Here’s a basic question for many people:

What’s the difference between SEO and PPC? In the screenshot of Google search results below, all the ‘green’ stuff is advertising, and all the rest is SEO.

 While this search results page isn’t representative of every Google search results page, it does highlight a few things that tend to be true:

With pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you often get the customer’s first impression. For search terms with a lot of ‘commercial intent’ (meaning people searching on Google because they want to buy something), PPC ads are shown first.

SEO includes creating and optimizing videos, images, local searches, AND traditional articles. For example, our screenshot has videos and images highlighted in salmon and articles in yellow. Then we didn’t bother highlighting local (at least partially driven by SEO). SEO has a lot of aspects and should be considered complicated.

Google Ads, unlike organic search, are pretty simple. To get as many clicks as possible with SEO, you need to work on video SEO, image SEO, local search, and articles. It would help if you had a Google Shopping data feed and some text ads with ads.

Google has designed their search results pages for advertisers.

Google makes money every time someone clicks on a PPC ad on So, Google is always working on getting more people to click on ads. Organic search, on the other hand, costs Google money.

So, it doesn’t get the same quality real estate.

SEO is complex and challenging and plays second fiddle to PPC. But SEO is free (kind of), and people tend to trust websites that rank organically a little more than websites that advertise.


The short answer is “neither,” but that’s a cop-out. SEO and PPC have a lot of value, and no one should exclude one or the other from their marketing strategy.

However, if you’re in the business of selling auto parts or accessories online, we can make a pretty strong case for PPC advertising being the best investment:

PPC ads get the first bite at the apple. People searching on Google who is ready to buy a part or accessory will probably see ads first, meaning PPC advertisers have the “first shot” at selling a product.

PPC advertising is considerably less complicated than SEO. To get good results with PPC, you need a data feed, a text ad campaign, and a PPC management company that knows what they’re doing.

For SEO, you need written content, good pictures, video, a local strategy, and a strategy for promoting all this content to earn links and get ranked. It’s much, much more complicated.

PPC advertising works fast. You can sign up for Google Ads today and start running profitable ads in a few days.

Of course, PPC has one big drawback…every time someone clicks on your ads, you pay. Most of the time, you have to spend a dollar on ads to earn $5-$10 in revenue, and sometimes you don’t even make that much.

With SEO, you can spend $1 on content and earn $100 in sales of that $1 over several months or years.


Search engine optimization is often thought of as a ‘free’ way to get traffic to your website. While it’s true that individual clicks on organic search results don’t cost anything, SEO is hardly free:

You can’t rank #1 organically unless you invest in content, which means you spend money on articles, videos, images, etc.

When you invest in content, it can take months or years to see a return

When you hire an agency, you may spend $10s thousands of dollars a year to get your website ranking on Google. While this is usually a good value, it can take a while to see positive returns. If you’ve only got $10,000 to spend this year on a brand new website, and you want the most ‘bang’ for your buck, PPC is probably a better starting point.


PPC advertising pays people to click on search engine ads that take them to your website.

SEO is paying a marketing agency to create and promote content to get links, which then helps your site rank #1 on Google.

With PPC, results are fast and predictable, but the return on investment is mediocre (500-1,000% return on ad spend). On the other hand, SEO results are slow and somewhat unpredictable, but the return on investment is much better.

Finally, it’s important to note that you can invest in SEO and PPC advertising at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive, and a smart marketing strategy includes funds for both.