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Last Updated on September 23, 2021

One of the things that everyone trying to develop an online presence wrestles with at one time or another is the question of using search engine optimization or pay per click advertising. The fact is you have to use one or the other or even a combination of both or your site is just another grain of sand in the vast desert that is the internet.

You see the goal of all websites be they information, service or product based is to be found and read. If your site can not be found then it won’t be read, and if your site is not read then you will not be able to make so much as a penny from it, even if you have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars creating it.

In order for your site to be found it has to be listed on at least one and preferably as many search engines as possible. The question of SEO V PPC is simply which is the most efficient way to reach the goal of ranking high is the search engines so that your site can be found.

This article will list the pros and cons of each so that hopefully you can have a better understanding of how search engine optimization compares to pay per click advertising allowing you to make an informed decision about what to use.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

To start with you should have at least a basic understanding of what search engine optimization is and how it works.

While there is not enough room in this page to go into all of the ins and outs of the genre, search engine optimization is a way to make use of the algorithmic search results by using specific keywords and/or phrases that are relevant to your site and may attract the “right” visitors.

The search engine’s employ the use of “web crawlers” whose job is to search out relevant sites to link to particular keywords and phrases. The more relevant to the keywords your site is seen by these “crawlers” the higher your page ranking is in the natural results area of the search engines pages. The goal is to use all the tricks available to get your page to number one, or at least on the first page.

So now you understand the bare bones of what search engine optimization is let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros of SEO

  • SEO can be tweaked continually to improve your ranking.
  • SEO is free or at least it is if you do it yourself.
  • Your websites credibility is increased because it is found “naturally” by the search engines. Savvy shoppers know you did not simply pay to get a good ranking.
  • Better range of search engines can find and rank your site.

Cons of SEO

  • You need to make changes to your site occasionally to keep it in the “eye” of the “crawlers.”
  • Sometimes results can take weeks or even months to be seen.
  • There are no guarantees. If you do it wrong then you need to go back to the drawing board and do it again until you get it right.

Pay Per Click

PPC or pay per click is a bit easier to define and use. Bottom line you pay the search engine for the use of certain keywords or phrases and the more you pay the higher your page is ranked.

In other words when someone clicks on your ad via the search engines pay per click area you must pay the search engine. This can actually get expensive and ranking depends on what advertiser pays the most for the use of the particular keyword of phrase.

Pros of Pay Per Click

  • PPC is fast. Often as soon as you fill in the forms and submit your ad/site you will be ranked. The longest approval takes is usually 24 hours for the slowest PPC sites.
  • You can use just as many keywords/phrases as you have the budget for.
  • Your site can be found even if there is absolutely no relevant optimization on it.
  • You can delete a pay per click campaign whenever you choose making it great for promotions and sales.

Cons of Pay Per Click

  • You have to pay for your clicks
  • Many people do not even look at the ads listed in the pay per click area and instead go to the natural results.
  • The choice of search engine optimization or pay per click advertising is up to you and your budget.

Bottom line: My thought is that businesses should base the SEO vs PPC decision upon how competitive of an online space they are in.

Highly competitive online spaces. Should be aware that it will take probably 60-90 days, a high level of SEO skill along with the creation and syndication of a lot of excellent content to get ranked. I’d recommend starting with a PPC campaign so you can begin driving traffic and experiment with what PPC ads are working best.

Low competition online spaces. In less competitive spaces I’ve seen sites get ranked on the 1st page of Google in less than 10 days. If you’re in a less competitive space I would start with SEO. Sometimes I’ve been surprised at how little SEO it took to get onto the top half of the 1st page (above the fold) of Google results. Once you are there PPC doesn’t have much of point does it?

Your online marketing budget also has a lot to do with it. If you have a limited budget to work with and are willing to wait for results then search engine optimization is your best bet, while those with a decent budget who want to get things running quickly may be happier with pay per click.

If you ask the opinion of this author, a mixture of both may be the best bet.

Search Engine Optimization Vs Pay Per Click