While internet marketing is a broad field, it has largely been dominated by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. This means that the bulk of internet marketing is Search Engine Marketing, which can be divided into two practices: SEO and PPC.



What is the difference between SEO and PPC? Both are fundamentally concerned with generating website traffic (and sales conversions) through search engine results. The difference is in how that end is achieved.

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) consists of paid advertisements that are generated based on a particular search query or set of queries. As its name suggests, the advertiser pays the search engine a certain amount of money (the “cost per click,” which can flat rate or competitively bid on) each time their ad is clicked.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consists of results that are generate “organically” (meaning without payment to the search engine). Simply put, the SEO strategy is to rank as high as possible on these organic search results.

Any time you type a query into Google, you have likely noticed the coincidence of both types of results. The paid advertisements occupy the top and right-hand side, with the organic results spread throughout.


Having determined the differences between these two marketing strategies, the obvious question is: “SEO vs. PPC — which is better for my business?” Both can cost a significant amount of money, but both can have huge pay-offs. Let us take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)


  • You get what you pay for — no clicks, no cost to you
  • Fast & instant results
  • PPC conversion rates are 150% what SEO conversion rates are


  • Fraudulent clicks on your ad by competitors to inflate your costs (although search engines try to counteract these)
  • Does not generate as much traffic as SEO
  • Extremely expensive for highly competitive industries

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)



  • It takes time (often up to a year) to really see results
  • SEO is all or nothing — most people do not go past page 1


SEO vs. PPC — Are They Mutually Exclusive?

Here are a few questions to ask in order to understand how each marketing tactic might apply to your business:

  1. Type of Business —
    PPC if you sell a product/products
    SEO if you sell a service/services
  2. Years in Business —
    PPC if you are new
    SEO if you have been in business for a while
  3. Time —
    PPC if you need results ASAP
    SEO if you can invest a few months to a year
  4. Budget —
    PPC if your budget is large
    SEO (particularly, in-house SEO) if your budget is small
  5. Competition —
    PPC if your market is relatively unconcentrated (competitive)
    SEO if your market is relatively concentrated

Note that these are only general guidelines, and the answer for one may contradict the answer for another (e.g. if you sell a product but have been in business over a decade). So, to be sure: SEO and PPC are different…but not so different that we ought to think of them in terms of “either/or.” They can be complimentary, and many companies do implement both SEO and PPC as part of their web strategy.