Although this is a topic we’ve explored before, we thought we’d take a moment to refresh our readers’ memories on the basics as we receive inquiries quite frequently on which is the most effective tool.

When it comes to Internet marketing, there are very definitive schools of thought regarding SEO vs. Pay Per Click as each has its own set of distinct advantages. Because are effective in their own right, it can be tough to decide which is better for your business. When asked, we often pose this question to our clients as a starting point: Are your goals short-term or long-term?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine‘s “natural” or unpaid (“organic“) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.

As a marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.

As a tool, SEO takes much longer than PPC to see the results. When you are optimizing your site it can take several months before you see the ROI. Google does reward those who abide by its algorithm, but it is by no means fast growth. You must put in a lot of time and effort to watch it grow.

Once you have put in the time, however, your ROI can be significant. Ranking in Google organically is much better than ranking in Google for a paid advertisement. Studies have shown people are much more likely to click on an organic search than a paid ad. Also, with solid rankings comes credibility ­– people are much more likely to trust your website and your company. Anyone can buy an ad, but legitimate ranking takes both effort and a high-quality website.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click (also called cost per click) is an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner) when the ad is clicked.

As a strategy, advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market. Content sites commonly charge a fixed price per click rather than use a bidding system. PPC “display” advertisements, also known as “banner” ads, are shown on web sites or search engine results with related content that have agreed to show ads.

As a tool, PPC works well when your goal is to garner immediate results as there is no waiting period to establish your site’s online presence. Another great benefit of PPC is that it lends itself to measurement more clearly than SEO. With SEO you are using a variety of tactics over an extended period of time, so it can be a challenge to pinpoint exact turning points. With PPC all you have to do is pick your keywords and measure how much success is earned in direct correlation to those phrases. All the metrics are right there for you.

The downside to PPC is it that you have to continue paying to see results. If you stop paying, your marketing – and therefore leads – stop as well. On the other hand, when executed properly, SEO will continue to deliver value once the major work has been done.

Which Wins?

There is hardly ever a clear winner and a clear loser. When it comes to PPC and SEO, it is a tough call as there are clear benefits and drawbacks to both. That said, a good strategy oftentimes is to use both methods. In the beginning, utilize PPC to get instant results while simultaneously working on SEO. This way you can have results both for today and for years to come.