SEO vs PPC: Which is Better for Your Small Business?

In this highly competitive landscape, where the majority of small and large businesses invest in some sort of digital marketing, getting yourself noticed is extremely challenging.

Statistics show that 75% of searchers never scroll past Google’s first page. In other words, if your site is not the first thing they see in the SERPs, you basically don’t exist.

Now, there are different techniques you could use to boost your online visibility, but it usually boils down to two basic options — SEO vs PPC. Even though they have a similar goal — to generate quality leads — these two practices deliver different results.

So, how to know which you should invest in first?

Here are a few basic similarities and differences between SEO and PPC that may help you take the right path.


Organic search still dominates digital marketing. Given that 93% of online experiences start with the search engine and that 70% of users ignore paid ads, not optimizing your site for search engines would mean losing a great share of potential customers.

The advantages of SEO

When compared to PPC, SEO brings numerous advantages to the table. Here are a few most notable ones:

  • SEO costs less than PPC. Sure, to appear on the first page on Google, you need to either hire the best search agency you can afford or build an in-house SEO team. If you go with the latter option, there’s also an investment in the right tools and other resources that will help you stay on top of your strategy. However, once you’ve reached the top, there are no additional costs. The traffic you drive from the organic search is absolutely free, unlike the one you get from PPC. Since the average cost per click is about $2.32 in all industries, free traffic a massive advantage for young and small businesses with limited budgets.
  • SEO brings long-term results. Even though it requires a significant time investment and may start off slow, SEO not only boosts your rankings and drives qualified traffic to your site, but also helps you build a solid reputation and stand out in the overcrowded digital landscape.
  • SEO is user-friendly. Unlike some intrusive outbound marketing techniques like cold calling or interruptive ads, SEO is an inbound marketing technique. In order to rank high and show up in front of your target audience, you need to bring value to both Google and your users. This way, people will find your site organically, when looking for businesses or products like yours.

The disadvantages of SEO

Today, rising above the competition and showing Google that you’re a reliable source of information is difficult. To deliver the exceptional user experience and eliminate spam, Google’s algorithms are constantly getting updated. Not to mention that the criteria for sites to rank high is now stricter than ever. This is why doing SEO cannot be considered a set-it-and-forget-it approach. It needs to be constantly monitored and updated according to the changes Google introduces.

Here are the major drawbacks of SEO:

  • If you don’t play by Google’s rules, you can get penalized.
  • SEO is not a strategy that delivers overnight results. It can take several weeks for Google to index and rank your content.
  • I’ve already mentioned that, in order to attract relevant traffic, you need to show up on Google’s first page. Still, ranking high is not something definitive, as it depends on a wide array of factors.


Sometimes, investing in organic search is not enough for you to stand out among the rising competition. This is where PPC shines. According to some recent statistics, PPC users are 50% more likely to buy from your site than organic ones.

The advantages of PPC

The benefits of PPC for small businesses are multiple. Here are some of them:

  • This is one of the most effective ways to boost your exposure in a highly competitive online landscape.
  • PPC campaigns are easily measurable from beginning to end.
  • It drives quick results, even for businesses that are just starting off.
  • You’re in control of your PPC campaigns. For example, small businesses can tailor their ad budget and bids and choose how and where they want to spend their money.
  • PPC offers incredible targeting options that will help you drive even more relevant traffic to your site and boost conversions.

The disadvantages of PPC

The major drawback of paid search is, like I’ve already mentioned, high costs. Namely, as the number of marketers competing for dominance in the online world is rising, PPC platforms are increasing their costs. So, if you don’t plan your strategy in advance, you may end up paying for PPC more than you will generate from sales.

Another huge problem with PPC is the fact that, once your campaign is over, you will stop generating clicks. So, to keep your traffic and conversions, you need to constantly invest in your paid ads. SEO is different. By building quality links, refurbishing your content, or producing evergreen articles, for example, you can keep driving relevant traffic to your site for years without doing anything about it.

Tailor your Digital Marketing Strategy to your Goals

Both SEO and PPC have their good and bad sides. Of course, to get the most out of them, you need to set clear goals both in the long- and short- run.

From the previous examples, we can conclude that SEO is a necessity for all small business. Apart from the fact that it is quite affordable, it helps you boost a solid and long-term online presence and put yourself in front of the right people. Still, SEO is all about planning hard and then waiting for the fruit to grow. On the other hand, PPC is your safest bet if you want to boost your visibility fast and drive highly relevant traffic to your site fast.

Still, there is one thing you should never forget. In digital marketing, things are seldom black and white. There is no rule saying that you cannot combine SEO and PPC to give your online presence a boost. As they’re completely different, when combined, these two strategies can deliver outstanding results and complement each other effectively.

Which digital marketing strategies do you use to make your website visible?

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Elaine Bennett
Elaine Bennett is a marketing specialist, blogger and a regular contributor to Bizzmark Blog.
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