Paid Advertising vs Organic SEO: Which Is Right for My Business?


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20 min read

Spend money on paid advertising or develop your organic SEO strategy?

Which is the right route for your business?

Well there’s pros and cons to each, and it depends on a variety of factors.

Thankfully in this blog post, we’re going to unravel those factors for you, and ultimately help you decide which direction is right for you. We’re also going to explain exactly what paid advertising and SEO is to give you a better understanding of both of these strategies.

After all, how can you decide which direction is best without fully understanding how they both work?

We know that it can be very confusing when it comes to marketing your business. There is quite literally so much you can do, which is both a good and a bad thing. Obviously having lots of options to promote your product or service is a big positive, but when there’s too many options, it can be overwhelming.

Hopefully after reading this post you will be able to decide whether your business is suited to a SEO, PPC, or both.

You can easily dip and dive into both strategies, you don’t have to strictly focus on one route over another. Sometimes a blend is actually the best combination, but again, it’s about deciding which is most beneficial for your business.

Let’s start with the basics.
SEO domino letters

What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation, also abbreviated to SEO, involves making your website more visible so that it ranks highly in Google. We say Google as this accounts for over 92% of the search engine market share. Therefore, to be in with a shot of ranking highly you need to understand what it looks out for.

Essentially Google has nearly 200 ranking factors which it uses as a checklist before deciding where to position your content. These factors include:

  • Content length
  • Image optimisation
  • Target keyword in h2, h3 tags
  • Outbound link quality
  • Mobile usability
  • Internal links
  • Keyword in URL
  • Bulleted/ numbered list
  • Domain trust
  • E-A-T score
  • Site usability

Now this is nowhere near a complete list of Google’s ranking factors, but shows you some of the things on its radar.

It’s important you take these factors into consideration when creating your content, as it will help you appear on page one of the search results.

And let’s be honest, who scrolls any further than page one? Customers want information quickly, and if they can’t find it on your page, they’ll look somewhere else. No one has time to be trawling through 10 pages of search results trying to find what they need.

That’s why a sound SEO strategy is vital as you can ensure your website is the one your customers see.

What is Paid Advertising?

Now to the other end of the spectrum.

With paid advertising, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) as it is also known, the clue is in the name. You pay to have your content positioned at the top of Google, increasing the likelihood that customers will click through to your website.

Unlike SEO which positions you based on the quality and relevance of your content, paid advertising positions you based on the fact that you have paid to be there.

The good thing about this tactic is that you only have to pay Google when someone actually clicks on your advert. So until a customer interacts with your ads, you’re not charged. This is based on the idea that when a customer clicks, they are interested in your product/ service and are ready to make a purchase.
So how does it work?

When it comes to PPC, advertisers need to bid for keywords that are relevant to their target market. This cost of PPC ads is different spending on your industry and the search volume of the keyword you want to go target.

For example, if you chose the term ‘creative agency’, it would be a lot more expensive than targeting the term ‘creative agency Newcastle’ That’s because ‘creative agency’ is a much broader term and therefore a lot more people will be searching for it.

One of the main reasons businesses choose PPC is to get their content in front of their audience, if they’ve not yet built up an established website. This makes it an attractive option for startup founders as it’s a way of getting their content found until they’ve established more domain authority.
Confused Man Frustrated with Laptop

SEO vs PPC: Pros and Cons of Each

Now you know what SEO and PPC is, and how they both work, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each strategy.

This will help you weigh up which route is better suited for your business instead of jumping in head first.

Pros of SEO

Let’s kick off the comparison with the pros of SEO…

SEO is cheaper long term

One of the biggest advantages of SEO is that it is much cheaper than PPC. And knowing you can save a bit of budget has to be music to any business owner’s ears?

In fact SEO can actually be free as anyone can start creating their own content. Regardless of what industry you’re in, the option is there for you to get started.

Now the quality of your content is where the cost comes in, as to get it right you need to hire professionals. That’s because simply pushing out lots of low quality content isn’t going to do the job. Remember one of the most important factors of SEO is producing high quality content that people actually want to read.

When you create content that ranks and attracts people to your website it comes at zero cost. Because you haven’t had to pay to be there you don’t have to pay every time someone clicks. The reason they’re clicking is because they find your content helpful – not because you’ve bought that position.

Even when you factor in the cost of paying an agency or investing in SEO tools, it is a lot cheaper than PPC in the long run.

You can target different funnel stages

When it comes to your audience, not every person is going to be at the same stage in the funnel. If you don’t know what a sales funnel is, take a look at the below infographic:

green Canny sales funnel on black background

Essentially a sales funnel is where your customers are at in their buying journey. To explain this point further we’ll look at two different types of customer in a clothes shop.

Customer A knows exactly what top they’re going to buy as they’ve already seen it online.

Customer B is just browsing, and doesn’t really need anything in particular.

These two customers are at two very different stages of the sales funnel. Customer A is in the action stage as they’re ready to make a purchase. They know exactly what they want and they’re in the shop to buy.

Customer B is the awareness stage, as perhaps they’ve seen your products on Instagram but they’re not ready to hand over any money just yet.

In terms of promoting your product/ service online, it’s important to serve both of these customers different types of content which is suited to the stage they’re in. When it comes to customer A, you want to reaffirm that their purchasing choice is right which could take the form of customer reviews.

For customer B, you need to get them over the line to make a purchase so you should be serving them content such as in-depth blogs or infographics.

The beauty of SEO, is that you can create lots of different types of content, each tailored to the needs of your end user and where they sit in the sales funnel.
red and white wrapped presents

SEO is the gift that keeps on giving

Once you’ve created high quality, meaningful content, you will enjoy traffic to your website for years to come.

Yes, years!

That’s why SEO is evergreen, as it doesn’t have the same on/ off switch that PPC does. When you engage in paid advertising, you only have a certain budget to play with. Once your budget is spent, Google will stop showing your ad until the next day or until you have topped up your spend.

However with SEO, once you’ve provided customers with useful content, they will keep visiting your site time and time again. That’s because you have demonstrated that you can help them solve a particular problem. You have proven your value.

Of course, it’s important not to just leave blog posts sitting collecting dust. To get the most out of them, you should be updating content on a regular basis. That’s because Google loves fresh content. This means you should be refreshing key statistics, updating links, and replacing old images.

Essentially, you need to keep giving your old blogs posts a little bit of TLC.

Helps build brand authority

By consistently appearing at the top of Google for particular keywords, you’re building trust and brand authority with your target market.

Because you’re appearing at the top of search results it shows customers that you’re the expert they should turn to which encourages them to click through to your content. The more people who click through, the more you will up your brand authority.

That’s because you’re showing Google that you are answering a customer’s search query effectively as they are choosing to click on you.

Therefore, this signifies that you are the expert and it’s your content that they should continue to serve first.

Cons of SEO

Now for the cons of SEO.

And like any marketing strategy, there are a few downsides.

Search Engine Algorithms Frequently Change

One of the most confusing things about SEO is trying to understand Google. And honestly, you’ll never be able to fully wrap your head around it.

Even by looking at each of the 200 ranking factors, you can never stay truly ahead of the curve.


Because Google’s algorithm is always changing. It likes to keep marketers on their toes shall we say. This means you’ll have to regularly review your SEO efforts to make sure you’re still ticking all of the right boxes.

Also, depending on how you adapt to these changes, Google updates can either help or hurt your SEO. That’s because Google reconsiders the ranking factors of websites to ensure they are still providing the very best user experience. Their aim is to continually improve how customers find information, so that they can access the information they need as quickly as possible.

So when you engage in SEO, always keep your eye on Google.
silver clock on a wooden surface

It’s a waiting game

As the saying goes, patience is a virtue.

If you’re expecting to see results straight away with SEO, then you’re going to be very disappointed. It takes time for this strategy to yield results as you need to build up site authority.

You’re going to be competing against some really big websites so you can’t expect Google to just pull you straight to the top. You need to prove yourself which is only made possible through time. This gives Google the chance to see that your content is worthy as customers are clicking onto it.

So sit tight and have faith in your SEO strategy.

It takes skill

Anyone can fall into the trap of just thinking they can ‘do’ SEO. And that’s because, technically anyone can ‘do’ content.

As we’ve touched on earlier in the blog, there’s nothing stopping you from writing your own content and creating your blog. If you’ve got a laptop at hand then you’re pretty much good to go.

However, the question you need to ask yourself is, ‘how good quality is the content going to be?’

Quality content is what determines the effectiveness of your SEO. No one wants to read a load of drivel, as they’ll simply click straight back off your blog and find one of your competitors. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen and it will harm your SEO.

The solution is to hire a team of experts. These are the guys who know what it takes to get your content seen by the right people. From researching target keywords to carrying out competitor analysis to building an effective backlink strategy, there’s so much to get right.

At Canny, our team of experts do all of this for you. We know how time consuming running a business is, yet alone trying to make your SEO activity too. If you need some help writing and optimising your content then get in touch!

Pros of PPC

Now for the pros of PPC.

Let’s delve into the reasons why paid advertising is beneficial for your business.

You can enjoy quick results

Unlike the waiting game that is part and parcel of SEO, you can see the results from paid advertising in a matter of hours.

This means you’re not constantly having to check tools such as Ahrefs to see where your blog is currently positioned on Google. Not only can this be frustrating but it can also lead to problems when putting together your management report.

In this report, you need to justify the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns which can be difficult if you’ve got to wait months to see results. However, when it comes to PPC, you will be able to track their effectiveness straight away which makes it easier to present to your big boss.

You can pinpoint your audience

When you’re setting up a PPC campaign, you can choose who you want to target with your ads. This allows you to be more focussed with your marketing efforts as you can target people based on a variety of factors including where they live, their age, marital status, job, or interests.

The choice is yours!

This helps ensure that the right people are clicking onto your website. It’s no good having lots of people clicking your ad (which you will be charged for) unless they’re going to make a purchase. That’s why honing in on your target market is key as you can ensure each click is a worthwhile investment.

Essentially, compared to SEO, paid advertising is more buyer orientated. That’s because Google only shows ads if it thinks it’s relevant to the end customer. Therefore, it is the user intent that dictates whether an ad should show or not, meaning people who do see your ad are more likely to click on and make a purchase.

This approach is far less scattered.

PPC ads appear before organic content

As we’ve touched on, your customers want information and they want it now. They haven’t got time to search all of Google trying to find the answer they’re looking for.

When we’re served a page of search results, we automatically look at the search results at the top for the best response.

However, regardless of how good your content is, paid ads still appear first. That means people can end up clicking on paid ads rather than organic content, simply because it’s the first thing they see.

They might not have time to scroll past the ads, and might just at the first result which seems to answer their query. However, consumers are becoming more savvy to the fact that adverts have paid to be there. After all, they have the ‘ad’ label at the left hand side of the URL.

Take a look at the search results for the term ‘Creative Agency Newcastle’.

As you can see from the image below, the top 4 search results are all paid ads.

paid ads for search term creative agency on Google

However, if you stay on page 1 and scroll down a little, you will see Canny Creative in the organic search results. Not to blow our own trumpet (well maybe just a tad), but this is testament to the effectiveness of our SEO strategy.

canny organic seo screenshot

Well I did say we were the experts …

Cons of PPC

Now for the purpose of keeping a balanced argument, it’s time to look at the cons of PPC.

What are the downsides of this particular strategy?

PPC costs more

Because it’s pay-per-click, you’re quite literally paying every time someone clicks on your ad. It’s like they thought about this before deciding on what the strategy was going to be called…

As such, this can become very expensive.

It’s not enough to just consider click through rates. Your customers actually need to convert for this to be a worthwhile investment. The ads are only going to bring you in traffic but there’s no guarantee of an actual sale just because someone has ‘clicked’.

Therefore your main focus needs to be on conversion rates.

For example, if you get 100 clicks but your conversion rate is 1% then you need to make sure those 100 clicks cost less than the sale of one product. Otherwise it’s simply money down the drain.
person using iPhone calculator

Lower roi

Although SEO takes longer to produce results, the results last a whole lot longer. As we touched on earlier in the post, once you’ve produced high quality content it will continue yielding results for years to come.

However, the very opposite is true when it comes to PPC.

The results are instant but they’re also short term. You have to pay to play, so once the money stops so does your exposure. Unless you’re topping up your spend, your ad will essentially be switched off meaning your customers will no longer see it. Google will be serving them something else instead.

The ROI on paid advertising is therefore focussed on short term goals. You subtract how much you spend on paid ads from how much you earn by selling your product or service.

However as we’ve already covered, it’s important you’re earning more from sales than you’re spending on getting clicks.

It’s a very careful balance to get right.

Growth is limited by budget

Again, this falls back to the fact that you have to pay to be seen by your audience.

Therefore to make a real impact you need to have quite a bit of budget. Every time someone clicks on your ad, Google deducts some of your budget until eventually you have nothing left. Ih turn, this hinders your growth as you’ve only got a certain amount of money to play with.

In contrast, organic SEO can go on forever. If you’re producing high quality content that your users find helpful then you’re giving Google exactly what it wants. And even better, you’re not having to spend a penny!

PPC ads can become stale

Because of the rules set by Google, you have less control when it comes to personalising your paid advert.

One of the biggest problems with this is that your copy could end up sounding a lot like one of your competitors. As a result, you’re not really giving your audience a good reason to choose you as it ends up coming across quite stale.

If there’s nothing in your ad that jumps out at your consumer then the likelihood of them scrolling past you is high. You want to talk to your audience and create an instant connection that makes them want to click through to your website.

You don’t want your audience to simply skip past you, which can be very easy to do if your wording is corporate and bland. This is definitely something to consider when weighing up whether PPC is suited to your business.

In contrast, SEO allows you to personalise your title and meta description to make it clickable. Of course they should both contain your target keyword as this is what enables your audience to find you. However, the way in which you incorporate those keywords is up to you.
2 neon hands shaking

Paid Advertising and Organic SEO: The Perfect Partnership

Can paid advertising and SEO work in harmony?

Of course they can!

It doesn’t have to be one tactic over another, as often the best approach is to take advantage of both. As we’ve covered, both marketing strategies are effective in different ways.

Therefore it makes sense to use both approaches when promoting your business so that you engage as many customers as possible. Getting customers onto your website has to be the aim, and that applies whether you work in the recruitment sector or in healthcare.

Here’s how you can combine the two strategies so that they work in perfect partnership…

1. Create retargeted ads

If someone has visited your website without buying anything, is there something you can do to give them that extra push? Especially if they’ve visited the checkout page, it indicates that they’re nearly ready to buy.

That’s when retargeted ads come in very useful as you can prompt these visitors to come back and complete their purchase. People are easily distracted and can end up leaving products abandoned in their shopping cart.

Seeing an ad acts as a great reminder and encourages them to return to your website.

2. Use social media ads to promote content

Boosting your content through social media is a great way to get it in front of your target audience. Whilst you might want it to rank organically, these types of ads can give it the extra push it needs.

It also makes sense to promote your latest blog across as many channels as possible since you have spent time and effort creating it!

3. Use ad data to inform SEO strategy

PPC ads provide you with lots of useful data from top performing keywords to highest converting calls-to-action to click through rates.

Therefore, you can use data collected from your PPC ads to choose the best topics to write about as well as tailoring your headlines and meta descriptions to attract your target audience.
Woman inputting findings from a rebranding workshop into her laptop

Paid Advertising vs Organic SEO: Which Is Right for My Business?

So, paid advertising, organic SEO, or both?

The choice is yours.

Hopefully after reading the above blog post you will have a better understanding of what both of these strategies are and the pros and cons of using each.

However, it’s not necessarily a case of choosing one or another. Of course, that’s absolutely fine if you’ve decided one tactic is better suited for your business. In lots of cases, we see clients employing a hybrid approach, and using paid ads to give their content a bit of a boost.

The most important thing to remember is that SEO is a steady climb. Whilst it takes time to see results, it will continue generating value for your business year after year.

PPC on the other hand can provide quick wins and lets you see results straight away. However, when the money stops, your ads stop so this tactic has a limited lifespan.

Regardless of what strategy you decide to use (or perhaps both), you need the right team to make it happen. That’s where Canny comes in. We manage all of your content for you and guide you through the entire process. Our team of experts know what it takes to produce results for your business, whether that’s through PPC or SEO.

Get in touch with our team and find out how we can help, or download our advertising brief template to pitch us something.