SEO vs. PPC – The Pros and Cons for Small Businesses

If you’re involved in starting your own business, you probably wear many hats – one of those hats often includes heading all the marketing efforts for your new business. With so many options available, it’s hard to know where to begin – do you turn to print, direct mail, radio, TV, or online marketing? While the answer won’t be the same for every business, it’s safe to say that virtually every business can benefit from online marketing. But before you get started, it’s important to know the differences between Search Engine Optimization (organic search marketing) and Pay Per Click (paid search marketing), in order to create the most effective online marketing plan for your business. Here are the basics:


PPC, or pay per click, marketing is essentially placing paid advertisements on search engine results pages as well as search networks, paying a certain amount each time a visitor clicks on your ad. Google AdWords is one of the most popular pay per click platforms, but Microsoft adCenter is also used by many businesses.

The Pros:


Setting up and maintaining a pay per click campaign is fairly user-friendly. In fact, Google Adwords even provides free training resources to help you create effective campaigns for your businesses. Campaigns are easy to create and edit on an ongoing basis.

2. Easy Geo-Targeting

This feature is especially valuable for local businesses that are focusing on marketing products or services to their local area. When you set up your PPC campaign, you have the option to choose specific cities or geographic radiuses around a specific area where people will be able to see your ads when searching for specific keywords. This feature can be very valuable for businesses who are trying to target keywords that are extremely competitive to rank for organically.

3. Immediate Results

Many businesses prefer pay per click marketing because of the fast results it provides. Your ads start appearing as soon as a budget is entered into your account. This provides a great way for start-up businesses to gain a customer base very quickly.

The Cons:

1. Short-term Investment

Unlike SEO, when you stop paying for PPC marketing, your ads are no longer visible. Ads are only shown in search results as long as there is money in your account to spend. While PPC does provide a great opportunity for low costs per lead, the benefit doesn’t extend any further after your budget has been depleted.

2. Success is Dependent on More than Just Good Ads

While PPC creates an easy way for people to reach your site, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every click will convert into profit. Even though you may attract lots of visitors because of well-written and well-placed ads, your marketing dollars won’t do much good if visitors aren’t “converting,” or becoming customers because of those ads. Because of that, website design and content is also essential in the pay per click marketing process.

3. The Time Factor

While becoming self-educated in the PPC marketing realm is entirely possible, it does take time. If you’re involved in a small start-up company, you may not have the time it requires to learn about effective PPC and maintain a successful campaign. Many people choose to outsource their PPC, but that generally requires additional maintenance costs and agency fees.


In case you’re unfamiliar with this term, the purpose of SEO is to improve the position where your website appears when someone searches for a related term to your site. This is done by improving site structure and on-site keyword relevancy, and also increasing the number of high quality, relevant links that point to your site.

The Pros:

1. Visibility and Credibility

Ranking in the top organic positions on Google, or other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo, provides great exposure to your website in a credible way. Because organic rankings are not paid advertisements, people view them as third party suggestions for the best result to their search query. Websites that rank on the first page of Google, specifically those in the first five positions, have a much greater chance of being seen and clicked on by visitors.

2. High ROI

Visibility and credibility also play a big part in the high ROI that SEO can provide. Studies have shown that SEO, when done successfully, provides one of the highest ROIs of all other marketing tactics. While PPC does provide low costs per lead, many more people are actually clicking through organic search results than paid ads. Better visibility creates more clicks, which ultimately creates more profit for your business.

3. Long-term investment

Unlike PPC, marketing efforts that are put toward improving rankings organically generally last much longer than PPC. While PPC ads disappear when the budget runs out, your site will still appear in the organic results even if you stop putting marketing funds toward SEO. Granted, your site’s ranking will decrease over time if SEO is neglected; however, SEO funds provide ROI for much longer than PPC funds.

The Cons:

1. Results Take Longer

One of the main differences between SEO and PPC is that SEO generally takes much longer to produce results than PPC. While PPC ads appear immediately, SEO campaigns can take up to 6 months to really see success. SEO campaigns require much more patience, but the rewards and payoff is well worth it once high rankings are reached.

2. High Maintenance

SEO is much more technical than PPC. It requires much more effort and maintenance to really see success with an SEO campaign, especially with keywords that are very competitive. Learning SEO on your own is always a possibility, but because of the time required many businesses choose to outsource their SEO.

3. Tough Competition

Depending on the markets and keywords your businesses is targeting, it can be tough to break into the market, especially when the highest ranking sites have unlimited resources and budgets to put toward their SEO efforts. National keywords (those that don’t have a local town or city attached to them) can be particularly hard to rank for organically.

About the Author:

Erika Potter is the manager of online marketing at a Utah advertising agency that specializes in medical marketing, chiropractic marketing, law firm marketing, and more.

Filed in: Internet Marketing, Pay Per Click, SEO
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