PPC or SEO - Which is better? | Alchemy Interactive

Which is Better – PPC or SEO? Online Marketing by London Agency Alchemy Interactive

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Online Marketing

Our last article was "What's the value of SEO" which defined what it was and debated whether you should partake in it.. the emphatic answer was yes. PPC (Pay per click) is another method of getting your page up on page one of Google or Bing.. but which one do you go for? Well – it's easy – you have to embrace each method.

Google dominates.. You must be on the first page of Google to make your presence on the WWW worthwhile – we all know this. Getting there is an art form and the easiest way is to buy your way in. Money talks as usual.. and that is what PPC is all about.

PPC – whats that about?

Pay per click (PPC) (can be called cost per click) is the advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay Google (occasionally Bing) when the ad is clicked. Put simply as -the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked.

With Google or Bing, advertisers normally bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market. PPC "display" advertisements, also known as "banner" ads, are shown in Google or Bing results.

PPC ads are displayed when a keyword query matches an advertiser's keyword list. Such advertisements are called sponsored links or sponsored ads, and in Google will appear adjacent to, above, or beneath organic results on the results pages.

This is what Google says about Adwords...

"Benefits of advertising with Google

A few important things set AdWords apart from other kinds of advertising. Using AdWords, you can:

  • Reach people at the precise moment that they’re searching for what you offer
  • Your ad is displayed to people who are already searching for the kinds of products and services that you offer. So those people are more likely to take action.
  • You can choose where your ad appears - on which specific websites and in which geographical areas (Counties, towns or even neighbourhoods).
  • AdWords reaches 80% of Internet users in the UK. That's a big audience.”


How much does PPC Cost?

So it’s all down to money.. How much does PPC cost? I’ve seen budgets ranging from £50 per month to a cool half million. Take a look at the table below (from Hochman Consultants) which shows an average of 50 advertisers on the Google AdWords ad network. These advertisers include companies in a variety of industries with a mix of local, national and international campaigns. The data set is not necessarily representative of the entire market, but it’s still interesting to look at the data trends over time.

Average PPC Costs










Cost per click (CPC)

£  0.24

£ 0.20

£ 0.40

£ 0.45

£  0.66

£  0.79

£  0.66

£  0.54

Click through rate (CTR)









Average Ad Position









Cost per mille (CPM)

£  3.55

£ 1.52

£ 1.24

£ 1.38

£  2.13

£  5.46

£  2.53

£  2.57

Conversion rate









Cost per Conversion


£ 7.63

£ 6.41

£ 7.02





Invalid click rate









Obviously, within the group, each advertiser may have a different definition of what constitutes a conversion. For some, the conversion action could be a sales transaction, a sales lead, a sign up, or a visitor who navigates to a key page on the site.

Hochman attributes the decrease in click through rate (CTR) from 2005 onward to the growth of Google's content network. Content network sites usually have lower CTR's and low cost per click. So generally, the content network produces acceptable results if the advertiser avoids over-bidding. Content marketing is linked but another subject to be covered at another time.

So that’s what PPC is…

The agreed definition of SEO appears to be that SEO is: The process of getting traffic from the "free," "organic", "editorial" or "natural" listings on search engines. i.e. The cost is in the build of your web site.

Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of each method.

PPC Pros:

It’s quicker to get you there...
It takes a few hours to set up a PPC campaign through the advertising services offered by Google (Adwords), Microsoft (Adcenter), and other similar services. This can all be done in 3 steps: create the campaign, create the ads, and bid on the search terms.

Ad Positioning
You can see you ads immediately on top, on the right side, and or at the bottom of the organic results in the Google results pages. Organic results get pushed down the list. Despite the claims of some people that sponsored links are not as trustworthy as organic links (me included), there is generally a higher conversion rate coming from PPC than SEO. Google says that people tend to find what they’re looking for from the paid results more than the organic results.

Settings, Editing and Data Tracking isn’t hard
The configuration of your campaigns can be customized. The ads, keywords, bids, budget, etc. can all be edited with just a few clicks and in just a few minutes. This is useful when you want to target and rank new keywords.

  • You get good stats
  • Geographic Targets
  • Your campaigns can be focused to target specific regions if you want.

PPC Cons:

It £’s per click… it can really add up.

It’s all down to the money. You get what you pay for. In this case, you get “clicks.” It’s about measurement too. Are you able to tell if the money is well spent? Can you measure the conversions? If you get it wrong the costs pile up over time.

You have to keep your finger on the pulse with PPC.. It changes quickly and tweaking the settings can make a big difference. The biggest problem with PPC is where you run out of budget.. your ads appear for a while and then tail off. This simply means that you have to spend more which makes Google happy.

SEO Pros:

SEO costs too
But it’s a long term investment with on-going benefits. The cost is in the elements you need to include in your web build to keep the search engines humming and also keeping the Web Dev team up to date with the ever changing world of Google algorithms… But.. if you get it right and your content manager looks after what goes on the site you can rise through the Google and Bing results page like a Euro Fighter going vertical.

Long-Term ROI
It goes on being applicable – there is no end - there is an average click ratio of approximately 70-30 in favour of organic search results.

SEO Cons:

It’s a slow journey
Your SEO initiatives may not immediately have any effect. If your website can be found on the fourth page of the Google it’s not likely that you’ll to reach the first page in just a few days – more likely is 6 months.

A conclusion: I would go with… PPC first but keep developing your SEO.. Do both.

The bottom line is that you need to use both PPC and SEO as part of your Internet Marketing campaign. PPC can bring you fast results, this means you can run a PPC campaign and test which keywords convert better and then try with SEO to rank for those keywords – get it?

Another way to look at it is to use PPC when you have a high converting product, have enough budget to compete for the words and use SEO when you have a limited budget to spend on advertising.

SEO may take time but the results are (under most conditions) long lasting whilst with PPC when the money runs out and you stop paying for clicks, traffic will stop.

From Brafton.. “According to the results from a recent MarketLive report, organic is the best choice for search traffic and revenue. A recent survey of ecommerce sites found that organic search engine visits far surpass those coming from paid content. More than 30% of traffic comes from organic content, compared to 18% from paid search clicks.”

They say that “Organic search visits also proved to be more profitable, accounting for 27% of the revenue generated on ecommerce sites. PPC visits represented 21% of retailers’ revenue.”

Also “Traffic to companies’ web pages increased 11.5 per cent during the first half of 2013, compared with totals from 2012. The majority of site visits are still owed to organic search traffic (31%), while 18% came from sponsored web content and 61% resulted from other sources such as direct visits.”

At Alchemy we know PPC and SEO like the back of our hands so to speak. We know that PPC can help your SEO by picking out those keywords that work or.. have no effect. PPC and SEO take time and effort and Google adwords isn’t for the faint hearted.. You need to know how to work it and you need to know what to look for. Give us a call.

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