Many business owners and marketing managers wonder if they need to invest in both search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search. The truth is that SEO and paid search are both essential for online success. Each of these marketing approaches has a unique role to play in the future success of your marketing strategy. However, one of these channels may be better than the other depending on your business’ objectives. This blog will outline the difference between SEO and paid search, highlighting which strategy is best for your organization.
SEO VS. Paid Search
SEO and paid search are two different approaches to leverage search engines to generate traffic to your website.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process of optimizing web pages to rank high for organic search queries on the search engine results page (SERP). The goal is to improve a business’ visibility on search engines such as Google or Bing. It involves:
- conducting keyword and topic research
- creating valuable website content that answers a user’s query and/or allows task completion
- having a strong technical website base that is accessible to search engine crawlers
- building trust and authority signals online.
Effective SEO takes a lot of time and resources, therefore, SEO is not free!
What is Paid Search?
Paid search is a form of digital advertising where advertisers pay to have their ads show up alongside the organic search results in a search engine such as Googe. Most paid search uses a cost per click (CPC) model.
Unlike SEO, advertisers can directly pay to be visible for the keywords they would like to appear for. The goal of paid search is to reach customers who are directly searching for your products or services. It involves doing keyword research, setting optimal bids, creating compelling ads, matching website content (landing pages) to search intent, and reaching relevant audiences.
Pros & Cons of SEO
- No fixed cost requirements.
- Well suited to long-term strategy.
- Builds domain authority.
- Establishes trust and credibility with users.
- Increases brand exposure.
- Targets users at different stages of the sales funnel.
- Can improve user experience and improve conversion rates.
- Generating well-optimized website content is a resource-intensive task.
- It takes time to see results from search engine optimizations (often 3-6 months).
- Search engine algorithms are constantly being updated, making it difficult to continuously rank on the 1st page of the SERP.
- Lack of control over performance
- Ranking for certain keywords is highly competitive.
- Requires high-level skills to execute a successful SEO strategy.
- Requires technical expertise to maintain good SEO best practices on website infrastructure.
Cases Where You Should Use SEO
If you want to build long-term equity with your website, then SEO can help your brand gain visibility at all stages of the sales funnel. SEO will help your business get discovered by establishing a strong online presence. In cases where you have a low marketing budget and want to maximize your long-term return-on-investment (ROI), SEO may be the best strategy to achieve business growth.
For example, you want to target informational keywords to drive traffic to your website. Since you are targeting a top-of-the-funnel keyword, an SEO strategy is recommended. In this situation, searchers are not in the market to perform a specific action. Instead, they just want to have their questions answered and learn more about a topic.
Pros & Cons of Paid Search
- Easy to start a paid search campaign.
- Paid search ads appear above-the-fold.
- Immediate results.
- Focused audience targeting.
- Experiment with different ad elements to see which ones perform best through A/B testing.
- Fixed monthly cost requirements
- Can be expensive in competitive markets.
- Requires consistent monitoring and management to remain cost-effective.
- Paid ads can lose their effectiveness over time.
- Ads can be easily copied by competitors.
- Low profit margins.
- Expertise is required to execute a successful paid search campaign.
- Though easy to setup, ad management platforms are difficult to navigate and change often.
- Customization and campaign optimization often requires significant expertise of the individual platform.
Cases Where You Should Use Paid Search
If you want to target a specific audience and generate leads quickly, a paid search approach is ideal. Typically, this strategy works best when you want to promote a product launch or limited time offer. This is because paid search ads give you immediate visibility, helping you stay competitive and advance your short-term business goals.
Another example where you may want to use paid search is if you sell an innovative product or complex business offering. In this situation, users won’t know what to search for. However, if you target similar topics and audiences with similar interests, you can build awareness for your product and help move customers through the sales funnel.
Benefits of Using SEO & Paid Search
Investing in both SEO and paid search allows you to take an integrated approach to your marketing strategy. The data collected from one approach can help inform the other. As a result, using SEO and paid search together can boost your business’ visibility for relevant keywords. Implementing both approaches will maximize your visibility online, drive more traffic to your website and generate conversions. Having both SEO and paid search tactics as part of your marketing mix allows you to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of both strategies.
Find the Right Balance for Your Marketing Budget with Ontario SEO
There’s no doubt that combining SEO and paid search yields the best results. However, if you have limited resources and need help determining where to invest your money, Ontario SEO is here to help!