SEO vs PPC - War on two Fronts

Published on: Aug 21. 2012
Labels: seo, google, adwords

About the author

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 :)


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