Search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are two sides of the digital marketing coin. While many people will throw their weight behind one or the other and sing its praises, which one can we assuredly say is better?

SEO and PPC are at completely different ends of the marketing spectrum while they both attempt to market via search engines. Let’s discuss SEO and PPC to see how they stack up against each other.

Organic vs paid exposure

The functional difference between SEO and PPC is that SEO has no inherent cost to it other than the man-hours required to do it effectively. Basic SEO principles can be implemented by nearly anyone, but commercially successful SEO campaigns are rarely cheap, making the claim that SEO is a free alternative to paid marketing inaccurate.

PPC on the other hand is effectively buying billboard space on search engines. The difference is that with the digital nature of the platform, PPC campaigns can be highly targeted to specific demographics.

Here we can see where PPC and SEO share the function of keywords which inform search engines of the subject matter that a user is looking up. For example, a PPC campaign for your cat food brand would be priced on how competitive keywords relating to ‘cat food’ were.

This is where PPC can become quite costly as the most competitive keywords are bid on via tools like Google Adwords. Large companies with big marketing budgets can afford to place high bids on the most popularly used keywords.

SEO on the other hand uses keywords strategically throughout a businesses’ online content. The goal of SEO is to make the business website rank as highly as it can in Google’s organic search results.

The reason SEO is competitive with PPC is because audiences are naturally more trusting of organic search results than paid results. This happens because Google disclaims which results have been paid for in an obvious way, a method of exposure that some audiences will not find to be authoritative.

Users looking for the most sincere answer to their search query will go with the top few organic search results and will ignore the paid ones. SEO creates marketing exposure for your business by tailoring you online presence to be as attractive as possible for search engines.

So, who wins?

The answer is neither. Any SEO practitioner worth their salt will tell you that SEO and PPC are ideally used in concert in order to mutually support each other.