Google Ads vs SEO: Which Should You Use for Your Business?
Search engine optimization (SEO) and Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) are two of the most popular digital marketing channels used by businesses today.
But which one should you use for your business?
Both SEO and Google Ads can be highly effective at driving targeted traffic and leads to your website.
However, each strategy has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.
The best approach depends on your specific business goals, target audience, and budget.
What is Google Ads?
Google Ads is Google’s paid advertising platform that allows businesses to display text, image, and video ads on the Google search engine results page (SERP).
Advertisers bid on relevant keywords and pay only when users click their ads.
Some key benefits of Google Ads include:
- Delivers instant results – Ads can go live within minutes and start generating clicks right away. This makes Google Ads ideal for short-term goals like promotions.
- Precise targeting – You can target your ads by keyword, location, time of day, device, audience demographics, interests and more.
- Top ad placements – Your ads can appear above organic search results at the top and bottom of the SERP. Higher ad positions generally get more clicks.
- Complete control – You have control over your daily budget and can pause or adjust campaigns at any time. This flexibility allows optimization.
- Measurable results – Google Ads offers robust reporting so you can see clicks, conversions, ROI, and other metrics to optimize for performance.
Overall, Google Ads is ideal for businesses that want to drive website traffic, leads, and sales quickly through targeted PPC ads.
It’s great for short-term promotions or generating immediate results.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO refers to organic strategies that aim to improve a website’s rankings in the unpaid/natural search results.
The higher a site ranks for relevant queries, the more visibility it gets from organic traffic.
Some top benefits of SEO include:
- Increased targeted visibility – SEO gets your site found by more qualified prospects already looking for your products or services.
- Significant traffic volume – Ranking on the first page can send thousands of visitors per month based on search volume. And organic traffic is free once rankings are achieved!
- Builds authority and trust – High SEO rankings boost brand credibility and authority in the eyes of searchers.
- Long-term results – SEO delivers consistent traffic that can remain for months or years with ongoing optimization. Paid ads require ongoing budgets.
- Highly qualified visitors – Searchers finding your site organically have high intent and conversion rates. SEO traffic quality is excellent.
Overall, SEO brings in targeted, high-converting traffic from Google without any advertising costs.
It should be a long-term strategy focused on building authority and rankings for sustainable growth.
Key Differences Between Google Ads and SEO
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s compare some of the key differences between these two strategies:
|Delivers instant results||Takes time to achieve rankings (months+)|
|Requires ongoing paid budget||Free organic traffic once rankings achieved|
|Full control over budget and targeting||Limited control over organic factors|
|Can turn ads off immediately||Rankings persist even if efforts stopped|
|Measurable through robust analytics||Organic data more limited in Search Console|
|Traffic from any location or keyword||Focused only on ranked keywords|
|Visitors from paid ad clicks||Visitors from organic searches|
Both strategies have their pros and cons. Google Ads provides more control and quick results while SEO offers free, qualified traffic for the long-term.
Should You Prioritize Google Ads or SEO?
So which strategy should you invest in for your business? Here are some recommendations based on key factors:
1. Existing Website Traffic and Rankings
- Low organic traffic – Focus on SEO first to build rankings, authority and initial traffic.
- High organic traffic – Leverage Google Ads to further scale growth if budget allows.
2. Business Goals and Conversion Funnel
- Priority on sales – Google Ads can drive instant traffic to capture leads and sales faster.
- Priority on brand building – SEO establishes authority and brings recurring, sustainable traffic over time.
3. Lead Generation Timelines
- Need leads quickly – Google Ads allows you to get in front of users in real-time when they search.
- Have more flexibility – SEO is ideal for longer 6-12 month lead generation timeframes.
4. Marketing Budget
- Limited budget – SEO brings essentially free traffic if you optimize content and site yourself.
- Substantial budget – Google Ads offers flexibility to scale up traffic and conversions as your budget allows.
As you can see, the ideal mix depends on your specific situation and goals.
Many businesses find success combining SEO and Google Ads together in a comprehensive strategy.
Best Practices for Using Google Ads and SEO Together
If your budget allows, leveraging SEO and Google Ads together can bring powerful results.
Here are some tips on maximizing the impact of both:
- Use SEO keywords in Google Ads targeting – This ensures your ads display for valuable searches.
- Promote landing pages optimized for keywords you rank for – This boosts performance for existing SEO traffic.
- Use Google Ads to scale up SEO opportunities – Double down on your top-ranking keywords with ads.
- Analyze SEO and Google Ads data together – Look for synergies between your top converting keywords.
- Seed new keywords with Google Ads initially – Build rankings for high-potential keywords without waiting months.
- Drive Google Ads traffic to SEO blog content – Acquire visitors who will also get value from your organic content.
Integrating both strategies takes coordination but can yield 20-40% higher ROI than either channel alone according to Wordstream.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which delivers a higher ROI, SEO or Google Ads?
SEO generally delivers a much higher ROI as you are getting free organic traffic rather than paying for each click and conversion.
However, Google Ads offers more control and can scale up lead generation faster in the short term.
How quickly can Google Ads get my website ranking?
Google Ads helps people find your site but does not directly improve rankings.
SEO focuses solely on improving organic rankings which takes months of sustained effort.
Use Google Ads when you need traffic right away.
Is Google Ads cheaper than SEO services?
In the short-term, yes Google Ads is generally cheaper than hiring an SEO agency, particularly if you manage campaigns in-house.
However, SEO pays off in the long run by bringing recurring free traffic after you achieve rankings.
Which converts better – SEO or Google Ads traffic?
Visitors from SEO generally have slightly higher conversion rates than Google Ads since they intentionally searched for your content.
But smart targeting and landing pages can help increase the quality of Google Ads traffic as well.
Should I use SEO or Google Ads for my small business?
We recommend starting with SEO first as a small business since it brings free qualified traffic.
Then later add in Google Ads with small budgets to scale up your growth and capture more conversions.
Start Driving More Traffic to Your Website Today
As you can see, both Google Ads and SEO offer powerful advantages for businesses looking to get in front of their target audiences and increase website traffic.
Which one you prioritize depends on your budget, business goals, and timeline.
In many cases, the best results come from combining SEO and Google Ads together.