Should I use Google Ads or SEO?
Comparing SEO or Google Ads, previously known as Adwords, is like comparing apples to oranges – both help to get your brand on the SERP in front of prospective customers. SEO works to get your site higher in the organic rankings so that you rank for customers typing queries applicable to your content. Ads allow you to target particular keyword phrases and then create an ad that promotes your site and content for those using those keywords.
Both of these channels can help enhance your overall visibility in Search, but it is important to remember that trying to determine which is best is like comparing apples to oranges. A strong and lasting digital presence requires brands to use both channels and craft a strategy that can employ the two together to maximize the online potential of the brand.
Key PPC vs. SEO take-aways
When making decisions about how to invest your time and online marketing budget, there are a few important distinctions to consider, including the difference between PPC (pay-per-click) ads and SEO (search engine optimization).
Improvements to SEO can help your website rank higher on Google Search by making it more relevant to users, while PPC ads like Google Ads are paid online advertisements which allow businesses and website owners like you to bid on the chance to show an ad next to searches on Google.com.
What is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of including content on your site that has the potential to improve your site’s visibility to search engines and their users. In other words, SEO can help your site show up more often in relevant searches.
There are a number of things to look for when trying to improve your site’s SEO. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make sure the writing on your website is clear, helpful, and descriptive.
- Explain your topic in simple, easy-to-read language.
- Include relevant keywords, which are words you think a user might search for when looking online for what you offer.
On the topic of keywords: while it’s a good idea to include search terms in your site copy, make sure you’re not cluttering your page with too many search terms, or putting up fake pages you don’t intend users to see. Doing this may lead to Google considering your pages deceptive and ignoring your site, so think about what will be easiest for a user to navigate and understand.
There’s no cost to appear in organic search results like Google’s, and making changes to improve your website’s SEO, can greatly impact your search rankings over time. Learn more about how Google organic search works and find tips for getting started here. You can track your progress and see how your content is performing using Search Console.
What does “PPC” mean, and when should you use PPC ads?
Google Ads is Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution, which allows businesses to bid on keywords for a chance to show ads in Google search results.
When using Google Ads, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad to visit your site or call your business. Plus, you can tweak your ads anytime to reach a specific group of people (by interest, geographical area, etc.) or promote a specific deal or product. This flexibility can be a great resource for small companies who can’t frequently update their website to reflect sales, promotions or seasonal offerings.
Google Ads also gives you the option of promoting your business outside of Google Search by showing ads on relevant websites in the Google Display Network (GDN). The GDN is made up of thousands of sites across the web, where you can connect with even more potential customers. You can pick specific sites to run display ads, or choose the types of people you’d like to reach and let Google Ads create a list for you.
A PPC ad solution like Google Ads doesn’t have the same results as SEO and won’t improve your organic search rankings. Instead, Google Ads can help you display your ads to potential customers, at the exact moment they’re searching for a business like yours.
How Google Ads Work
Most every business wants to be on the first page of Google for their products or services. For example, if you sell widgets, when people search for “widgets near me” you want to be the first search that pops up. Google Ads benefits include getting to the top of a search, usually, top 3 is possible for certain keywords. The marketing benefit of online advertising is that your business can quickly rank as a top search result if you have a good website and a proper bid. AdWords works by you placing a bid for the search phrase “widgets near me”. Each time a person clicks your specific ad you pay Google a certain agreed amount for that click. Bids or Cost Per Click (CPC) ranges from $0.50 to $12+ depending on industry and other factors. Most clicks average around $2 to $4 per click; although they can cost higher or lower. Google recommends that you get 10 clicks to get that one customer that buys so you can do the math.
Google Ads works under the premise of “paid search”. This means that you pay for placement on Google’s search engine. “Organic search” is what SEO often refers to. This means search results that are not paid for. Even with ads, Google still uses its algorithm to serve you the best content no matter what and better ads and content win over less relevant ads.
Benefits of Google Ads
- Get in top 5 website results or get shown at top of the first page
- Can specify local targeting by zip code or around your business
- Can set hours you wish to show for certain keywords or phrases
- Drive customers to a specific landing page
- Track conversions or leads
- Create custom remarketing lists to show display ads to
Disadvantages of Google Ads
- Not a long-term solution
- Costly over time vs SEO
- Can only use 1 website or domain per account
- Ads show up labeled “Ads” in Google search
Example of a Google ad, note the “Ad” callout:
- Can take time to find the best keywords to use
How SEO Works
Google Ads has its benefits if you want to get high in the rankings fast for a specific amount of time. However, if you are looking for a long-term solution then SEO might be the best option for you. SEO involves doing backend website work so that Google gives you higher rankings over time. This process involves content creation, optimizing your website, establishing goals, and tracking progress over time.
SEO involves improving your website to increase traffic and optimize site conversions. A conversion is an action someone takes to complete one of your goals. This can range from staying on your site for a certain amount of time, clicking a certain link, playing a video, adding an item to their cart, or making a purchase. A site with great SEO will load fast, have great content, be easy to understand and navigate, and very helpful to your customers. Great SEO also includes items that you cannot see that developers or professionals work on behind-the-scenes to get your Google rankings higher. Some of the advantages of SEO include the following:
Benefits of SEO
- Great long-term solution for higher Google ranking
- Get organic traffic which leads to lower abandonment rates
- Do not have to pay for clicks
- Higher trust rate for customers vs ads
- Google and search engines love optimized sites
Example of an SEO search result does not have the word “ad” mentioned:
Disadvantages of SEO
- Can take 3 to 6 months of work to see ranking improvements
- Ongoing effort required to keep higher rankings
- You often will not see immediate results or returns unlike Google Ads
- Requires long-term investment and time
So which is better, SEO or Google Ads?
Google Ads is better for quick, top of the page results and SEO is better for long-term Google ranking. If budget is more of a concern and time is not then SEO is better. If you want to be at the top of the first-page search result like next week then Google Ads is better for you. If you can, the best strategy is to do both as they work together very well.
In the beginning, you can focus more on Google Ads to get top of page results quickly, then, as your SEO ranking improves you can lower your Google Ads budget accordingly. By now, you have a good understanding of what SEO is and how it differs from running a Google Ads campaign. This way you will not have holes in your online search strategy.
What are the different roles of SEO and Google Ads?
SEO and Ads have unique but complementary roles. The discipline of SEO management revolves around making your site appealing for customers as well as creating content that addresses their needs and engages them. This not only involves the material you write or the videos and infographics you create, it also involves optimizing site layout and design to ensure that it is user-friendly, and easy to navigate, moving users through your site in a logical way.
Google Ads, on the other hand, are a form of online display advertising. It allows you pay each time a person clicks on an ad you create. This ad is displayed to users who type in particular keywords on the search engines, allowing you to target users interested in particular topics. Google Ads, therefore, can help you gain the visibility you want for important keywords, even before you have the site reputation and SEO rankings needed to see results from your organic efforts. Combine both SEO and SEM to maximize SERP real estate.
Do Google Ads help with SEO?
When used properly, SEO and Google Ads can work well together. Brands that accurately track their rankings and organic traffic can strategically use Ads to increase visibility for important keywords, driving paid traffic where they do not have the organic ranking to get on Page 1. Google Ads can also be used to test consumer response to particular keywords. For example, brands can create ads for keywords that they are considering optimizing for. They can then track the customers who click on the ad and see how well they respond to the landing page and the rest of the site. Keywords that bring in visitors with higher conversion rates and more engagement will then take a higher priority to those that do not see as much success.
Similarly, keyword data from SEO efforts can also be used to find the right opportunities for Ads. Uncovering keywords that have high search rates, but that also have high competition — meaning that it will be difficult for a site to earn a slot on the front page of the SERP — will likely be good candidates for Ads campaigns. This refinement process can be done across both the major search engines as well as newer avenues for SEO work like vertical and native search engines.
As a brand builds a digital strategy, understanding the different roles of Google Ads and SEO in building a web presence is critical to success. The better that companies can use these two different features together for their advantage, the better their potential results in Search.
So should I invest in SEO or PPC ads?
Which works better – SEO or PPC ads? It depends on what you would like to achieve, because SEO and PPC can help your business in different ways.
In a nutshell: SEO is an important tool for successful online marketing because it gives your business the best chance of being found, even if the optimization process takes awhile to get right. PPC ads let you reach customers more immediately and customize your campaign on the fly.
If your goal is to drive traffic to your site in the short term, you might choose to focus on PPC ads. If you want to enhance your business’s online presence in the long run, SEO is the answer. Alternatively, invest your time and energy in both SEO and PPC for a well-rounded strategy.