Pay-Per-Click(PPC) vs SEO: The 2014 tale of the tape

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The internet marketing world in which both pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) content strategies play influential parts is in the midst of significant changes.

Strategists and pundits have viewed both as being equally matched, competing products. In truth, both are at their best when coexisting side-by-side as effective aspects of the same campaign. That being true, Google made significant algorithm changes that threaten to run keyword-stuffed SEO content into obsolescence. What we’ve known as “SEO” is now one species in a greater ecosystem that we call “online marketing,” a set of separately operating (and yet, cooperative) components that all further the same cause: greater online visibility.

Respectfully, PPC and SEO are one hand’s jab and the other’s hook: effective enough separate punches but a whole new dimension of effectiveness together. Still, the question remains: how do they stack up against one another in a few similar important ways?

Advantage: PPC


Any PPC campaign costs money as it generates results. The amount that advertisers pay per each click that directs a user to the merchant’s website drops with increased overall clicks on the link. Successful advertising ultimately rewards the client, but that still means an inconsistent cost.

Consequently, 2013’s tenuous economic outlooks worldwide made online businesses reluctant to make the investment. With 2014’s early outlook showing promise across the board, marketers may be feeling more free to pull the trigger on spending. After all, a PPC campaign doesn’t need shifting as Google’s algorithm changes demand adjusted strategies to suit the search giant’s increasingly organic preferences.

There’s no way to conduct a fruitful PPC campaign without spending some money, but marketers are spending on one-time, set-it-and-forget-it content creation with effectiveness that Google dynamic algorithms won’t change.

Time investment

As stated above, SEO is a long game. Your brand expends more effort with content-creation and research initiatives than goes into a typical PPC campaign, but it’s effort sunk into high rankings among Google’s valuable organic search results. The global search giant accordingly rewards those sites with algorithm-favored content because metrics indicate that users favor natural search relevance over well-placed ads.

On the other hand, when PPC works, it generates instant, quantifiable results. SEO data can take some deep reading in order to clearly see the extent of the positive results (or lack thereof.) Additionally, Google AdWords has the advantage of a Keyword Planner tool directing advertisers toward the keywords most likely to generate visibility and traffic.

Looked at pound-for-pound in terms of effort…..

Mobile advertising

Mobile device sales are on the cusp of eclipsing numbers for desktop PCs and laptops. There’s an advantage to be had here for PPC.

Campaigns optimized for mobile devices can take advantage of location and call extensions that allow calling and generating navigation directly from the ad’s link. Considering the increasing volume of mobile users utilizing mobile-search applications to zero in on local restaurants and shops on the go, that’s a key edge to have.

Long-run vs. Short-term

SEO’s value hasn’t diminished. It just drastically re-evaluated its core in the interest of keeping marketers honest.

From building links in a more organic fashion to creating content with an overall high standard of quality and relevance rather than unnaturally “stuffed” keywords, Google indexing increasingly rewards the sites that offer their billions of daily users the highest-value information. By the numbers, that general category is organic results, not “featured” PPC results.

Additionally, Google will continue throughout 2014 to stress an attribute that PPC ads by nature don’t possess: Google+ presence. Call it nepotism if you like, but Google’s shear search dominance positions them to bolster the advantages to using their own branded social network.

A well-placed PPC ad still provides instant visibility and instant results. It also generates fewer clicks. It takes more time and effort, but sound SEO planning leads to greater visibility among the organic search engine result pages (SERPs) that numbers indicate users skew toward.

Advantage: SEO


This may be the most clear-cut “win” for SEO.

Sure, Google AdWords permits effective keyword customization, certain mobile-search advantages, instant results, prime visibility and other unique perks. However, organically optimized content can be geared not only toward a variety of desired keywords but greater social mobility throughout more platforms. SEO has better placement among the more actively used organic search results at its heart.

Google AdWords may provide the greater volume of instant gratification, but SEO targets searchers’ preferred hunting grounds.

Conclusion: better together

When well-directed, either PPC or SEO will make an impact alone. Again, one is a jab, the other a hook.

They’re far more effective in combination than separate. PPC campaigns through Google AdWords make an instant impact. It’s just not necessarily one that’s felt in any lasting way. However, that fast hit sets up and complements the bigger punch of SEO’s contact higher up among the organic SERP rankings that searchers are more likely to mine first and most often. The PPC ad generates ongoing traffic while the more critical SEO campaign finds its opening to be the bigger, more lasting factor.

Last Updated on March 28, 2022 by Hitesh Lamba

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