SEO and PPC – making the correct choice

How do you ensure that potential customers come across your business at the right stage of the buying process? Digital Marketing trainer Ethan Giles of explains.

Ethan will run the Digital Marketing Skills course on March 25th and 26th at Prolific North’s HQ on Princess Street, Manchester. We turned to him to provide a bit more detail on SEO and PPC strategy ahead of the session.

Each day there are 5.6 billion daily searches on Google alone, which provides a great opportunity to increase your website traffic, if you employ the right strategy. 

But what is the right strategy? Consider that these potential customers will be in different stages of the buying process – some might just search for information or inspiration whilst others might have already made the purchasing decision and are now comparing their options. 

There are two main ways you can take advantage of search engines – SEO or PPC. Both have their merits and both have their challenges, so make sure you understand them before you define your strategy.

SEO & PPC explained

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) means you work on your website to ensure it is tailored towards users’ search queries. For example, if somebody searches for “SEO training Manchester”, Prolific North would want people to find their website as it is relevant for their training session. SEO is focused on the ‘natural’ search results – those results on the search page that are not paid for.

Pay Per Click (PPC) is a form of advertising that search engines like Google offer in a number of different forms. With PPC, you tell the search engine what search terms or keywords you want your ads to appear for, and write relevant advertising. As the name suggests, you only pay when your ads are clicked, and you decide how much you’re willing to pay.

SEO – the benefits

It’s free!

That’s right, you don’t have to pay to do SEO – apart from the cost of time of course. 

Unlike PPC, you don’t need to pay to appear in the ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ search listings, you just have to be well-optimised for user searches. Even tracking tools like Google Analytics or Google Search Console, which allow you to measure your SEO effectiveness, are free.

You can be creative

There’s an opportunity for you to be creative, as a big part of SEO is content and writing good quality content that users will care about.

This will help you stretch your business’s creative muscles. In addition, the usability of your site, including what it looks like and how it works, are important for SEO.


Organic results attract 88% of all clicks. So if you neglect your SEO and don’t appear often or consistently, and rely on PPC instead, you’re missing out on the vast majority of clicks and therefore a high proportion of potential customers.


It’s not enough to simply have a website and expect this to be an effective SEO strategy. If you do your SEO properly, this will allow you to remain competitive and can often allow you to punch above your weight against larger competitors with bigger budgets. 

SEO is about doing something really well, not about spending more money.

PPC – the benefits


Unlike SEO or other forms of advertising such as print, radio or TV, PPC allows you to directly target your customers by defining when your ads are shown and to who they are shown to. 

There is no other form of marketing that is so effective at targeting relevant and engaged potential customers.

Cost effective

You manage your own costs and pay only per click. This means you can ensure that you only pay enough to ensure your ads generate an effective return on investment. 

Unlike traditional forms of advertising, you have greater control of how much you spend, what you spend it on, and ultimately whether that spend generates results or not.


PPC can generate instant results. If you were to set up a campaign now, you could expect to start seeing website visits within hours. This means that you can spend money and expect instant results without having to spend a long time working on campaigns.

SEO – the downsides


It can take a long time before your SEO efforts start to generate results – changes you make today could take up to six months to start working. If you’re looking to make a big difference in a short space of time, then SEO won’t be an effective strategy for you.


SEO can often appear complex to newcomers – it combines multiple skillsets such as creative writing, web development, data analysis and even graphic design. 

However, with expert training or expert support, SEO can often become easier as these complexities are explained or managed.

Lack of control

Unlike PPC, you do not directly control what search results you appear for. While you can optimise for particular terms, ultimately the search engine decides what is relevant and what is not. 

You also can’t control international targeting, so you may appear in search results in countries that are not relevant for your business.

PPC – the downsides


The amount you have to pay to get clicks for ads will be defined by your competition and how much they are willing to pay. So if you are up against competition with bigger budgets or with a lack of understanding of their own profit margins, you may be quickly priced out of securing customers.

Too much control

Small changes you make could make drastic differences to your bottom line. For example, you could increase your budgets tenfold in just a few clicks, or show your ad for irrelevant searches or in a location you cannot serve. 

Google provides some security against this, but it’s recommended that you get proper training from experts before you pursue PPC.

Time investment

To get PPC right, you need to invest time to manage your campaigns. It’s not as simple as setting your campaigns up and leaving them to run without further changes. 

PPC requires management and optimisation and things can change daily depending on your marketplace. This means that PPC can soak up time as well as the cost of the clicks. However, there are intelligent things you can do to avoid spending a long time within the PPC platform and it’s important that you prioritise on the things that will make the biggest difference.


Now that you’re aware of both advantages and pitfalls of SEO and PPC, let’s get back to the initial question, which one do I use? 

The answer is, it depends. I wish there was a simple, universal answer but this is the beauty of it: it depends on your objectives. 

What are the needs of your business? How much time can you invest? What’s your budget? And do you have the right skills in-house?

Depending on how you answer these questions, you might even look at a combined approach where you use both SEO and PPC together. In my experience, there are massive benefits to managing them holistically as it allows for the advantages of one to make up for the pitfalls of the other. “

If you could use with more hands-on advice on search marketing tailored to your business, Ethan hosts regular workshops at Prolific North where we delve into just that. Browse the next available sessions here.

Read More

You May Also Like