Explaining the difference between SEO and PPC

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Any business operating in today’s marketing landscape has heard of the terms search engine optimization and pay-per-click (SEO and PPC). These aspects of digital marketing can help build an online audience, capture leads, and generate traffic to your website. Though marketing professionals often use these terms, many business owners may not know the difference between the two.

So, what do these terms mean? And more importantly, how are these digital aspects are useful to your business?

Inbound Marketing Basics

Before I go too deep, let’s cover some inbound marketing basics to assist in this explanation.

Inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that is designed for drawing and converting potential customers via your website, through the development and promotion of content. The goal of a successful inbound marketing strategy is to increase reach and drive quality traffic, engagement, and conversions using earned and owned content.

As a new or small business online, you have to create content that builds an authoritative and trustworthy voice. Competition for space in a Google search result on the first page is challenging. It’s been proven that a third of all users online click the first Google search result, making it critical to rank well.

In adopting SEO and PPC strategies, you’re providing yourself an opportunity to increase the ability to find and retain your target audience. By prioritizing the development and implementation of these tactics early in your digital marketing plan, your business has a higher chance of driving traffic to your website – leading to more conversions.

By adopting PPC and SEO strategies, you increase your chances of finding and retaining an engaged audience. Prioritizing these strategies early on gives your business a higher chance of driving traffic to your website and, consequently, closing more deals.

Both tools are valuable but hold different agendas, which can decide how you strategize your approach.

By adopting PPC and SEO strategies, you increase your chances of finding and retaining an engaged audience. Click To Tweet

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): The Basics

The primary difference between SEO and PPC isn’t about ranking in Google search results, but how you end up there. PPC is a form of advertising that helps you drive traffic to your site and rank, but it’s not organic.

As a new business online, often your resources are limited in driving organic traffic to your website. Developing quality content takes time and manhours, and as a young business, it’s even harder.

By paying for advertising, you can get people onto your site at this early stage and increase the chance you will convert. When implemented well, pay-per-click can turn your paid traffic into organic traffic as visitors return to your site.

Measuring Your PPC

For B2B businesses who provide a service, focus on measuring cost-per-lead (CPL). Why? Well, companies that offer services, measuring pay-per-click is irrelevant. The number of users that visit your website is useless if they don’t convert into qualified leads.

By measuring your cost-per-lead, the ability to calculate your ROI and justify budget and advertising spend is clear. If you’re not watching your CPL as a service provider, you’re wasting your money – STOP.

A tip for using PPC effectively is to use directed advertising that works to convert visitors into leads. For example, I promote premium content that requires visitors to fill in a form to access it. In doing this, I can effectively measure how many form-fillers (leads) I’ve obtained, and calculate the ROI. If the strategy works well, you should close more leads.

A tip for using PPC effectively is to use directed advertising that works to convert visitors into leads. Click To Tweet

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The Basics

Search engine optimization is about planning content campaigns that work to improve your overall ranking on search engines. Several factors go into effective SEO:

  • Keyword Research
  • Article ideation (based on keywords), curation and editing
  • Link-building to improve domain authority
  • Search Engine Optimization at the point-of-upload

Without integrating SEO when drafting blog posts and publishing them on your website, growing your traffic will not work.

Similar to PPC campaigns (generally, Google AdWords), SEO is designed on the foundation of keywords. Keywords are user-generated terms entered into Google which ends in search results. The aim is to be the most trusted source within each search query.

An example of this can be this article; if you type ‘the difference between SEO and PPC’ into Google, I would want this blog to be the first thing you see and click. Hopefully, that’s how you got here.
Now that I have a visitor, possibly you’ll fill in my form or contact me because you’re interested in becoming a client. If you do, my search engine optimized content has worked.

In adopting these SEO practices, it gives your content the opportunity to rank well, improving how much traffic you receive. How you nurture those visitors is the next process in the funnel.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term: What’s Better?

Pay-per-click strategies offer short-term gains if you spend enough, more website visitors, more leads, and more deals, when appropriately implemented. This isn’t a cost-effective option for building an online presence, but if you don’t continue spending, you lose all your progress.

The long-term approach would be using SEO to build content that is consistent and informative. In doing this, you develop a loyal and engage audience of repeat visitors. Optimizing your website for user experience by crafting an educational and trustworthy blog for search engines to see as a reputable source for your market.

Both Worlds, SEO and PPC

I would recommend at the beginning of your marketing strategy invest in content marketing and SEO. To build an archive of quality content that will rank well and fits into your long-term goals. Use PPC to promote the content as much as your budget allows. As the organic traffic grows, scale down on the use of PPC for content marketing, and offer different promotions to bolster leads. You want to hit your sweet spot, see the example below:


When growing an online presence from scratch, SEO should be a foundation for everything you do. Integrate PPC early on in your digital marketing plan as well; it helps drive traffic quicker. As the business grows and you pass the equilibrium point, your PPC strategy should shift to being an additive, NOT something you depend on.

For more information on how I use PPC and SEO to improve the marketing capabilities and stories of businesses I work with, schedule a free consultation with me here.

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