SEO vs PPC - War on two Fronts

SEO vs PPC - War on two Fronts


Should you invest in SEO or in PPC? When is it better to invest more in one of those channels? What is going to happen in the near future with SEO, PPC and Social? These are the questions that trouble both seasoned and new online marketers.

With war on paid links, PPC (AdWords) prices skyrocketing and questionable ROI on social media, the landscape is getting more complex. What should you do if you have a new website or a branded, well established website?

Back in 2009., my colleague Toni Anicic wrote that white hat SEO link building campaign is impossible. (You can follow Toni on Google+, he is specialized in ecommerce SEO&PPC and Magento).

Eric Ward is triumphing over Panda and Penguin while WordStream has an excellent infographic about war between PPC and SEO

It's not a war between, rather on (two) many fronts

I've got an interesting email from Market Samurai (yeah, the spammy tool - the moment I see that I can build links in 10.000 of directories and... well, you get the point). And if you look at it closer, they are whining about how Google is "destroying businesses and lives around the world". OK, for a spammy / black hat tool this is a nice move even if they're trying to sell me their stuff... (earlier they sold the tool that automates low value link building, now they're the saviors).


market samurai whining


But the problem runs deeper: capitalism favors the strong (not ethical). So basically what is Google doing with their 7-link SERP is monetizing on their almost natural monopoly (and reminds me that Wall Street, you know, the guys that own both Google and Facebook and LinkedIn and what-not, is "punishing" Google for not reaching the analyst prediction for the first time.)

SEO is doing these:

  • Creating technically correct website (speed, structure, microdata, onsite)
  • Creating great content
  • Managing relationships (that result in organic (and not only organic) links)
  • Looking after ROI and conversions

So, PPC is doing basically this:

The point of this article

A lot of people are complaining about how SEO is getting hard and how Google is not "fair". That is simply the way it is.

SEO will get harder and harder for newcomers into any niche simply because Google is favoring the big brands / authority sites due to their lack of willingness to make a fair playground. In the end, the guys that are not paying the AdWords are not important. The guys that are clicking (the ones that are not aware of it) and the ones with big budgets are.

Google will continue to monetize their properties in a more aggressive way than before because Wall Street is pressing on them. With 4 billion new internet users by 2020., I don't see their profits going anywhere (and that means more dead ends in their algo labyrinth (both SEO and PPC)).

On the other hand, in PPC, if you're too big to fail (example:, it's pretty damn hard to outrank those guys in PPC), and you have enough of ad-dollars, Google will reward you with high rankings in organic. Because, brands is how you sort out the cesspool.

I am not whining as our colleagues from Market Samurai and 250.000.000 victims are. I am trying to tell you how to work out this to your advantage:

  • Know the landscape and don't trust any guru who will try to sell you something
  • Learn both PPC and SEO (strenghts and weaknesses)
  • Don't trust the social media hype - it's good to create the relationships, manage a community, but it's a long shot and you need to work the numbers to get conversions
  • Take away a part of your revenue for PPC early on as you will need to maintain account history (one of the most important components of Quality Score)
  • Work on your product so you'll have more diverse sources of traffic (word of mouth, referrals, newsletters)

SEO and PPC have some of the tasks in common and disregarding one or another is not a good approach. 

So, Finally, SEO vs PPC

Features (pros and cons)

Pro long term strategy immediate results
  organic gives better trust cost control
  better branding ROI control
  google rewards great sites better targeting (remarketing, geotargeting, device targeting)
  long term positioning target top converting keywords
  don't pay per click easy to implement
  target audience easier multivariate testing
    accurate google analytics
Con high upfront costs higher long term costs
  no more google analytics data bidding wars
  takes time to show results competition for top keywords
  vulnerable to algo changes requires day-to-day monitoring
  hard to optimize for specific keywords harder to learn and master



  • onsite optimization
  • audience engagement and link building
  • social relationships management (not community management, not SMO as some would try to describe)
  • creating and curating content
  • optimize inbound channels
  • site structures


  • create & manage campaigns
  • test campaigns and ads
  • bidding strategies
  • search & display
  • target commercial keywords

Shared tasks:

  • keyword research
  • create and optimize landing pages
  • track ROI
  • A/B and multivariate test
  • conversion optimization

I've prepared the feature and tasks in the next image, with some of the numbers for both SEO and PPC. It looks like the SEO will be dwarfed by PPC in terms of revenue. 



Both SEO and PPC work best if they are complementary strategies of online marketing (including social media, email marketing, conversion optimization, usability...).

Tip for a new website: invest in SEO, but generate conversions fast with PPC.

Tip for an established website: invest in all channels, but mind your ROI on each one.

The internet marketing landscape will just get harder and harder with more competitors coming in and looking for audience, search engine ranking, conversions.

I hope that this overview helps. Looking forward to hearing your comments - they are "do follow", if it means anything at all :)


  • Goran Duskic
    2 years ago
  • Hahaha, great ending, off course it means something that comments are "do follow". It always amazes me how some great articles don't have any comments a chance to do some link building.

    What amazed me the most are the numbers. Heh, I get the feeling people talk way to much about Pandas, Penguins, SEO than it's really necessary. I was always pro "big picture" kind of guy. Build relationships (with social networks, great content, etc). Do that link building (example in comments), but build relationships. And measure everything.

  • Chande
    2 years ago
  • Yes, comments are do-follow because I manually review each and every one of them. If I see even a good comment with a spammy site, it's out.

    You shouldn't be amazed with the numbers, where do you think Google's revenue is coming :)

  • Dusan Vrban
    2 years ago
  • Well, I will look narcisoid now, but I was predicting many years ago when everyone was selling SEO. I have even asked the best in the industry the same questions and never got the answer (everyone knows it but can't speak about it because it would burn the wallet):

    "What happens when we 10 agencies optimize websites by the best rules provided for 10 clients? Who will be the first in search?"

    The solution of this question is simple and complex. Reality is, the competitor with biggest wallet gets to the first place.

    And this is normal. Because the guy with the biggest wallet will buy the best SEO and provide most for CPC. The guy with the biggest wallet is not beatable by anyhing else except bigger wallet.

    And this is normal. It is how things developed when there was no internet marketing. When there was just normal marketing. Because the channels live from those wallets.

    For past few years and some more to come, there will be exceptions. A competitor with some luck or underdeveloped market or extremly creative but cheap SEO master will get some market share beyond his wallet. Exceptions will be. And they will just confirm the rule.

    The wallet wins the marketing/channel wars.

  • Gene
    2 years ago
  • I think SEO is much cheaper for businesses who's keywords are really expensive. While PPC is a great way to bring visitors if CPC is not so high.

  • Chande
    2 years ago
  • Hi Gene. Really doesn't matter SEO or PPC as long as you have great conversions and positive ROI.

    Still, with PPC you can immediately target keywords for which you would need months or years to get to first page of Google. Missed opportunity costs much more.

  • Marko Kvesic
    2 years ago
  • PPC or SEO always the big dilemma. I would agree with you Goran when you say that both SEO and PPC work best if they are complementary strategies. In my opinion the important part is in research so we should do serious keyword research because why would you invest in SEO if no body is searching for your keywords.? Than it would be smarter to go with advertising with PPC on GDN...
    What I like to do is to first go with PPC so I can exactly understand wich keywords converts best so I'm sure I will invest in good keywords with SEO. The best solution is to go with both -of course, but if you must decide what to choose you should do good job with research in terms of keywords, brand awareness etc. and than choose the optimal solution.
    As fair as Market Samurai - I agree there are far better tools out there ...

  • Robinsh
    1 year ago
  • So it might be the future that you will remove the comment box from this position or completely disable it because most of the comments comes because of intentions of getting some link juice and that we calls link building.

    I'm also trying PPC today because SEO is sucking me and my money too.

  • Steven Sweat
    1 year ago
  • Good advice. Important to diversify your marketing efforts for sure!

  • Tecmoz
    1 year ago
  • Hi Goran, as I have already told that I am a big fan of your post. Here also the same I got from your post. You just mentioned everything related to ppc and seo. The different you have mentioned between SEO and PPC are really awesome. Hope you will continue this good work till the end.............

  • SpookSeo
    10 months ago
  • The war is going on in the most competitive world because everyone is curious to make its position or to survive in the market place. So its compulsory to adopt latest SEO techniques to achieve the top most position in the search engines.

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