Which Is Better for Small Businesses… Pay-Per-Click or SEO?

Which Is Better for Small Businesses… Pay-Per-Click or SEO?

So you’ve decided to make an investment and completely overhaul your website.  $10,000 later, everything looks perfect. And you’re ready to sit back and wait for the business to roll in. 

Unfortunately, you quickly realize that despite your time and effort, your competitors are still seeing more leads than you are. 

The problem is, all that great work and money you put into your fancy website isn’t going to do you any good if no one sees it. 

What can you do to make sure your website is getting the visibility you need to be successful? Good, high-quality traffic isn’t going to drive itself. 

There are two main tactics small businesses gravitate towards to increase visibility and lead generation. SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (or Pay-Per-Click) advertising. 

So what does that mean? And which is the right strategy for your business? 

Let’s take a look at both and see what they have to offer.



The goal of SEO is to improve your site’s visibility within search engine results, leading to more traffic on your site. One of the most important parts of SEO is including content on your website designed to attract people who are searching for topics related to your business.


When you type a question or keyword into Google or another search engine, pages of results come up with the information you’re looking for. You might end up with hundreds (even thousands) of links that match your search!


You know it’s unlikely that you’ll choose a link buried on page 8, right? Of course – you, as well as everyone else, are probably only looking at the first 5-10 hits on the first page of results. 


As a business owner, you obviously want YOUR website to be one of the top results. 


So how does a search engine know which links to post first?


Search engines crawl around the internet to retrieve all relevant information. All of that info is then indexed and ranked by an algorithm made up of over 200 factors. 


SEO is what you do organically to make your website easier to be indexed.


Pros of SEO:


  • Cost-effective. You don’t need to pay search engines to rank your website high if you’re following good SEO techniques.
  • Trust. Many consumers find SEO more trustworthy and will skim past paid posts automatically.
  • Lasts longer. With PPC, you need to keep paying for results for them to keep delivering. SEO just gets better the more you work at it.
  • Return on investment. In the long term, organic search traffic is likely to provide a better ROI than traditional forms of paid advertising.
  • Broader scope. PPC costs can add up quickly, so you need to carefully choose which information you put out there. SEO can cover a broader range of topics without adding cost.


Cons of SEO:


  • Slow Results. Don’t expect to see results immediately. If time is important to your campaign SEO isn’t going to offer much help. 
  • Time-consuming. While SEO is technically free, it is time-consuming and requires a lot of resources.
  • Changing algorithms. When factors that control the algorithm change, you might find your site suddenly dropping its placement without a clear reason.
  • Requires Constant Attention. You need to keep your copy relevant and keep adding new content to keep up with your competitors and stay relevant. 




Pay-per-click is a form of paid advertising where advertisers pay each time someone clicks on one of their ads. 


You know how when you type your search into Google, frequently the top 2-4 hits will start with the word “ad” at the beginning? This is PPC advertising. Companies pay Google or other search engines to push their product to the top of the search results, giving them a visibility boost. 


But it’s not quite as simple as just paying a search engine to feature your posts at the top of the page. For PPC, businesses participate in “Ad Auctions” where they place bids on specific keywords relevant to their target audience. 


The goal with PPC is to get the business generated to be worth more than the cost-per-click. Bidding on keywords can get expensive, so it’s important to only focus on the ones most relevant to your business.


PPC is great for small businesses with less time on their hands to get attention quickly to target a specific product or campaign, but it can be expensive.


Pros of PPC:

  • Visibility. The top 3-4 results from a search engine are typically PPC businesses and are placed higher than any organic results.
  • Immediate results. You can expect to see leads and conversions in days or even hours. 
  • More details. PPC ads give you room to include more detailed info, such as hours and how to get in touch. 
  • Stand out. Ads that feature products can include pictures, making them stand out even more.
  • Target your customers. It’s easier to tweak your ads to appeal to specific people or demographics.


Cons of PPC:

  • Expensive. Costs add up quickly, especially with more common keywords that are more expensive to bid on.
  • Constant Investment. Once you stop paying for your ads, your leads will dry up.
  • Ad blindness. Some people are inclined to automatically skip over any hits with the word ad in front.
  • Limited growth. Paid ads do not have the same long term potential to grow as SEO.


So Which is Right for you?


Now that you know more about SEO and PPC, have you decided which is better? It’s not that easy, right? That’s because the answer depends on a lot of individual factors. 


Some things to consider:


  • Are you targeting a specific fast-moving campaign?
  • Are you looking for short-term or long-term results? (Maybe both?)
  • What’s your budget?
  • What kind of resources do you have at your disposal?
  • What’s your timeline for the project?


PPC can be extremely valuable to get visibility to your site quickly on a short-term basis. It’s also a really great resource for promoting a specific campaign or project.


SEO can take months to show results and you may just not have that time to wait. But as you start to pull your money away from PPC, your organic visibility is increasing because of SEO.


Sometimes it’s not so much of an either/or as it is figuring out how the two strategies can work together. Overall a two-pronged strategy can help drive traffic and grow your business in both the short and long term.


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