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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Strempel

Google Ads vs. SEO: What’s The Best Marketing Strategy?

Over the past few years this question has been hotly debated.

Both strategies are excellent marketing tools, there’s no doubt about that. Is one better than the other? The answer is completely subjective and depends on the needs of your business, but we’ll give you our honest opinion and some facts to support it.

These two strategies together make up what’s referred to as SEM, or search engine marketing and they have both differences and similarities. There are some situations that call for these tools to be used together, and others that utilize only one or the other depending on the unique business needs and marketing goals.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what both of these marketing tools are, how they work, and their advantages and disadvantages so that you can make the most informed marketing decision for your business.

Let’s dig in…

seo vs google ads

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your website to achieve higher rankings in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, with Google being the big dog, claiming over 90% of the market.

Let’s face it, when we search something in Google, we rarely scroll past the first page of the search engine results page (SERP). In fact, studies show that 75% of people never scroll past the first page.

This means, if your website is not coming up on that first page of a Google search, you’re not getting found. You could have the most beautiful website and offer stellar products or services, but no one will ever see them because you're stuck on page two or beyond.

How can you get your site to page one for your targeted keywords? It all starts with having a website that can easily be “read” by Google.

Google takes a lot of factors into account when they’re crawling websites, determining which ones should be placed at the top of a search. In fact, there are over 200 factors that are considered.

The main things that Google looks for when calculating your page ranking are:

  • The age of your domain or web page

  • The number of backlinks, or links referring to your page, you have

  • The search term, or keyword, associated with the page

  • How many times that specific keyword is used within the page (this can include body content, headers, URL, meta description, pictures, and more)

  • The speed of your page and how user friendly it is

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Google’s search bot is smart, and there’s a lot that determines how well your page(s) will rank, but the above are some of the key elements that will make or break your site when it comes to SEO. In SEO you have to EARN your spot at the top of Google.

Google Ads, PPC, Adwords, CPC, bids, campaigns…. don’t let all the lingo confuse you, this is simply the process of advertising your products or services on Google so that when searchers type in your keywords, your ad pops up at the top.

Google Ads are an advertising platform that allows advertisers to position their ads at the top of the SERP, on YouTube, Gmail, and on the thousands of websites out there that participate in Google’s AdWords program.

If you choose to run a Google Ad for your product or service, you can choose to pay when someone clicks on your ad, which is called cost per click, or CPC. Or, you can pay when people see your ad, this is referred to as cost per thousands impressions, or CPM.

Either way, you are paying Google to advertise your product or service with the goal of having customers click on your ad, visit your site, and convert to paying customers.

The problem is, you’re certainly not guaranteed to convert traffic to customers, so if you don’t have the right conversion principals in place on your site, you could be looking at a lofty ad investment that may not give you a return.

The whole AdWords system is kind of like an auction; advertisers compete with each other for the available advertising spaces. If you’re in a highly competitive niche, the CPC could get pricey, fast.

Now that you have a better understand of what each of these marketing techniques are, let’s break down the differences between the two:

  • Ads are more immediate than SEO considering you can start your campaign almost instantly and begin seeing targeted traffic. SEO, on the other hand is a long-term strategy that takes a lot more time, planning, and patience, especially if your website is brand new.

  • Ads are paid traffic, meaning you pay Google every time someone clicks your ad, regardless of whether they convert to customers or not. With organic SEO, traffic is free…sort of. It does take some time, money, and resources to rank on page one, particularly for competitive niches, but the point is, you don’t pay for the people who find your site organically.

  • AdWords will appear at the top and bottom of the search results. With SEO, your page may be stuck on page two or beyond while you work to implement techniques that will move it to page one, so it takes come patience.

  • If you stop your Ad campaign, your traffic will stop. If you rank organically on Google, your traffic will continue long term, creating more of an asset.

The core difference between the two is this: Google Ads is a short-term, paid strategy that can get you traffic immediately. SEO is a long-term strategy that’s designed to build trust and authority that takes time but will serve you and your business in the long-term.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, both strategies are great and will help you get traffic to your site. It really all depends on what your business needs right now.

Google Ads are ideal for new businesses or startups who are looking to get highly targeted traffic right out the gate. This can be helpful for new businesses when it comes to testing their products, websites, procedures, conversions, etc.

Since ads are so easily tracked, you’ll quickly discover patterns and it will provide you with a lot of insight into your conversions, or lack thereof.

The thing with ads is that you have to use them carefully. You can end up wasting a lot of money in ads if you aren’t sure; how to target, who to target, and if you don’t have conversion principles in place that will help you get an ROI.

If you don’t have the knowledge and expertise to run ads correctly, you may want to leave it to a professional who has experience running AdWord campaigns so that you can ensure the highest ROI possible without blowing money on ineffective ads.

While it’s usually a good idea for new businesses to get started using ads, you can’t forget SEO. You should also begin implementing SEO principles.

A site that ranks well organically for search terms and keywords is one that has authority and trust. It’s important that you build your site on a solid foundation and work to implement SEO best practices to help bolster your rankings because once you get there, your business can run on auto-pilot, and who doesn’t want that?

The truth is, both techniques are great ways to increase traffic to your site and increase sales, if done correctly. But we have to say, if you’re only going to pick one, it should be SEO.

SEO is crucial especially for businesses that are in it for the long-haul. Once you achieve a first page ranking on Google, your marketing runs on auto-pilot…and you don’t have to pay for every click.

Ultimately, it’s up to you as a business owner to analyze your business and decide what your needs and goals are before you choose a strategy. The best part? You can use both if you want to! In fact, implementing a SEM strategy that utilizes both of these techniques can be very beneficial, especially for businesses who are eager to start getting traffic to their site ASAP.

Many business owners will implement a Google Ads campaign to start getting targeted traffic to their site while they work on their SEO and organic rankings. This is a great way to get the best of both worlds and get some solid data to use in your strategies moving forward.

SEO vs Ads infographic

Hopefully this article gave you some more insight into the Google Ads Vs. SEO debate. Now that you understand more about both strategies, you can make the decision for what works best with your business.

Want to learn more about SEO and how to implement strategies to your marketing plan? Download our FREE SEO checklist to get the ball rolling!

Curious to know more about the best marketing strategies to use in your business? Check out our SEO vs. Social Media post to find out the best one to use.

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