long-term solution.
Both are important and has their own places.
This is a really great explanation, so clear and logical. I wish more websites were like this.
This is such a great post Alex,
You really make things simple and easily understandable (with the help of images).
Thanks for sharing this post ?
Ellen Max says
The Basic Difference Between SEO and PPC is SEO is based on Organic Result and PPC is Based on Paid Marketing.
Hey Alex, very informative post. PPC and SEO both are important to a business, parallelly we should use this two weapons in this field. As you said, SEO will generate a good organic traffic in longterm but to sustain till that boosting phase, we have to use PPC.
thank you for this valuable post
Fazal Aasar says
SEO is all about quality of your website, the more you increase your quality and signals of authentic industry sites toward your website the more you enhance your chances of ranking high organically.
PPC is different, in PPC you bid for showing your results at top of the first page of Google but that also matters on how high you bid along with a quality score of your webpage which is comprised of 5 factors but the bid is the main factor in getting you rank higher.
Grace Lily says
If you do both of these things for that particular keyword—that is, optimize your website and purchase PPC advertising—you are ensuring that your brand dominates the search results, and that you have a better chance at a capturing those valuable clicks.
I really like the blog. I read every single blog post that you posted on your site. I have cleared my doubt regarding, The difference between SEO and PPC. That’s really helped me to optimize my website.
Thanks for sharing sir.
The screenshot you have shared for paid ads and Seo ranked urls is informative and clears the concepts of beginners of PPC.
keep on sharing stuff like this
jhunu das says
It’s very clear to me now “the difference between SEO and PPC “.
Thank you very much for sharing the interesting and trending Topic with us.
is there a point to doing PPC if you are already an established company? Or would it be better to go organic and not spend tons and tons of money?
Jenesa Hills says
I would say a big YES to PPC even if you are an established company. With PPC you can reach to an extent where you can drive more sales to your business. So far with my experience, I have found that with PPC you are acquiring the audience who already have made a decision to make a purchase you are just opening them your doors and showcasing what you have for them. Whereas with organic results you have to drive their minds to purchasing which could be a tough task. Therefore, if you focus on more sales then PPC is a must.
We’re just starting up on this passionate world of SEO, PPC, etc and found this post being very informative, keep it up!
Saqib Irfan says
This is a big debate within our Digital Marketing Agency.
My team says, we need to start selling PPC Solutions, where as I believe SEO is what brings the long lasting results and as an agency has a better ROI.
Yasmin B says
Thank you for sharing this great article about SEO vs PPC.
Vivek Sharma says
Thanks, Alex for sharing a great blog. your blog has good details about SEO & PPC. Thanks for sharing this blog.
Alex Chris says
Thanks for your comment.
All the best
Chevelle Lawson says
Thanks for sharing this information. Do you prefer to do SEO, PPC, or both? And is one more valuable than the other in Google’s eyes?
Alex Chris says
It depends on the case. If you want to make sales faster then you should start with PPC and in parallel work on your SEO. In general, doing both can generate better results for your business in the long-term. In Google’s eyes, SEO is more valuable. PPC campaigns do not influence the Google organic results but SEO does.
I hope this helps
Hey, Really Good Explaination. very useful information about PPC and SEO.
Thanks for sharing.
Cleared defined difference between SEO and PPC.
Lots of bonus from this article.
Thanks a lot.
Excellent article!! It was fascinating to learn the distinctions between SEO and PPC. Both are significant in their own right. Thank you for providing this information. It helped me with my website.