What is the difference between SEO and PPC (Google AdWords)?

One of the most common misunderstandings in online marketing is the difference between SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing such as Google AdWords. In this article we are going to outline the key differences between the two and explain the pros and cons of each.

In summary

The main difference between SEO and PPC (Google AdWords) is SEO works to improve your websites organic ranking, whereas Google Ads involves paying Google to get your website to the top of the search results.

To understand the difference between the two, first you must understand the main components of the search engine results page.

In the photo below you can see there are two main components of the search engine results page. These are paid advertisements, and the organic search results.

Whats the difference between SEO and PPC Google AdWords

Google Ads and Paid Advertisements

At the very top of the results Google displays up to four paid advertisements. These are known as Google Ads (previously known as Google AdWords). They can be distinguished by the small, green “ad” badge to the left of the domain name.

They work on a pay-per-click basis, meaning advertisers only pay when someone clicks on the ad. The amount paid is determined by how much you bid for a keyword. Every time someone searches that keyword, an auction is held to determine whose ad gets the top spot in the search results.

Below is an image of the Google Ads interface showing the keyword, and the amount the advertiser is bidding per a click for each keyword.

Google AdWords Keyword Bids

Pros of Google Ads

  • Fast: you can get your website on the first page in less than 24hrs using Google Ads.
  • Cost Effective: you only pay when someone clicks your ad, which makes it a very cost-effective form of advertising.
  • Highly Targeted: you can choose what keywords your ad displays for, the locations your ad displays meaning you can target the right people.
  • For all Budgets: With Google Ads you can set a daily limit of how much you want to spend. This makes it perfect for advertisers of all budgets.

Cons of Google Ads

  • Competitive: Google Ads have become a lot more competitive over the years. This has significantly increased the cost-per-click in several industries.
  • Complicated: the Google ads platform is very difficult to navigate; it requires a lot of research to learn how to run campaigns.
  • Risky: It requires a lot of experience to run successful campaign. If you don’t target your ads correct, you can waste of a lot of money.
  • Time Consuming: campaigns need to constantly be monitored and optimised. Often business owners will pay a digital marketing agency to manage their campaign to ensure the best results.

Organic Search Results & Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

The organic search results refer to the unpaid search results. These include the map and everything beneath. Organic search results do not have the green “ad” badge next to the domain name.
Google uses a ranking algorithm to determine which website gets the top spot in the search results. This algorithm uses thousands of metrics to determine which website is the most relevant and trustworthy to display at the top of the page

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short is the practice of optimising a website on-page and off-page content, with the goal of improving the websites organic ranking. SEO is used to attract more customers to the websites and increase sales.

Pros of SEO

  • Highly Targeted: your website is optimised for the keywords your potential customers are making.
  • Better Click through rates: On average, organic search results receive a higher percentage of clicks than the paid results.
  • More Trusted: Business that rank in the organic search results are generally more trusted by consumers compared to the none paid.
  • Cost Effective: when working with an SEO Agency, you will benefit from a high return on investment.
  • You don’t pay for clicks: because SEO works to improve your organic rankings, you don’t need to pay each time someone clicks to visit your website like Google Ads.

Cons of SEO

  • Delayed: it can take months before your website is ranking in the organic search results for your desired keywords.
  • Extremely Difficult: SEO is very difficult to implement and requires special software. Most people usually rely on a professional to handle their SEO.
  • Competitive: the organic search results are extremely competitive. A lot of businesses want their website in the top three, this means your SEO provider will need to work hard to get your website ranking.