To SEO or PPC? That is the Question


Alison Mann


What do you consider to be the most effective – PPC or SEO?

This question has been floating around the online world for as long as SEO and PPC have existed. For many companies these days it is becoming increasingly important to consider utilising such services in order to remain ahead of competition.

I created a poll that asked the question ‘What do you consider to be the most effective: PPC or SEO?’

Below quite clearly demonstrates the overall perception of voters. I aimed my poll at business professionals who would most likely already have some level of understanding in this area; people who would already have formed strong opinions. The results are below:

On the face of it, it seems that the majority of voters consider SEO to be the most effective with PPC really falling behind holding only 6% of votes. However if we look more closely at these results and the comments we can see it really is not so clear cut.

One voter commented:

“I’m not sure how one can determine which is the most effective as it depends upon the audience, product or service, competitions, budget and other factors. Also the quality of the strategy and effective implementation should be taken into account. It all depends”

Although this is a very non-committal answer, it does draw attention to the fact that really, it is not as simple as choosing one or the other. There are so many factors that must be taken into account that it really is very difficult to pick either SEO or PPC as being ‘most effective’. Let’s take a look at other comments in this poll:

“Tough to answer. The answer could shift one way or the other depending on objectives – and whether short term results are higher priority than longer term results.”

I believe that this is a very tough question to answer fully. I purposely set the question to allow for personal opinions to be brought out. It is a very personal question. I wanted to know the individual thoughts of people who use PPC and SEO and to hear their own experiences. In order to answer this question, the voters must first have considered the following:

  • Are PPC and SEO measurable?
  • How do I measure the effectiveness of them?
  • What is the most important outcome from using these services to me and my business?
  • Am I aware of how my search agency is improving the visibility of my business through these platforms?

The above are all contributing factors that should lead you to your decision.  Do you measure effectiveness by the number of visitors to your site? Do you measure it by the increase in sales from your PPC or SEO? Do you simply measure it by the speed at which you become more visible in search engines? Or is it more important to have longevity and prolonged visibility for your business?

As someone who works within a search marketing agency, I am exposed to both SEO and PPC but my role within the company allows me to be completely neutral and open to both methods. I took this question to the Head of PPC, Peter Whitmarsh and the Head of SEO, James McCann to discover their expert opinions on the topic.

According to SEO expert James McCann;

“The most effective method is an effective synergy between the two. Spend money on SEO to get relevant traffic; stop spending and you still receive relevant traffic. If done properly, SEO has other associated benefits allowing you to build your brand, provide quality engaging content, social, PR and so on.  PPC is more instant therefore can allow for testing such as finding the keywords that convert the best, which can then feed into your SEO campaign. With regards to PPC, it’s not as easy to capture as much long tail traffic in key positions as you can with a PPC broad match. However in some markets you will find that head term traffic can be extremely expensive to compete on. In summary, you need to find out your best keywords using PPC and then optimise your site using SEO. There are arguments for and against bidding on terms where you have prominent organic visibility, such as cannibalisation or that it gives brand reinforcement. In truth, it does differ for different markets so you have to test, analyse and test again so to see what works best for you so that your PPC and SEO work in tandem to give you optimum ROI.”

So our SEO expert has explained that it is not necessarily either/or but an effective synergy of the two.

Our PPC expert Peter Whitmarsh explains further;

PPC is a powerful method for delivering relevant traffic to a website in a short space of time. You can fully control how much money you want to spend on advertising, the phrases that people will use to find the website, the messaging that people will see before clicking and the pages on the site where they will land. It is extremely powerful as a short-term tool for delivering traffic to a new site or as a long-term tool to deliver cost-efficient, highly-relevant traffic over a number of years and ensure trackable results.

“Even if sites are ranking well in SEO, PPC will still be a valuable method for delivering extra traffic to the site as well as making sure you rank for all long-tail variants which aren’t receiving any focus in SEO. The two methods work in harmony to gain the maximum out of the internet.”

It seems then that the general consensus from both sides is that they work best together. This is not to say that they are equally effective but that to gain the best from them both, they should be working in harmony with each other where relevant.

What do I think?


Increased Search Engine Visibility

My own opinion is that SEO and PPC are both extremely effective in their differing methods and techniques. There will be some products that are more suited to a PPC campaign and some more suited to SEO, or even a combination of both. The important thing is to sit down with your account ma
nagers to discuss and discover which is the best method for your brand. Then you can start to work on increasing the visibility of your website and product via your chosen platform of SEO, PPC or an amalgamation of the two.

It is extremely important to maintain a good level of communication with your account managers to ensure that you are able to measure the success of your campaigns and tweak or adjust in accordance to your changing requirements.

So in answer to my own question I think I would have to choose ‘It completely depends on the product’. Both PPC and SEO are equally effective depending on the product you are trying to promote, the allocated timescales and a plethora of other affecting factors.

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