SEO or Google Ads – Which One Is Better?



SEO or Google Ads – Which One Is Better?d-tags
04 November 2022
Are you wondering which marketing activities will be the most effective solution for your business? We have a guide for you! Thanks to it, you'll quickly solve the SEO vs Google Ads dilemma.



Table of contents: When you start planning your online marketing strategy, you probably wonder what activities to perform. After all, both PPC (Pay Per Click) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) have a significant impact on the visibility of your website. You ask yourself a question: SEO vs Google Ads. In order to know what's best for your business, you should first take a look at elements that differentiate the two strategies. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

SEO vs Google Ads - What to Choose?

Modern online marketing couldn't exist without PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, such as Google Ads. However, it's equally difficult to imagine it without SEO. Many specialists have already tried to determine which branch of marketing is more effective: SEO vs Google Ads. So, what's the conclusion? The facts speak for themselves - both options have a lot of advantages. However, the only right solution is to choose the one that will serve your business better. That's why today we'll focus on presenting points that will help you make the decision tailored to your needs.

SEO vs Google Ads - How Do They Influence Each Other?

From the beginning, Google has emphasized that organic and paid search results are separate things. Therefore, investing in PPC won't improve your organic positions. At least directly. Besides, ads have completely different search algorithms than SEO. However, it's important to note that both methods affect each other in many ways (we'll talk about this in detail later in the article). The combination of paid ads and high organic visibility gained through SEO will definitely support your website more. Remember that ads take up a lot of above-the-fold space in the search results. Moreover, they are tailored to users' needs and expectations. Although this facilitates shopping, it has a negative impact on SEO. Why? Users need more time to reach organic search results.

The Differences Between SEO and Google Ads

Comparing SEO vs Google Ads isn't a piece of cake. You should consider numerous factors. In this article we'll focus on answering the following questions:
  1. How quickly do the effects appear and how lasting are they?
  2. What are the costs?
  3. How long do I have to conduct the activities?
  4. How to monitor the progress of the activities?
  5. How to get the best visibility?
  6. What and how many keywords to choose?
  7. Are there any limitations?
  8. Are the effects dependent on algorithm changes?
So, let’s discuss each of them separately.

How Quickly Do the Effects Appear and How Lasting are They?

At first glance, it seems that Google Ads is better in this respect. Google Ads
  • The effects are noticeable almost immediately;
  • The position of your website depends on several factors, including its quality score (which you can improve with SEO);
  • You decide how much money to spend on the campaign and how expensive phrases you choose (meaning how much you’re willing to pay per ad click). The more you're willing to invest, the more you'll gain. It's like bidding.
  • Short-term goals are evidenced by short-term effects. As soon as the campaign is over, your visibility goes back to the initial level.
  • No funds on your account = ads are turned off. This means you'll never spend more than you want on ads.
  • If the campaign was properly targeted, chances are customers will come back to you. They may type your company's name or website address in the search engine. Thus, generating organic or direct traffic.
automated bidding in google ads SEO
  • Much more long-lasting;
  • The results are affected by numerous factors;
  • Results are visible after a few months. If your business isn't visible in the search results at all (because you haven't conducted SEO activities or you’re new to the market), it may take from a few months to a few years to get the effects you want. This doesn't mean that there will be no benefits before that time. However, you can't expect that SEO will increase sales in a few months. It all depends on the competitiveness of the industry, your website content as well as the on-site and off-site optimization.
  • The effects are noticeably more long-lasting when compared to Google Ads. Properly done on-page SEO and valuable backlinks will help you reach better positions for longer. Check out our entry discussing how to make your SEO activities consistent.

What are the Costs?

Google Ads
  • You decide how much you want to spend on a campaign and how long it'll last.
  • Each campaign should have an individually adjusted rate that will bring the best results. For one industry it will be 25 USD a day, and for another 250 USD. It depends on the competitiveness of phrases, their search volume, and the number of keywords you choose.
  • We have already discussed the SEO budget on our blog. It’s influenced by a number of factors such as industry competitiveness, market, domain history, competitor activities, and SEO methods (e.g., local SEO, white hat SEO practices).
  • The higher your budget for SEO efforts, the faster you'll see the results.
seo costs breakdown

How Long Do I Have to Conduct the Activities?

Google Ads
  • The time when ads generate traffic to your website is determined by the funds in your Google Ads account. (No money -> stopped campaign -> no traffic).
  • The length of the campaign, the funds you allocate to it, and the results you expect to achieve are entirely up to you.
  • Effective SEO efforts are long-term SEO efforts. SEO will increase traffic slowly and gradually. By monitoring the results or getting reports from the agency, you'll evaluate the effectiveness of the cooperation.
  • Stopping SEO efforts when you achieve satisfactory results won't undo what has already been done. However, your site won't continue to grow. Moreover, you won't be able to react to algorithm changes. As time goes by, your website positions will drop because of the actions of your competitors and algorithm updates.
Below you can see the phases of the SEO process: seo process effects Check out the effects of SEO activities based on one of our clients, So Lovely Box: visibility with seo for french market keywords visibility change

How to Monitor the Progress of the Activities?

Google Ads
  • When running a Google Ads campaign, you have access to the administration panel. All information is in one place and you can easily monitor the progress of your campaign. If you link the accounts, you can also check the results in Google Analytics.
  • In the Google Ads panel you'll find, among other things:
    • the number of impressions and clicks,
    • cost per click,
    • cost of advertising,
    • ROAS
  • CTR - Click Through Rate - is one of the most important elements to optimize when running Google Ads campaigns. It denotes the percentage of users who clicked on the ad. ROAS, or Return On Ad Spend, denotes the return on investment that determines the proportion between the budget spent on the ad and the revenue gained from it.
  • Google Ads generates messages indicating what should be improved in the campaign.
  • Organic traffic is the most important in SEO. In order to increase it, SEO specialists work to improve keyword positions. It's one of the basic KPIs which can be tracked in selected tools (e.g. SEMrush). Better keyword visibility translates into increased organic traffic (take a look at the chart in question 3).
  • Analysis of traffic data from Google Search Console is an indispensable part of every SEO specialist and website owner's job.
  • Tools such as Ahrefs or Moz can be useful for backlink analysis.
increase organic traffic with seo

How to Get the Best Visibility?

Google Ads
  • You can target ads on the search network (Google search and its other products) and the ad network. To learn more, check out our articles about Product listing ads and GDN ads targeting methods.
  • According to data, the Google ad network reaches over 90% of users worldwide.
  • To improve the effects of the campaigns, you should:
    • Add negative keywords,
    • Optimize the campaign for new words,
    • Increase your website score quality (through SEO).
  • Organic search results are displayed only in the Google search engine below the paid results.

What and How Many Keywords to Choose?

Google Ads
  • You can choose an unlimited number of words, but keep in mind that the more keywords, the higher the cost may be.
  • Whether or not your ad is displayed depends on the match you choose (e.gfor an exact match, your ad will appear to users who type in a specific phrase. For close matches, your ad will also appear for similar searches, e.g., showing "sports cap" for the query "sports accessories"). Additionally, when specifying keywords for close matches, you can use special tags, e.g: +word or "word". Thanks to it, when a user types in a similar phrase, they'll also see your ad.
keywords matching SEO
  • The number of keyword phrases selected for the SEO process is unlimited. It often depends on the number of subpages. Proper selection is the key to success. Monitored phrases should include valuable brand, generic and long-tail keywords. It's a good idea to start with a small number of keywords and expand the list over time.
  • In many cases long-tail keywords work best because they allow you to achieve faster results, are less competitive, and frequently convert better. Why? These are the words users type when they are ready to make a purchase and know what to look for. An example of the difference between generic and long-tail phrases is shown below:
Long Tail Keywords

Are There any Limitations?

Google Ads
  • In the Google Ads regulations, there are prohibited subjects that mustn't be used in campaigns. See our article: Restricted industries - what content is prohibited in Google? Sometimes restrictions can be circumvented, e.g. by using synonymous phrases, but it doesn't always make sense.
  • There are specific industries where you should follow clearly defined advertising rules. If Google Ads decides that your ad does not comply with their policy, they may simply suspend it without any warning.
  • Phrases that have a very high cost per click can also be problematic. Running Google Ads campaigns for such phrases is usually less profitable than doing SEO for them.
  • SEO can be done regardless of the industry. Even when talking about the sectors that are prohibited according to Google Ads. However, some industries mustn't be advertised. Then the SEO strategy must be tailored to the requirements.
  • SEO results aren't always equally long-lasting. Nevertheless, there is no industry you can’t do SEO for.

Are the Effects Dependent on Algorithm Changes?

Google Ads
  • Some Google updates also affect paid search results.
  • Changes frequently aren’t even noticeable during a single campaign.
  • Algorithm updates have a huge impact on the SERPs and can cause real havoc in the search results.
  • The job of SEO specialists is to follow the trends and ensure that clients’ websites are compliant with Google guidelines.
SEO Google Ads
Place of activities The search engine The search engine and external pages
The results Long-lasting, even when the cooperation finishes Short-lasting results, only when the campaign is active
Time needed to see the results Long: usually 3-6 months Short: first results visible even after a few days
Activities Website optimization (code and content), link building, paid articles Sponsored links and advertisements, display ad banners
The costs of attracting customers Relatively low Relatively high

The Key to Success: Synergy of Activities

Some people claim that SEO and SEM activities can't be carried out in parallel, as they'll compete with each other and decrease their effectiveness. That's why many business owners and marketing specialists wonder which option to choose. Instead, they should consider how to combine both of them. Of course, there are situations where a small budget is a constraint. In this case, the SEO vs Google Ads dilemma is completely justified. However, apart from that, any concerns about combining SEO and Google Ads are completely unnecessary. Mixing them skillfully is the key to getting the desired results. There are many strategies for combining SEO and Google Ads campaigns. Even though PPC doesn't directly affect a website's organic positions in the search results, by mixing both channels we get the synergy. Both forms complement each other.

Parallel Actions

The most popular PPC and SEO strategy is to target both campaigns with the same keywords. This increases the chances of users clicking the link leading to the website. If the ad doesn't encourage a potential customer to interact, there is still a chance that organic search results will do so. It's worth remembering that there are also people who usually don't click on ads. In this case you can reach them organically. The synergy frequently results in increased traffic to the website. It's frequently more important than high positions for a specific keyword.

Complementary Activities

The second way to combine Google Ads and SEO is to focus your SEO efforts on competitive keywords with high search volume. At the same time, you should target Google Ads on so-called long-tail or niche and branded phrases. This allows you to cover a significant part of the search results. Why? Look at the search results currently displayed in SERPs. Ads are at the top, then there are organic search results. It's hard to outdo your market rivals if you invest only in one of the solutions.

How to Combine SEO and SEM Activities? A Few Tips

  • Choose an advertising budget tailored to your needs and capabilities. Keep in mind regular spending on SEO. Don't leave advertising out of your control. Carefully plan the amounts you spend on both so that you don't burn your budget. For example, you can set a fixed amount for SEO activities and leave yourself room to spend more on Google Ads campaigns depending on demand (e.g. during the pre-holiday season or a particularly active season for your industry). This method will ensure a stable increase in organic traffic. If necessary, you can boost the activities using paid campaigns that give quick results.
  • Thoroughly analyze the details of the campaign or make sure your agency does it. To combine SEO and PPC activities, you need to collect analytical data. Draw conclusions to make your activities easier.
  • Manage activities over time. Why? Check out our article where we discuss why SEO is a process and not a one time gig. Since you have to wait for the SEO results, in the meantime, PPC ads can help you promote your business. Wondering if SEO is profitable? Don't worry - the ROI is usually more than satisfactory.
  • Maximize the potential of all keywords. The Google Ads phrases don't have to exactly match your SEO keywords. Google Ads allows you to be displayed for more generic phrases. In their case, SEO may not be enough to reach satisfactory positions. At the same time, you can optimize your product or service pages for valuable long-tails. See the examples of small brands that can't compete with the giants in the organic search results, but are visible in Google Shopping. Note that companies that are at the top of the search results also don't resign from paid ads.
  • Optimize promoted pages - this is another aspect that will help you achieve even better results. Properly optimized content increases the chance that Google will improve your quality score in Google Ads. This confirms that the page matches the intent of specific users who see it in the search results. This, in turn, will help you lower your campaign costs.
  • Take up as much space in the SERPs as possible - both Google Ads and SEO will help you take up more space in the search results.

SEO and Google Ads - The Takeaway

It's not always possible to do both SEO and Google Ads at the same time (for example, if you are limited by budget or industry topic). Then, you should make a choice based on available time and money. It's important to mention that SEO and PPC strategies often complement each other. Knowing your target audience and analyzing SEO keywords will help you set up your Google Ads campaign. This, in turn, will generate website traffic while you wait for SEO results. That's why it's so beneficial to combine SEO and Google Ads. Manage paid ads and increase organic traffic by taking advantage of the synergy of both forms. If you need help with either SEO or ads or both, contact us! Our specialists have experience with conducting SEO activities as well as running ads! You'll get a comprehensive service suited to your business needs!
Milena Fietko
Milena Fietko

SEO Strategy Manager

She specializes in industries that require an out-of-the-box approach to the process, or cover topics that others would not. She has been working at Delante since 2016. Privately, she loves dancing to Caribbean rhythms.

Milena Fietko
Milena Fietko

SEO Strategy Manager

She specializes in industries that require an out-of-the-box approach to the process, or cover topics that others would not. She has been working at Delante since 2016. Privately, she loves dancing to Caribbean rhythms.

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