Marketing August 5, 2013 Last updated May 20th, 2019 4,545 Reads share

PPC vs SEO: Pros & Cons Of Paid and Organic Search Marketing

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The web stratosphere revolves around search engines.  A large part of utilizing the web to grow a successful business, online or off, is driving profitable traffic through search engines.  With over 94% of Internet users using search engines to find what they’re looking for, having an effective presence there is vital.

Google has the overwhelming market share of the search engine market, followed by Bing and Yahoo, to represent all the searches any marketer would want to worry about.  There are two ways to drive traffic from search engines: organic, and paid.

Organic (non-paid) search traffic

The entire premise behind search engines is to provide relevant online resources to users looking for information.  When people search for something, Google (or Bing) tries to present the user with the most useful information as possible.  Organic search engine optimization (commonly known as SEO), is the process of establishing your website as a useful resource.  The more useful your website is, the more traffic you will “earn” without needing to pay for it.


  • It’s free!  Well, sort of.  Search engines don’t charge to have your website come up in results.  However, it takes a lot of time and effort to develop the most relevant web presence. And in this business, time is money. Of course, you can hire an SEO firm to do it for you, which is an investment much easier to measure.
  • It’s trustworthy. People trust organic results a lot more than paid advertising. They are much more likely to click on organic listings than on a paid ad.


  • Lack of Control: there are a lot of factors and elements that are out of your control when dealing with organic results. What your competition does, your past history and Google’s constantly evolving result preferences are all out of your control.
  • Unknown Factors: Google is fairly secretive about what they use a formula for “relevant” sites. While we do know some general “best practices” Google likes to see, it’s not 100% clear what will drive your page to the top.
  • Long-Term Investment: They say slow and steady wins the race. You might not see much progress for days, weeks, or months.  Becoming the most relevant website for a search, especially a competitive search, can take a long time.  Be prepared to invest time and money without seeing results some time down the road.

Paid search traffic

Paid traffic can take many forms including ads on search engines, ads within context, social media ads, etc. For the purposes of this article, I am speaking on ads within search engine results (for a more related comparison). This type of traffic often takes the form of pay-per-click, where clients only pay for visitors who have clicked on their ad. The other form is pay-per-thousand (CPM) which cost is based impressions, or how many people view your ad.


  • Cost Control: with the payment set up, you can set budgets and limit how much you spend on a daily basis to ensure you’re not going over budget. Similarly, you can manage each keyword’s bid to help target higher returning keywords.
  • Targeting: there is a plethora of targeting options in paid search. Everything from location to placement to network targeting. You can control who is seeing your ads making every dollar you spend more efficient.
  • Direct ROI: There is tons of data behind a paid search. Setting up goals and conversions (especially for e-commerce sites) can help you directly link your marketing dollars to returns.
  • Instant: Need traffic today?  As soon as you set up your campaigns, you’ll get the placements you pay for.


  • The complexity of managing campaigns: There are a lot of settings, targeting, and optimization strategies that can be used for profitable campaigns. Organizing and strategizing these can take a lot of time and expertise.
  • Competition: increased competition in this market has driven costs up, more so in certain markets.  The higher competition also means that those companies with big budgets and manpower tend to have dominant positions.

The future of the search environment

Search continues to become more and more complex as time goes on.  Paid search campaign shave introduced special shopping results, location extensions, and click-to-call capabilities, just to name a few.  Organic results now feature local businesses, images, news, and even location adjustments.  What you can be sure of is that the landscape is constantly changing, so a real commitment to user experience and targeting is vital in developing a search engine marketing campaign of any kind.


Search Engine Marketing   /

Mike LaLonde

Mike LaLonde

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