Which is Better- SEO or PPC?


This is one of the most commonly asked questions in the marketing industry. 

Although it is hard to get a straight answer to this question, there is a need to understand the two grounds. 

To begin with, it is worth noting that both PPC and SEO serve the same purpose.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves providing content and letting your site rank organically.

Pay per click (PPC) is paying for a position to rank for certain keywords.

Here is a real example.

If you Google for a phrase such as the best places to go to Bangkok, here is what you’ll get.

Google Ads screenshot

The first two results you see are as a result of PPC, while the third one is purely ranking because of SEO. 

If there wasn’t a paid advert, the second article could’ve ranked as position one. Google aims at answering the searches with relevant answers. To acquire those first spots, you have to convince the search engines that you’re relevant to the user. 

However, there is a shortcut that’s easy, direct, and also costly. This way is PPC.

To answer the question as to which is better for your business, we’ll have to view both sides of the coin.

So let’s get into it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)


1. Maintaining your SERP position

As long as you’re ranking in Google for the right keywords for your business, you’ll always have traffic. You can even take a break and still get leads. 

However, with PPC, the moment you turn on the ads, you get traffic instantly, but when you turn it off or run out of funds, it dies as fast too.

This is why SEO is preferable if you’re looking for a long term thing.

2. SEO is cheaper in the long term

You need a reasonable amount of money to invest in SEO at the beginning. However, once it grows, every click after that is free. 

However, for PPC, you’ve got to keep incurring the cost.


The downsides of SEO include.

1. You need time to rank with SEO

According to a study [1] by Ahrefs, which involved two million pages, only 5.7% of the pages ranked on the first page for at least one keyword after a year. 

Even the lucky ones took at least two to six months to appear in the top ten positions.

2. SEO requires unique content

Searchers love to learn from experts. Therefore, to perform well in Google, you have to be an authority. If you’re an expert, go ahead and craft the content for yourself. If not, hire someone to do it for you.

Unfortunately, startups might not be able to pay these costs. 



Here are the pros of using PPC.

1. PPC is fast

SEO takes weeks or months to get results. However, with PPC, you can begin a campaign right away and get leads.

2. PPC allows you to target your audience

You can use a different type of geography, demography, or any other kind of data.

This allows you to control your campaign and only pay for your potential leads.

3. You can experiment with PPC

PPC is based on quick results. You can tweak your content once in a while to know what’s working best for your business.

Since SEO is slower, it’s hard to pick up what’s working and what’s not immediately.


PPC has its negative side too, here are some of its negatives.

1. PPC can be very expensive in competitive fields

In fields like insurance, it might cost you $40 if you’re bidding for “car insurance.”

In 2009, Dropbox was a victim of the high PPC costs. They realized they were getting a $233-$388 cost per acquisition CPA), while their product cost $99 [2].

They were, therefore, losing money instead of earning more.

2. PPC can lose effectiveness

If people see your ad too often, they’ll likely stop taking action as it gets boring.

You have to keep refreshing your campaigns, creating more images and content to keep reaping benefits.

3. PPC needs money

You require a substantial amount of money to run campaigns before you start seeing results.

You’re likely to lose money in the first months of your campaigns. 

Therefore, if you’re a startup with a small market budget, this may not work for you.

SEO or PPC? Which is the Best for My Business?

Both are credible ways of sourcing traffic. But the method you choose heavily depends on what you’re selling.

Here are a few conditions to elaborate on this.

1. Marketing an innovative product

If you’re selling a new idea/product, people won’t be searching for it because they don’t know about it. This rules out the effectiveness of SEO. It’s, therefore, vital to use PPC for unique products.

2. You’re advertising an offer

If you want to launch a one time kind of campaign, then SEO might not be the best option for you too. By the time you rank, the campaign will probably already be over. 

3. You’re promoting commercial content

No one links to sales pages. So if you’re promoting a landing page, you might have to pay for PPC to rank.

4.   You’re building a website for sale

According to EmpireFlippers [3], this is how the cost of a website is calculated

12 Months Average Net Profit X 20-50 Multiple 

So if you want to sell a website, you have to use SEO to make sure the odds are on your side.

Buyers don’t want to keep setting up ads. They want a website that can generate traffic independently. This makes it easier to manage the campaign.

With SEO, as long as you’re ranking on page one, people will keep linking back to you, and you’re therefore stay put. 

For PPC, you have to keep refreshing the campaigns and generating more content to get results.

How to choose your best option

  1. Brainstorm to know where your audience is. For example, Pinterest ads may be viable if you’re selling women related stuff like clothes or baby stuff.
  2. Run small tests before you pour your entire marketing budget on a campaign to see if you’ll get any returns. If you can’t drive any sales, it’s best to try the next option.
  3. Focus on what works. You don’t have to be present on all platforms. After testing, invest in the channel that works best for your company.


Final thoughts on SEO and PPC

The end goal is to grow your business and boost your sales. For this to happen, you’ll need to have a great stream of traffic. For many professionals, this is easier done with SEO. If the latter is wrong, you’ll have to continually spend on paid adverts to attract visitors to your site.

Instead of depending on the paid ads only, combine them with SEO. This will help rank and get more sales. Consider teaming up with an expert SEO company in Malaysia to boost your web traffic. 


  1. https://ahrefs.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-rank/
  2. https://www.slideshare.net/gueste94e4c/dropbox-startup-lessons-learned-3836587/20-Cost_per_acquisition_233388_For
  3. https://empireflippers.com/

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