PPC VS SEO: Which has better ROI?

A comparison between PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies

Feeling stuck within the never-ending dilemma of SEO VS PPC? Well, many marketers are grappling with these concepts to make the best strategy.

Both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising are renowned goldmines in the digital marketing sector. However, the difference between them is as different as night and day. The main contradiction lies in the point that SEO focuses on grabbing traffic from search engines while PPC specializes in driving traffic from various social media platforms.

So, the million-dollar question around the marketing round table conferences is: which one has better ROI? Well, check out all you need to know about the SEO VS PPC debate to make an informed decision.

In this blog, you will get to know about:

  • What is SEO and how does it work?
  • What is PPC and how does it work?
  • 5 Key Differences between SEO and PPC
  • Marketing Case Study of SEO VS PPC
  • SEO VS PPC: Which one is better?
  • Benefits of using both SEO and PPC
YouTube video

What is SEO?

When you type anything on search engines a list of results appears, right? Well, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your web pages to rank them on various search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. The higher the ranking is, the more will be organic traffic on the website.

How does SEO work?

The exact idea of how SEO works remains a mystery for even the CEOs who spend millions on that. In fact, it’s not as hard as you might think. All SEO strategies and professionals focus on these four main aspects:

  • Keyword Research: first of all, SEO teams conduct proper research to brainstorm the words that the target audience uses to search. You can use many tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc. for this purpose.
  • On-page SEO: On-page SEO focuses on delivering what exactly the audience wants. For example, if a user has typed in a query of ‘PPC VS SEO’, SEO experts must ensure that the page contains all the differences between PPC and SEO to prepare the reader to make an informed decision.
  • Off-page SEO: Off-page SEO refers to the activities done outside a website like building high-quality backlinks, boosting reviews, etc., to improve the Domain Authority (DA).
  • Technical SEO: it involves optimizing the website elements like speed, site architecture, mobile-friendliness, etc., to make sure that search engines can crawl and index the website.
YouTube video

What is PPC?

As the name suggests, pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of advertising where marketers spend money based on the clicks of the ad. Unlike the auction-based modeling of SEO, PPC lets you control the budget of the campaign. It is often considered a quick way to boost the visibility of a brand.

How does PPC work?

The simplicity of running PPC campaigns is one of the driving factors that encourages companies to try them out. Check out what PPC involves:

  • Keyword Research: Just like SEO, PPC starts with picking the right words that the target audience is looking for.
  • Budget Setting: The next step is to set out the budget or bid rates for the PPC campaign. It varies based on the platform on which the ads are running.
  • Ad Creation: Once the budget is approved, the marketing team works closely to create an ad and tests its quality. For example, if the team runs Google ads, they will check out the quality score given by Google to ensure that the ad is relevant to the target audience.
  • Audience targeting: Audience targeting is the process where brands determine who should view their ad. If the audience category is general, more will be the cost and competition. That’s why many platforms like Facebook let brands create their own custom target audiences.
YouTube video

5 Key Differences Between SEO and PPC

The success code of a marketing campaign lies in the choice of the channel. So, which one is right for your company? Check out 5 key differences between SEO and PPC.

1. Timeline

“SEO is a journey, not a destination,” is what Danny Sullivan, an SEO expert said. It’s indeed true! SEO is often seen as a long-term journey that takes between 3 months to a year. You need to have a solid plan to fuel the journey. 

Pay Per Campaign brings in results much faster. If you run a Meta ad or TikTok, the results could be seen in a time frame as short as 1-3 days. That’s one of the strongest areas of PPC.

Compared to PPC, SEO is a never-ending journey. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., constantly change their algorithms. And new websites are created every day to compete for the top spots. Therefore, your SEO strategies must be updated regularly to stay updated with the trend.

And, there’s yet another stark contrast. If you stop the SEO process and lose touch, it becomes very difficult to regain the results. New websites and updates may swipe across your previous search engine rankings. But in PPC, as long as you have the budget and strategy, you can start the campaign from scratch and get the previous or even better results. 

2. Budget

Both SEO and PPC cost money, depending on your requirements. But the real difference lies in the fact that the budget of SEO is out of hand as the time it takes varies based on several factors. Human resources eat up a significant portion of SEO budgets. Here are some estimates for that:

  • The hourly budget of freelance SEO analysts ranges between $15 to $35.
  • The monthly charges of SEO agencies are around $500.
  • For project-based SEO services, the cost is usually between $1000 and $10,000, based on the scope, agency, timeline, etc.

However, in the long run, the cost of SEO is reduced. And if done correctly, SEO can be a hen that lays golden eggs. The organic traffic gained from search engine results is not meant to be sustained for a longer time without any extra cost.

As the name suggests, PPC means payment per click. Check out the Cost Per Click (CPC) of each platform:

  • The average CPC for Google Ads is around $2.69 for search and $0.63 for Display. But, this could vary largely based on the target keyword and industry.
  • CPC for LinkedIn Ads stands at $5.39.
  • As of now, the average CPC for Amazon is around $0.97.
  • Experts state that the average CPC for YouTube ads is about $1.50.
  • The cost Per Click of TikTok Ads is almost $1.
  • You must pay about $0.94 for each Facebook Ad click.

The best part about PPC is that you will get control over the budget as you are paying for the leads that you receive. 

3. Targeting

You’ve spent tons of money and resources in marketing but have attracted the wrong audience. Is there any benefit? That’s why targeting is one of the most important aspects of marketing campaigns.

The main goal of SEO is to understand the keywords that the target audience is likely to type in as well as the search intent. Then, it creates high-quality content based on the keywords to attract the right eye to your website. However, in SEO, you cannot control who can see it.

On the other hand, PPC works in a separate way and allows more advanced targeting. You can send tailored messages to targeted demographics with just a single click, which is one of the biggest advantages of PPC. It even allows you to re-target old or abandoned users with behavioral marketing. Such a higher level of control often leads to better conversion rates.

4. Click-through Rates (CTR)

Almost all experts agree to the fact that organic search results always have higher click-through rates compared to paid ads. See what the figures state:

  • As per a study conducted by Conductor, organic search results attract over 64% of all clicks in SERPs.
  • The average CTR for search ads is just 3.17%.

Well, the results are crystal clear. SEO is much ahead of PPC, in terms of click-through rates.

That does not mean that SEO is invincible. The performance of PPC ads mainly depends on quality, relevance, strategies, etc. If you are ready to pump in a higher budget, there are several instances when PPC scored click-through rates like SEO. 

5. Return on Investment (ROI)

Now, let’s move to the most interesting part- Return on Investment (ROI). When it comes to CTR, SEO obviously has a definitive edge. SEO may initially have higher costs. But once you start seeing the results, the cost shrinks down. In a nutshell, SEO is meant to be cost-effective and ROI is sure to shoot up in the long run.

However, there will not be much difference in the ROI of PPC ads. Over time, you may be able to crack the code of your target audience and refine your ads. As a result, the cost per acquisition may be reduced and the return may increase, but not to a considerable level. As long as you are bidding on keywords and coming up with ads, you will have to incur a significant cost. 

Therefore, if your PPC budget is currently skyrocketing, investing some in SEO will surely benefit you in the future. By doing so, you may be able to bring down your costs and achieve a better Return on Investment (ROI). And, that’s what brings us to the next section.

SEO VS PPC: Marketing Case Study

Now, let’s substitute the facts with a story to understand things easier. See how Polar Design, a marketing company, figured out the answer to the never-ending debate of SEO VS PPC.


Polar Design used to focus on SEO strategy mainly for all their clients. But all of a sudden, the website traffic and conversion rates dropped considerably. They struggled to withstand the new and updated strategies of their competitors.


That’s when Polar Design rethought its SEO-focused traditional approach. One of the main drawbacks of SEO strategies was exposed: lack of control. Soon, they started experimenting with PPC for their clients along with SEO. Polar Design created a landing page for conversion and tried PPC ads for 3 months.


With the SEO and PPC deadly combo, the results were nothing less than impressive. Check out them:

  • Within just three months, the website traffic from PPC alone soars to a magnificent figure of 1,000. But as soon as the campaign ended, the traffic dropped to zero. 
  • Traffic from SEO began to gradually increase over time and it took more than six months for SEO-generated traffic to reach the 500-mark. However, unlike PPC, the results from SEO were long-lasting.
  • The cost per visitor of SEO diminished in the long run.
  • Traffic from PPC was way costlier but brought in more sales. The conversion rate of PPC ads skyrocketed to 8.91%. However, the conversion of SEO stood at just 1.61%.

SEO VS PPC: Which one is better?

Well, the question is complex and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Both SEO and PPC have their own set of pros and cons. None of them are better or worse than the other.

However, one thing is quite sure- SEO and PPC deliver the best results when they are used together. So, why not use them together? Check out some benefits of using both SEO and PPC:

  • Capture more traffic from high-competitive keywords by using a blend of organic and paid search strategies.
  • Get instant feedback for your keywords and content to update the SEO strategy.
  • Areas and demographics with weak organic traffic can be targeted through PPC ads.
  • Retarget your website visitors via organic search with tailored messages.
  • Use the data from PPC ads to improve the SEO strategies.
  • Test the targeted keywords in PPC before going for long-term SEO strategies.
  • Improve brand visibility by focusing on both organic and paid search marketing.

Final Take

The final piece of advice is “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” PPC is best at driving in instant results. But to sustain the results in the long run, you have no option other than SEO.

Therefore, using both SEO and PPC helps you to balance the risks and benefits. Even if one strategy doesn’t work well as expected, you still have another one to rely on. Remember, Long-lasting success lies in finding the perfect mix of SEO and PPC. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Post
Achieving a Good Click-Through Rate (CTR) for Facebook Ads

What is a Good CTR for Facebook Ads? The Good, The Bad, and The Average

Next Post
Illustration showing effective Amazon PPC strategy for higher sales and visibility

Amazon PPC – Statistics & ROI Expectation

Related Posts