Before we begin dissecting differences, we’d better start with defining acronyms. “SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization, essentially helping a website to be in the best possible condition to rate highly with a search engine. For a business website this is important because the business wants to be visible (near the top of the results page) when a potential customer searches for terms or services related to that business.
The term “PPC” stands for Pay Per Click, meaning a company will pay every time anyone clicks on a posted (paid) link to the company website. To utilize PPC, the company chooses to place an ad—possibly on a search engine to be displayed when relevant searches are underway, or even on another website—and that company pays for every time the link is used.
Both SEO and PPC are approaches to bring website traffic to the company’s page, but they obviously have a number of differences.
Advantages of SEO
The most obvious advantage of SEO over PPC is the fact that it doesn’t cost you every time it works to bring you a website visitor. SEO is a more organic approach in which you optimize the website itself, making sure it has the qualities that are rated highly by search engine algorithms.
Honestly, that in itself is another strong advantage of employing SEO. The search engine algorithms are designed (to the best of the programmers’ capabilities) to identify the best quality websites with the top notch content. Ideally, those are the sites that show up at the top of an internet search, and certainly it’s a great sign of the quality of your website if yours moves into a top ranking.
Depending on how you go about ensuring SEO for your website, it may not be entirely a free process. If you use a platform like WordPress, which works behind the scenes to ensure search engine optimization, you are getting a great SEO boost without having to pay a dime, or even pay attention!
If you are paying a website developer to make your site for you, there may be some built-in costs to ensure SEO as part of that process.
Advantages of PPC
Although PPC may not seem advantageous compared to the free and organic nature of SEO, it actually does have some advantages when compared to other forms of advertising. The most obvious advantage is the fact that you only pay for that ad when it actually brings a customer to your website! Rather than trying to decide what venue will be most likely to show your ad to your target demographic, you can post it all over the place, and determine from the results where that ad is doing the most good.
If you’ve posted a PPC ad in an area where it is obviously not garnering any attention, you haven’t lost any money in finding that out (because nobody there was clicking your link).
Some PPC ads also have the advantage of appearing at the very top of search engine results, even ahead of the natural SEO list generated by the search engines. Particularly to an internet viewer who is not familiar with behind-the-scenes procedures, it may appear as if that result was the top suggested site, rather than being a site that paid for that placement.
Either way, such placement ensures visibility, although it may also cost more over time. When a company has a PPC ad at the top of a search page, and its site also naturally shows up among the top choices, that company is probably losing some of the advantage of “free SEO” because the user is more likely to click on the top link, and that’s the one that costs the company.