What Is the Difference Between Paid Search and SEO?

What is the difference between paid search and SEO? These two SEM terms vary in payment, lifespan, and SERPs placement. Read this article to find out more.

What Is the Difference Between Paid Search and SEO?

If you want your website to appear in search results, you have two options. One of them is paid search marketing, and the other is search engine optimisation.

Both SEO and paid search are search engine marketing (SEM) terms. But what is the difference between paid search and SEO?

These two marketing strategies are different in many aspects. But the biggest difference is that you have to pay much more for paid search marketing. You can do SEO, on the other hand, on a much lower budget.

You can invest in SEO if you want long-term results.

In this article, we'll talk about SEO and paid search and what makes them stand apart. We'll also go through the pros and cons of each option.

This article will help you find the right solution for your business.

💰 What Is Paid Search?

Paid search is sometimes called pay-per-click (PPC).

Paid search is a type of online advertising. Businesses pay to have their website appear at the top of search engine results. 

When people look for specific keywords, the paid ads pop up at the top of the page.

For example, try searching for "best SEO tools" on Google. The first few results at the top of the page are often paid search ads.

When someone clicks on your ad, you have to pay a small fee to the search engine. So, you're only paying when someone interacts with your ads.

That's why this marketing strategy is also called pay-per-click.

You usually pay the fee to search engines. Google ads is the most popular. But you can use PPC advertising with social media platforms and other search engines.

It's a way for businesses to attract more visitors to their websites. It also lets them promote their products or services. People who are actively searching for related information online will find them more effectively. 

The goal of PPC ads is to increase a site's visibility in search results. The traffic that comes to your site comes from paid search results.

💻 What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation.

It's the process of making changes to your website so that it appears higher on Google. These are unpaid or organic search results, to be more precise.

When you search for something, search engines decide which websites to show first. SEO involves tweaking various elements on your website to achieve this.

For instance, keywords, content, and links. Search engines will then understand your site better and find it more relevant.

There are different types of SEO, including:

  1. On-page SEO
  2. Off-page SEO
  3. Technical SEO
  4. Local SEO

On-page SEO is the most important type of SEO. It includes keyword research, keyword targeting, writing content, and internal linking.

Local SEO is also important for businesses that want a local presence. It's especially vital for brick-and-mortar businesses that rely on foot traffic.

The goal of SEO is to increase the visibility of your website in organic search results.

When your site is optimised for search engines, it becomes more visible to users. These are people searching for information, products, or services related to your site.

This can lead to more visitors, more customers, and ultimately, more success.

🤔 What Is the Difference Between SEO and Paid Search?

SEO and PPC differ in the following ways:

  • Payment
  • Cost
  • Placement
  • Lifespan
  • Visibility
  • Credibility and trust

Advertisers pay search engines whenever someone clicks on their ads. These ads are displayed at the top or bottom of the search results page.

You don’t pay for organic traffic that comes from SEO. SEO focuses on optimising content, structure, and other elements of your site. 

The goal of SEO is to improve the site's organic rankings. No direct payment is made for clicks from organic results.

But when it comes to cost, both SEO and paid search come with certain expenses.

For paid search, you have to pay for every click. The cost can vary based on competition for keywords. It can become expensive, especially for popular keywords.

SEO efforts require an initial investment. But, the ongoing maintenance and optimisation do not incur per-click costs. 

SEO can be more cost-effective in the long run. You can even use some SEO tactics and tools for free.

The placement is another important difference.

Paid ads usually appear at the top or bottom of the search results page. They are marked as advertisements.

Organic search results appear in the middle of the search results page. Websites that rank well organically are seen as relevant. Thus, they can also make it to the top of search results.

It's also essential to mention the trust factor. 

Some users may skip paid ads because they know these results are paid for. They might trust organic results more.

✅ Benefits of Paid Search

Paid search comes with many benefits for businesses.

These are some of the most important benefits of paid search ads:

  • Instant visibility
  • Targeted ads
  • Quick results
  • Flexible budget
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) model
  • Customisable ad formats
  • Competitive advantage

Paid search provides instant visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

When you set up an ad campaign, you will see results right away. This is quite useful for new websites or businesses that want a wider presence.

You can target keywords and key demographics. This will help you reach your ideal audience.

Paid search allows for detailed analytics and performance metrics. You can track clicks, impressions, conversions, and other important data. 

This allows you to see if your campaign is doing well.

You also have control over your budget. You can set daily or monthly limits on ad spending. This flexibility allows businesses of all sizes to use paid search advertising.

Paid search platforms offer various ad formats. This includes text ads, display ads, video ads, and shopping ads. 

You can choose the format that best suits your marketing goals and target audience.

Businesses can use paid search to stand out. Even smaller businesses can have better results than larger ones.

❌ Drawbacks of Paid Search

As useful as PPC ads can be, they come with some drawbacks too. Here are the most important ones:

  1. Lack of trust
  2. Costs
  3. Click fraud
  4. Limited effect
  5. Complexity

When you search for something on Google, you'll see Google ads first. 

You may not trust those sites because they pay for their exposure. Organic search results are much more trustworthy.

Paid search can become expensive, especially for competitive keywords. Small businesses or startups with limited budgets might not have the marketing budget for it.

There's also the issue of click fraud.

It occurs when individuals or automated bots click on ads with malicious intent. This leads to inflated advertising costs for businesses. 

Search engines have mechanisms to detect and prevent click fraud. But this problem still remains.

Paid search provides immediate results. But when the ads stop, so do the results. Unlike SEO, paid search only generates traffic as long as the campaign is active and funded.

Managing PPC ads can sometimes be too complicated. Those with no experience in search marketing might not know how to do it. If this is you, you can always hire a marketing agency to do it for you.

👍 Benefits of SEO

When it comes to SEO, there are many benefits for businesses. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • Organic traffic
  • Credibility and trust
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Long-term impact
  • Better user experience
  • Less maintenance than paid search

SEO helps attract organic traffic to your website. Once your website ranks well for specific keywords, you don't have to pay for each visitor. This is the opposite of PPC ads, where you pay for each click.

Users trust websites that rank high in organic search results more than paid ads. Organic rankings show that your site is relevant and valuable.

You may need to pay for initial SEO efforts. But, the ongoing, free traffic will continue to come to your website after that.

So, SEO can be cost-effective in the long run.

SEO efforts, when done the right way, can have a lasting impact. Once your website ranks well, it can maintain its position for an extended period. 

Even if you reduce your SEO efforts, the traffic might keep coming. Although, some maintenance is usually necessary.

SEO involves optimising your website for a better user experience. This includes faster loading times, mobile-friendliness, and high-quality content. 

This not only pleases visitors but also search engine ranking factors.

Finally, SEO requires less maintenance than paid search.

👎 Drawbacks of SEO

SEO comes with many benefits. But it also comes with some disadvantages you should consider.

These are some cons of SEO:

  1. It takes time to see results.
  2. You have to keep up with search engine algorithms.
  3. You have to optimise your site regularly.
  4. Some SEO services require skill and expertise.
  5. SEO requires an initial investment.

SEO takes time to work. You have to wait at least a few months before you can see the results of your SEO strategy. That's why it's important to be patient.

If you want to do SEO, you need to keep up with search engine algorithms. What works today might not work the same way tomorrow. 

This means that you need to know how they work, which requires SEO knowledge.

Even though SEO requires less maintenance than PPC, you still need to optimise your site regularly. This includes your blog, landing pages, and other web pages.

Not everyone can do SEO by themselves. After all, you need some basic skills for a successful SEO campaign. Some businesses hire SEO specialists, which pays off more in most cases.

When you first start with SEO, you need to set aside a reasonable budget. Especially if you want to invest in professional services and SEO tools. 

For businesses with limited budgets, this initial cost can be a challenge.

❔ SEO vs. Paid Search - What Is the Best Decision?

SEO and PPC campaigns can both be useful for businesses. But which option is better for you? It depends on many factors.

To decide between these two options, you need to consider:

  • Your goals
  • Your budget
  • Your competition
  • The urgency
  • Your target audience

Do you want a long-term effect or immediate results? SEO can help you with long-term online visibility. Paid search ads are better for those businesses that want instant results.

Your budget is another important factor. 

SEO generally has a lower ongoing cost than paid search. Paid search can be more expensive, especially for competitive keywords.

Your decision should also depend on your competitors. If your competitors have strong SEO strategies, it might take longer to outrank them.

SEO takes time to show significant results. If you can afford to wait for several months for substantial traffic growth, SEO is a viable option. 

If you need immediate traffic and quick results, paid search is the way to go.

If your target audience primarily relies on organic search results, SEO is essential. This also applies to building long-term relationships with customers.

If your audience is more likely to click on ads, paid search allows precise targeting.

Some businesses like to use both. You can combine SEO and paid search. 

You can use paid search for immediate results and supplement it with SEO for long-term, sustainable growth.

📈 Make SEO Work with RankRise

If you're new to search marketing, you have several ways to attain an online presence. If you want instant results, you can invest in PPC advertising. 

But if you want to land on Google Search naturally, SEO can help you achieve your goals.

While there are many benefits of SEO and PPC, SEO pays off more in the long run.

If you need help with SEO, RankRise is here for you. We're a digital marketing agency, and we specialise in SEO. We can help you create the perfect SEO strategy that will give you amazing results.

If you have any questions about our services, feel free to reach out to us

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Tijana Abadic
Tijana Abadic

Tijana is a content writer with three years of experience working for digital marketing firms and creating informative and engaging content for diverse industries. As a content strategist at RankRise, she specialises in writing and editing long-form content that reflects the brand and drives results.

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How much does it cost to hire you for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

The cost of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services depends on the complexity and scope of the project. The cost is generally higher if your industry is more competitive, or if you would prefer to see results faster. The price starts at $150 per month to target the location near your physical location, to $1,600 per month for a campaign with a broader reach. Our team provides customised quotes based on your individual needs, so contact us to discuss them in more detail.

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If you've hired us to run your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign, then yes!

If we don't see any results within a few months we pause any payments and work for free until we see the results we were hoping for.

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