SEO vs. PPC : Pros and Cons, Integrated Approach and Difference

SEO vs. PPC : Pros and Cons, Integrated Approach and Difference

What is SEO?

There are a lot of definitions of what search optimization, or SEO, is. We will not highlight this matter. You can read in detail about this in the article What is SEO. Let us pay attention to the most important aspects of search optimization that will help make heads or tails of the question.

Search optimization is not an act but a process. In 2020 alone, there have been at least three important and notable updates of the Google search algorithms. John Mueller has repeatedly stated that aside from significant and widely-discussed upgrades, remedial and selective works are carried out almost continuously. Therefore, search optimization is better when perceived as a permanent process that has to be supported by regular check-ups and maintenance of your site. More information on the subject can be found in the articles Google Algorithms That Affect SEO and UPDATE: Google May 4, 2020.

The task of search optimization should not be limited to reaching high positions in the SERP. There are two reasons for this. The Lollipop case is one of the multiple examples of changes in the organization and presentation of organic results. The organic ranking has gone way further than the commonly known ten blue links. The visible screen area where links used to be displayed is now working entirely differently. Among the functions that will define whether users see your information includes advanced search results and permanently updated snippets, multimedia materials, local search, Knowledge Graph objects, and specialized services for business (Google MyBusiness and Google Local Business). For this, sites have to not only be at a high technical level but also meet the content quality standards. You can find more information on the matter in the articles What are Rich Snippets?, How to Optimize Featured Snippets, Local SEO Checklist 2020.

The second reason is the content itself. Google pays close attention to showing content to those who are interested in it and find it interesting. That is why, in many aspects, the content quality defines its effectiveness and ranking role. 

It is possible to conclude that search optimization helps keep the loss of organic traffic to a minimum. In particular, it contributes to the maximum coincidence of the site content with search requests of interested users. Such an approach will become a stable foundation for a further increase in organic traffic through ads, among the other means. What is better to implement, SEO, or PPC?

What is PPC? How is Paid Traffic Useful?

PPC (Pay per Click) is a model of calculation for an advertising campaign, not the characteristics of the traffic. However, before diving deeper into this concept, we suggest briefly considering what traffic purchase is and which models exist. Any advertising campaign is built on the fact that a certain audience is shown content in the form of ads, also called announcements. Depending on the task set for a certain campaign, calculation of the cost is made based on several factors:

  • Display of an ad, which is also called an impression. Therefore, the fee is charged every time someone sees an ad.
  • Following the link that is also called clickthrough/click. So, you only pay when someone clicks the link in your ad. This is PPC.
  • Any other target action, for example, subscription to your profile on social media, sending the lead form, or downloading an app. 

There are a lot of types of advertising campaigns, and every platform offers at least several unique options taking into account the peculiarities of an audience and published content. The above three types are the most widely used and are seen almost everywhere.

PPC is not a synonym for an Internet ad, as there are a lot of other means of traffic purchase. For example, posting articles or connecting to special aggregators. Nevertheless, the principle of PPC is the basis of the majority of advertising campaigns in Google AdWords.

Paid traffic does not imply that it is low-quality or poor. It is correct and completely normal to pay for any services, including advertising ones. If you are not sure if organic results of search requests deliver to interested users the quality and benefits of your page, this is an excellent occasion for a PPC campaign. Alternatively, if you have come up with an idea on how to improve the efficacy of how you inform interested users about your product or service, targeted ads can help check your theory.

For example, you sell hot tea to go. In the winter, there are a lot of traffic jams in cities and drivers are stuck in their cars for many hours without the ability to have a snack or drink tea. If you rely solely on organic traffic, only those drivers who have typed the request hot tea in the search bar will access your information. Furthermore, drivers in a traffic jam are unlikely to talk to each other. That is why the information about the service of tea sales with delivery will spread slowly among your target audience, and you can lose a majority of sales. But if you launch an advertising campaign on time, which will show an ad about the opportunity to drink hot tea during rush hour, then even those who have not thought to search for your services will have the chance to use them by clicking the link which you would include in an ad. Alternatively, if your business does not foresee delivery at long distances, it is possible to make use of local advertising and show it to only those people to whom you can bring tea directly to their car.

SEO & PPC Interaction

Traffic Channels

To understand how the correlation between the results of search optimization and advertising campaigns, let us list in brief the main sources of incoming traffic:

  • Direct traffic: Users know and type the address of your site in the URL bar. Mostly, the indices of direct traffic are the signal of how recognizable your brand is among the target audience. But the integration of the search bar into the URL bar changes the tendency and, distinguishing between direct and search traffic is becoming more and more complicated. 
  • Search traffic: All the clicks to your site from any of the search services from Google to Baidu. It is often divided into organic and paid. One of the success factors in the increase of search traffic is the number of keywords that are used for ranking and inclusion in snippets by these keywords.
  • Referral traffic: Clicks on the links to your site placed on other sites. It is important to remember that the number of external links leading to your site can positively influence the results of organic ranking. However, the so-called toxic links (to which we have dedicated a separate article What Are Bad Links?) can be the reason for penalties and other troubles. Also, sometimes the problems with indexing and setting of the analytics marks can lead to incorrect traffic attribution, for example, certain search clicks will be accounted as referral ones.
  • Social traffic: clicks to your site from the links posted on social networks. Social networks, as well as forums and some other platforms, do not influence organic traffic but can serve indirectly as proof of your content value. 
  • Email traffic: Results from your mail outs in the form of clicks on the links to the site from emails.
  • Display traffic: Clicks to your site from banner, textual, or HTML ads.

Practical Example of SEO and PPC

To better understand how these segments work together, let us open the site


Employing a browser extension or website, lets us use the analytics service SimilarWeb to check the results of the page in question. The Traffic sources tab will show the information about the share of every channel in the results of the whole site visits within the month.


This data will be useful in understanding the complete trend of the incoming traffic distribution. For example, the share of search traffic can be further divided into organic and paid to better understand the correlation between the volumes and effectiveness of every channel. The display ad will show the most popular resources where ads are published and will provide the correlation of volumes of different advertisers’ volumes. Meanwhile, social traffic will only show the general tendency and more detailed information about the main channels: Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc.

But it is necessary to take into account that every traffic channel has its specifics. For social media, this is the ability to generate clicks not only as advertising platforms, through PPC campaigns, but also due to posted content and audience involvement. That is why this data will only show the general level of the channel effectiveness. This is a useful indicator that can require additional information for proper understanding and being used in the work process.

Meanwhile, SemRush makes it possible to find out the correlation between organic and paid traffic, availability, and volumes of banner ads, main landing pages for advertising campaigns, and much more information.


In this particular case, search optimization is liable for the composing and effectiveness of organic search traffic, in other words, for 21.4 million monthly visits. The review of organic search results should begin with parameters, such as the number of keywords and the site position.


In general, more than 1.6 million keywords are highlighted. With these keywords, the site can participate in the ranking of organic search results. The organic position can be different for every search request, the graph on the right side shows the correlation between the shares of all the organic keywords to the link position in the organic SERP. For instance, 10% of keywords cover one to three positions in the search results for their links. 

The second component of the search traffic is clicking on ads, also called paid traffic, it is presented in the same way as organic traffic – by the number of keywords and positioning distribution. As can be seen, 88% of the results are at the level of the first link.


Aside from paid search traffic, PPC can be also assigned to ads on social networks, for instance, Facebook or Instagram, as well as to banner ads.


The informational report on display campaigns shows the estimated number of sites that display an ad, how many banners are on each website, and the correlation between textual and visual advertising. Landing pages are interesting as they can provide us with an understanding of where the advertising efforts of a site are targeted.

Search optimization is similar to the traction control system of a car. Some drivers have no idea about the availability of a manual mode and feel comfortable with this system. It adapts to the environmental conditions and ensures maximum effectiveness and reliability under any weather conditions. But if a car has a defect or worn out details, automatic means will not help. That is why search optimization is liable for conversion of the information you post, your offers and services. The better a site is optimized, the more effective your content works in search results.

Nevertheless, an automatic mode has some restrictions, for example, on the speed. And if you need to accelerate over a permissible limit, PPC will come to rescue. Paid traffic, including the results of PPC campaigns, enables us to switch from automatic ranking in the mode of manual control. If you have ever switched the stabilization mode of a car off in winter, then you know this feeling perfectly well. No matter the quality of the automatic system, some situations can be solved only through manual control, in which case, everything depends on the skills of a driver. If you accelerate too fast, it is possible to worsen the situation and not to get underway. That is why paid traffic not only opens a lot of possibilities (from expanding the audience to increase in sales) but also requires proper treatment.

What is the Difference Between SEO and PPC?

To better understand the difference in the performance of SEO vs. paid search, imagine that you would like to take out a small loan. Search optimization is reliable lending in a reputable bank with low interests. However, the term of the loan is 20 years without the possibility of early repayment. The advantages are clear, but the flaws include a complicated procedure of getting a loan as it is necessary to meet the criteria of a bank and provide a lot of documents, certificates, and evidence. Also, you are not allowed to pay the debt back in advance. Even though it seems all right now, in a couple of years, everything could change. 

On the other hand, the PPC campaign is a specialist for small loans. It is possible to quickly and quite easily get to your disposal the necessary amount of money, without numerous documents and certificates. The good news is that you will be able to repay this loan at any time convenient for you. The bad news is that you will need to put down collateral that will not be returned to you if you do not repay the loan. The interests are also considerably higher because all parties are at risk.

Search optimization is composed of three main facets:

  • On-page SEO: Everything located inside a site, from headers and meta descriptions to images and texts. For more information, check On-Page SEO.
  • Off-page SEO: Everything that influences your site but is not located on it. For example, backlinks from other resources, social networks, reputational marketing (SERM), and local search results. Read in detail in the article about 11 Off-Page Optimization Strategies.
  • Technical optimization: Actions for the improvement of the site display on mobile devices, quicker site loading, as well as everything related to navigation, links, and duplicates of pages. More details are in the article What is the Technical SEO Audit?

If you want to find out more about the peculiarities of search optimization, you can read the article about Types of SEO. But it is important to remember that every stage is crucial and only proper implementation of all the necessary actions will enable you to reach the maximum effectiveness in organic search results. Search optimization will not bring you quick results. Most often, the full-featured effect of your work will be noticeable in 2-3 months. Within this time, it will be necessary to trace changes in site indices to identify improvements or deviations in due time.

Talking about labor contribution, the later you begin dealing with search optimization, the more complicated it will be to reach results. Therefore, if you take into account the necessity of the search optimization at the stage of the project development, most technical works you will later have to implement will most likely be insignificant.

Also, one should remember search optimization while drafting the content plan and choosing the adjacent promotion channels, for instance, social networks, forums, and blogs. For more detailed recommendations on how to work with these channels, you can read the article about Blogger Outreach.

PPC campaigns have numerous fields of application, but their main benefit is quick results, which are important in several cases. For instance, if you have a new site and cannot wait several months for your potential clients to begin clicking your organic links, paid ads would be a great solution. 

Another great advantage is control. You will always know the keywords chosen for paid impressions and ranking, which is why it is easy to measure and control effectiveness. Meanwhile, the pool of organic keywords, especially the ranking results of your site by these keywords, can change regularly. 

Besides, you control how your audience sees ads. For example, it is possible to set a dynamic ad with several variants of text for each element, from header to description. Alternatively, it is possible to select a suitable call-to-action that you would like to add to your advertisement. On the other hand, it will only be possible to understand if a chosen keyword brings the expected result or not in practice.

The effectiveness of an ad, including PPC, is a matter to be discussed separately. If the efficacy of an organic search defines the quality and level of optimization and content, there are more variables for paid traffic. For instance, if you are working in the field of electronic commerce, even effective paid keywords can be divided into several categories. Some of them will bring more traffic and clicks, but others will lead to conversion and sales. That is why it is important to select and optimize campaigns depending on your targets and peculiarities of your product. 

Taking into account the upgrade of BERT, which we have talked about in the article dedicated to Google BERT Update, the roles of organic and paid keywords can change. Gradually, the ability of webmasters and site owners to influence the pool of organic keywords is becoming lower and lower. For example, while launching a new product, before the search bot finishes the site indexation, and the first organic results will begin to appear, there will be practically no source of information about relevant keywords. In such a situation, it is always possible to make use of information about the competitive research of the niche or market. We have described in detail how to compose a pool of keywords and find potential possibilities for promotion based on competitors’ data in the article SEO Competitive Analysis.

Is it Good to Use PPC and SEO at the Same Time?

In our opinion, the presence of paid search traffic is no less important for the successful work of any project than the presence of organic traffic. Of course, there are lots of sites that get along with only organic results, and content-strategies based on this suffice. That is why it is necessary to choose an approach that will suit you and will be useful for your project. We will provide you with a couple of tips to help you correctly evaluate the options.

Paid traffic is the method of reaching out to more users. Even the most high-quality and expensive ad can influence the expectations of your product but not the product itself. That is why if your ad does not correspond to what users see on your site, the bounce rates and campaign effectiveness will immediately give you a cue.

The main target of the majority of projects is to attract and keep users. In essence, there is a battle for attention and time that has become the universal currency on the Internet. To keep attention, a site has to be useful and interesting not only today but also in the long-term perspective. Therefore, an ad can attract more users, but it will not be able to keep them if they have no reason to stay.

The regular flow of quality information, offers, and wares will give users a reason to visit your site again and again. Therefore, one of the good indicators while working with advertisements and content is a gradual increase in organic and direct traffic.

Think broadly. Every type of advertisement has a lot of effective means of application. For instance, when working on general brand recognition, it is possible to use banner ads. Unlike Google AdWords or Facebook, it does not offer precise targeting, but it will enable you to reach a wider audience with a minimum cost per click. 

Meanwhile, it is necessary to remember that an advertising campaign will require a special page, i.e., a landing page. If you create content, make it the center of the advertising campaign. You should indicate the name or address of the site. The more often users see it, the higher the probability that the next time they will try to remember you. If they fail, they can open a search system where your site can be displayed in organic or paid search results. We have a separate post on how to correctly select the site name for users to remember it easier – What To Do If Your Domain Name Is Taken?

Learn and make use of the peculiarities of every platform. For instance, a lot of social networks have special functions that are only available to their users. Facebook and Instagram offer Stories. However, only your experience will show which social network will be most effective for your ad. Try to find out as much as possible about your users and choose the channels where they can be found.

Also, the presence of the organic site audience or subscribers on a social network will enable you to define your actions further. If you like how your organic traffic works, analyze it, and make the necessary adjustments for future advertising campaigns. Create a lookalike audience, carry out A/B tests – both of these can yield results, and it is worth giving a shot to every method. One can learn from successes and failures alike. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

About author
George is a freelance digital analyst with a business background and over 10 years of experience in different fields: from SMM to SEO and development. He is the founder of Quirk and a member of the Inspiir team, where he is working closely with stakeholders from many popular brands, helping businesses grow and nurturing meaningful projects. George writes regularly on topics including the technical side of SEO, ranking factors, and domain authority.