Many external factors come into play when choosing a digital marketing method that might best work for your business.

SEO vs Google Ads: Which is a Better Fit for Your Business?

Digital marketing involves numerous activities, but all have one goal – to gain more traffic and leads for the business. You probably have familiarised yourself with a few online marketing strategies, including SEO and Google Ads.

The difference between SEO and Google Ads can be summed up with this simple statement: SEO is organic traffic whilst Google Ads are paid.

But there’s more to these two marketing tactics. It’s essential to understand what they are, their benefits for your business, and their limitations. So, let’s dive in.


What Exactly is Search Engine Optimisation?

Although this is not a comprehensive explanation of SEO, you’ll have everything you need regarding the topic in this section.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a popular term in the digital marketing industry. It has been around for over two decades and is believed to have begun in 1997. In simple terms, SEO is the process of improving a website’s performance with a great focus on its online visibility. So, when a user searches for anything related to your product or service, Google will show your business on the first few pages. But that’s only if you have a good SEO strategy.

An SEO campaign involves a series of activities that assist in ranking your website organically for specific keywords. To get a better ranking, your site should be Google and user-friendly. This means the search engine can read it easily, and visitors can use it with ease, as well. Optimisation techniques, such as internal linking, keyword integration, and quality content writing, are applied to help your website appear in relevant search results.

A well-optimised page can increase website traffic, resulting in more leads, conversions, and sales. If successful, your SEO campaign will help you improve your website’s Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT).


The Benefits and Limitations of SEO

If you’re doing SEO correctly, users will find your website at the top of the search results for keywords or phrases relevant to your niche. That’s not all; you get to enjoy the following benefits, as well:

  • Low Cost: SEO is an incredibly affordable investment, especially considering the long-term benefits it can provide. A one-time SEO campaign can give lasting results even if you’re on a tight budget. It’s an excellent solution for start-up businesses.
  • Continuous Traffic: If you’re in the online marketing industry, you are aware that Google’s algorithms keep changing. However, at the very core, they’re the same. It is centred around quality content, which is only found in trustworthy sources. So, if Google sees you as a trusted source of information, you will reap the rewards in no time for longer. Investing in SEO, including content development, can give you continuous traffic generation that you cannot get from other marketing tactics like Google Ads.
  • Bigger Audience: Have you Googled something and clicked on the ads? Most likely not. That’s because people like organic results more than them. Having a good SEO campaign opens up your business to a broader audience. This is a considerable advantage, especially if you have an online store, for example, and you are not targeting local customers.
  • High Trust Rating: As mentioned, customers click on organic results far more frequently than ads. But there’s one thing to note here. People tend to check the first few pages of the search results before modifying their search query. If your website ranks on the first page, users will view you as a credible source. It helps build trust, so there is a high likelihood that they will choose to buy from you over your competitors.

The advantages above are great, but that is not to say that SEO is perfect. It does come with a few limitations, even when you have a strong campaign. Here are some SEO disadvantages to taking note of:

  • Time: They say time is of the essence, but SEO success does not come overnight. It takes time, usually several months, before you see results. So, if you are in a hurry, you will be disappointed. A lot of effort is involved in optimising a website, from creating content to adding backlinks to researching relevant keywords.
  • Continuous Effort: You can rank high once you see that your efforts are working. However, it’s not easy to maintain your ranking. You must keep testing, monitoring, changing, and adapting tactics to support your site’s good performance.
  • Difficult Tracking: Determining how well your site performs is complicated with SEO. You may need to invest extra for tracking solutions. It’s even more challenging when you have a big website. Tracking your ranking is hard to scale. The number of keywords alone can be a headache to monitor, especially since ranking can change daily for a wide variety of reasons. It’s even harder when you have several pages on your site, and you need to optimise each page for keywords.

Time is SEO’s biggest enemy. The long wait might discourage you because you will not easily see tangible results out of your SEO endeavours. And to be competitive requires some investment. For these reasons, some businesses opt to use Google Ads instead.

SEO or search engine optimisation involves boosting a website and its content to enhance its credibility.


What are Google Ads?

Just like SEO, Google Ads is a component of search engine marketing (SEM). When used strategically, advertising on Google can become a valuable tool for your digital marketing campaigns.

Once known as AdWords, Google Ads is a Google-owned advertising platform where you advertise your business, page, or product/service. In doing so, you position your ads on the search results pages, YouTube, Gmail, and other websites participating in the Google AdSense programme.

Advertising on Google allows you to choose two methods:

  • Cost Per Click (CPC), where you pay when someone clicks your ads
  • Cost Per Thousands of Impressions or Cost Per Mille (CPM) where you pay when people see your ads

This whole system is similar to auctions, where you compete with other businesses or advertisers for the available advertising spots.


The Pros and Cons of Google Ads

The biggest pull of Google Ads is that you can bypass SEO, algorithms, and rankings. Your business immediately lands at the top of the search results pages. Yes, you’ll be there for a price, but Ads can give you some benefits, including:

  • Quick Results: Are you not fond of waiting? So, if making large bids is fine with you, you can get great results with Google Ads. You still need to target the right audience and keywords to see traffic and a good return on investment.
  • Easy Tracking: As one of Google’s money-makers, Google Ads comes with robust tracking solutions and metrics to ensure users are happy. For example, it has conversion trackers, such as website forms, calls from the website and directly from ads, and e-commerce orders, so you can evaluate your ad results.
  • Targeted Ads: Targeting the precise audience for your business takes time and effort with SEO – but not with Google Ads. It even allows you to reach specific queries matching your products, services, or offers. That means potential customers have a bigger chance of finding you when they search for anything related to your business or a certain keyword. You can also use retargeting strategies, which use Google Ads to automatically target bounced visitors and traffic for a second chance at converting.

Now onto the cons. The downsides of Google Ads include:

  • Costly: Advertising on Google Ads is expensive. It’s very expensive for start-ups or small businesses. In a competitive market, you will have to pay about $50 or more for every click leading to your website.
  • Temporary: You don’t own the spot you paid for on the search results page. Think of it as you renting a house. If you stop renting, you no longer have that house. That means the traffic you get from clicks completely halts once you stop paying for that space.
  • Trust: The biggest issue many users have with Google Ads is trust rating. Sure, you have your business at the top of the search results, but most people pick organic results over ads any day.

Remember that Google will charge you per click based on a few factors, including the amount you’re willing to bid vs your competitors. All in all, Google Ads is effective, but not everyone has the budget for it. That’s why it works well when supported by other marketing efforts, such as SEO.

Google Ads has immediate results and doesn’t require detailed content creation or planning.


So, Which is Better for Your Business?

Making this decision is indeed tricky. We hate to say it, but the answer is all up to you. Do you want more traffic with speedy results, or are you patient enough to take the longer yet less expensive route? Is it your priority to stay at the top of search results pages as ads, or do you prefer organic listings? Weigh the pros and cons of both we have provided above to help you decide.

Also, take a look at your budget. SEO may be the better option for you if you’re on a restricted budget for now. Meanwhile, if you are willing to spend some (or a ton of) money on ads, which will appear at the top of the SERPs, then Google Ads will work for you.

Related Article: 5 SEO and Digital Marketing Trends to Master in 2022


Can You Use Google Ads and SEO Together?

You don’t have to pick one side because you can use Google Ads and SEO at the same time for your marketing campaigns. These two complements each other. Here are some tips on how you can use these marketing strategies for your business:

  • If you are a new business, it will help you to allocate a bigger budget for Google Ads than SEO. Over time, you can increase your SEO campaigns whilst slowly decreasing how much you spend on Ads. With this approach, your new website will appear immediately in relevant searches. It creates brand awareness quickly, which is significant for new businesses like yours.
  • Make sure that you monitor your progress on both SEO and Google Ads. Track your ROI to determine where adjustments are necessary.
  • As you track SEO and Google Ads performances, pay attention to on-page engagement, which shows user experience that has a significant impact on SEO. Thanks to being a Google Ads customer, Google allows you to gain insights on these aspects, including bounce rate and time on page.
  • Optimise your metadata to increase click-through rate (CTR). Why is this important, you ask? When people search for something on Google, the first thing they see is the results list. They will only be interested in clicking and entering your website if you have a captivating page title and meta description. These two items incentivise would-be customers to click on your website over your competitors. You can have an attention-grabbing headline by asking questions, using the title case, and providing benefits for the reader.
  • Even if you have a great piece of content, it will not have the desired effect if your target audience does not see it. That’s where Google Ads comes in, where you advertise your content to reach more people.

Your website will rank in the search results if you understand the Google algorithm. However, it’s not simple, and we daresay that no one grasps its complexities. That’s because of its many layers and factors that change – sometimes depending on the time of day. The exact SEO techniques that you employ can have a different effect on other markets. One thing that you can rely on is user experience, which is a critical element that helps you improve your search rankings.

You can opt for SEO and get excellent results. But if you use it smartly with paid ads, you can generate valuable data, which can also benefit your SEO campaign. Nevertheless, the choice is always up to you.

Brad Russell
Brad is one of Australia’s leading authorities on SEO (search engine optimisation) and digital marketing. Brad’s mission is to help small to medium-sized businesses reach their full potential online. With 14+ years of experience in SEO, he is an expert in on-page optimisation, link building, technical SEO, conversion optimisation and more. Learn more about Brad