Online marketing is key to the short- and long-term success of any organization, large or small, and search engines are the best way to get people to visit your website.

One of the main decisions for any brand looking to attract more clicks is whether to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-Per-Click (PPC). SEO is designed to organically place your website higher in search engines like Google, and is typically accomplished by using the same keywords your target audience is using.

Pay-Per-Click, on the other hand, puts you directly at the top, ensuring that you’re ahead of the competition. For example, if you search “sell my home” on Google, the top four links are from websites that paid for their links to be the first ones.

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer here—both SEO and PPC can be effective methods of reaching your target audience. Before making a decision, however, you should have an understanding of the pros and cons of each.

The facts

According to SEOmoz, there is about 5.66 times more opportunity to be had from regular search results than paid ones. Part of this disparity is likely attributable to a general distrust of advertisements compared to regular links, but whatever the cause, it’s clear that PPC has a significant disadvantage here.

This might make you assume that SEO is the clear winner, but there are some caveats to that number. First and foremost, getting ranked highly through SEO is often a drawn-out process. PPC, by comparison, will help you accomplish your goals much more quickly—you can be at the top of the results almost immediately. There’s still no way around the fact that you’ll likely spend large amounts of money, but that’s an advantage SEO simply doesn’t offer.

The considerations

When you’re considering your options from a long-term perspective, SEO is more effective and offers more sustainable growth. If your website is predicated on pay-per-click ads, that means once you stop paying, they stop clicking. SEO isn’t reliant on that cost, so once you’ve built your website’s reputation, you’ve created lasting success.

That same disadvantage can also lead to specific situations where PPC actually makes more sense. If you’re offering a product or service for a limited time, for example, or trying to get exposure as a new brand, then paying for clicks might be your best option. In general, PPC is more beneficial for companies that provide products.

There are certainly advantages to using PPC for your business, but in most circumstances, SEO is the better choice for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s substantially cheaper, and unlike PPC, the attention your website gets from it is sustainable and won’t go away once you stop paying. You’ll have to be patient—it won’t make your website the first result on Google in a day, or even a week—but the long-term results are worth it. Find a company that can help you out with Google SEO, and be patient enough to wait for the results to start showing.

Do you prefer PPC, or have anything to add? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Published by Michael Deane