It’s one of the most common questions we get when we begin working with a new client. “Should we invest in SEO or Google Ads?”. As you can imagine, the answer isn’t as simple as one might hope. To truly understand which tactic is best for your business, we need to first understand how the two differ and how they can be used effectively together.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization, often referred to as SEO or organic search, is the practice of optimizing your website in an effort to obtain organic or natural rankings in a search engine result without paying any money directly to the search engine. By creating useful and relevant content that answers the questions or solves problems of the user doing the search, as well as providing them with an overall positive experience, websites can get rewarded by search engines with higher rankings for particular keywords or phrases. The higher your website ranks in search engines for the keywords that you want to get found for, the higher the chances are that you will get more traffic to your site which often times leads to more sales.
While this sounds simple enough, SEO can be a very complicated task that has dozens if not hundreds of factors at play, and does not always have an immediate impact. Often times getting your website to rank organically for your desired keywords can be an arduous and long-term task. With that said, these efforts come with rich rewards as achieving high rankings for quality keywords can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
What is Google Ads (PPC)?
Google Ads is an advertising platform that allows businesses to bid for the chance to appear in the paid listing for particular Google searches. This advertising method works on a pay-per-click, or PPC, model in which the advertiser only pays if their ad is clicked on. PPC advertising gives businesses the opportunity to pay to have their brand and website show up exactly when customers are searching for the keywords that they want to be found for.
Should I invest in SEO or Google Ads?
This brings us back to our initial question. Should we invest in SEO? Or should we invest in Google Ads? Since every business is different, there is no right and wrong answer. One thing we do know is that now matter which tactic you choose (or if you decide to invest in both) make sure that you have a well-developed strategy and have the proper resources in place. While both SEO and Google Ads can be extremely effective and lucruitive tools for driving traffic, generating leads, and increasing sales for your company, they can also quickly drain your budget and resources if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Why invest in SEO
Build trust and credibility
One of the greatest benefits of SEO is that your placement in search engines is earned and not bought, so users tend to trust organic listings slightly more than paid listings. That isn’t to say that users don’t trust or click on paid search listings (they definitely do), but simply that organic listings tend to be more trusted, which can improve your brand’s perception in the marketplace, result in a higher click through rate, and drive more clicks to your website.
Build a better website
When someone does a search online, Google wants to provide that searcher with the most relevant and useful content, and the best overall experience possible. That’s why we all go to Google, right? In an effort to fulfill this mandate, Google has developed a set of SEO best practices and standards for websites to follow, with the reward of higher rankings to those websites who do it best. By encouraging a user-friendly, helpful and relevant experience on a website that is both technically sound and visually appealing, Google is essentially encouraging all website who focus on SEO to build better, more useful websites. So if you decide to invest your efforts in SEO, know that you’ll not only succeed in search engines, but in the process you’re likely to build a higher quality, more user-centric website which can help you succeed in other online marketing efforts.
Build for the long term
Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t always show immediate results, which can be frustrating for some clients. While SEO requires a lot of hard work, dedication and patience, it can produce incredible long-term results that will show returns for years to come. And unlike PPC, your website continues to benefit from SEO even when you stop paying for it.
There’s a false perception in the marketplace that SEO is “free”. While you cannot pay for organic listing in a search (you need to earn them), the practice of SEO is certainly not free. While PPC can drive high quality, immediate results, they disappear the moment you stop paying. On the other hand, SEO is a much more cost-effective, sustainable and long term strategy which will continue to show it’s benefits years later. In order to achieve quality, long term results you must hire an experienced agency or partner who knows what they’re doing.
Why invest in Google Ads
While SEO can notoriously (and frustratingly) take a long time to gain traction and show results, Google Ads can provide near immediate results. An advertiser can begin to see their listings, clicks and sales within day one. But don’t forget – you still need to pay for it and hire an expert. It is very easy to waste your money on Google Ads if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Better position, more real estate
Paid listings get preferential treatment in Google results, often taking up all of the positions above the fold, showing ahead of the organic listings. Furthermore, advertisers have the ability to create for dynamic, visually appealing and larger listings that can include more text and even imagery, which is not possible with organic listings.
More control and predictability
While Google Ads often costs more than SEO in the long term, your spend is a lot more predictable with Google Ads since you have full control over your spend with the ability to set daily budgets for how much you are willing to spend. Furthermore, Google Ads offers marketers the ability to show up for exactly the keywords they want to, when they want to, and in the locations they want to be seen. SEO isn’t that cut and dry.
Testing and agility
Given the three benefits outlined above, Google Ads is an amazing platform to test for new keywords, landing pages, calls to action and more. Sure, you need to pay for it, but you can drive a lot of traffic, fast, allowing you to learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
One of the greatest benefits of Google Ads is that they provide you with in-depth data and information about the keywords, clicks, and conversions in your campaign, giving you a deeper understanding of your customers interactions and behaviours. On the other hand, Google doesn’t provide nearly the same level of granularity or detail with organic keywords, leaving many SEOs frustrated and scratching their heads.
Why invest in SEO and Google Ads at the same time
While it’s clear that SEO and Google Ads each have their own benefits and pitfalls, often times utilizing both tactics together as part of an overall search strategy yields the best results. Not only does it provide you with the best of both worlds, but when they are working together in harmony the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Here are some reasons why companies should consider investing in both SEO and Google Ads at the same time.
More visibility and clicks
When you rank well organically and have Google Ads campaigns in market, your brand benefits from having multiple listings in a single search result. Not only does this increase your brand’s visibility, but it will drive more clicks to your website. Not only will you see more overall clicks, but studies have shown that companies who invest in PPC often times see their organic clicks increase as well. The theory is that even if the searcher doesn’t click on the paid listing, that impression sticks with them and they are more likely to click on the organic listing.
More keyword data
As explained earlier, Google Ads offers incredible keyword data which, coupled with your organic keyword data and research, gives you more data to work with. This allows marketers to leverage their high performing organic keywords in their PPC strategy and vice versa.
Test with PPC, optimize with SEO
Google Ads campaigns allow marketers to quickly test out new keywords, ad copy, content ideas, landing pages and calls to action, helping them understand what works and what doesn’t. This information can be extremely valuable in helping drive your SEO strategy, giving insight into where you should be investing your time and resources.
The Bottom Line
In our experience, the best results often come when clients commit to investing in both SEO and Google Ads, however we understand that not everyone has enough budget to effectively invest in both.
No matter which route you take, be sure to invest in a strategy that makes sense for your business and one that attracts your audience; because at the end of the day it’s always about providing the solution to the customer.