Google Ads vs SEO

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Google Ads vs SEO: A Detailed Comparison With Proc & Cons

When it comes to the world of digital marketing, two dominant players always come to the forefront: Google Ads and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Both have unique benefits, but which should you invest in for long-term profitability and immediate visibility?

This comprehensive guide delves deep into the intricacies, advantages, and downsides of each, providing you with actionable insights for making informed decisions.


What Is Google Ads

Google Ads is a paid advertising platform where businesses bid on keywords relevant to their products or services. When a user’s search query includes these keywords, the ads appear at the top of Google’s search results, prominently displayed with an “Ad” label.

Immediate Visibility

  • Quick Results: Start generating leads within hours.
  • High Relevance: Target your audience precisely with keywords, location, and time.

Cost and Budgeting Flexibility

  • Pay-per-Click: You only pay when someone clicks your ad.
  • Budget Control: Set daily limits and bid adjustments to manage your costs effectively.


What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, involves a variety of strategies to improve a website’s ranking in search engine results for specific keywords or phrases. Unlike Google Ads, SEO is a long-term investment.

Organic Ranking and Credibility

  • Trust Factor: Higher organic rankings often translate to more credibility.
  • Sustainable: Once established, organic rankings are relatively stable.


  • Long-Term ROI: High upfront investment, but the long-term costs are generally lower than PPC.
  • Free Clicks: Unlike PPC, you don’t pay for every visitor.


A Comparison Of Google Ads vs SEO

Speed of Results

  • Google Ads: Immediate but costs money.
  • SEO: Takes time but yields long-term benefits.

Targeting Capabilities

  • Google Ads: Highly targeted; focuses on buyer-intent keywords.
  • SEO: Broader scope; ranks for informational and transactional keywords.

Cost Implications

  • Google Ads: Can get expensive quickly, especially for competitive keywords.
  • SEO: Initial costs can be high, but the overall expense often decreases over time.

Maintenance and Adjustments

  • Google Ads: Requires regular monitoring and adjustments.
  • SEO: Ongoing but less frequent tweaking.


  • Google Ads: Offers detailed analytics quickly.
  • SEO: Results are measurable but can take time to accurately assess.


Google Ads – A Practical Example

Consider an e-commerce business selling sportswear. They launch a Google Ads campaign for the keyword ‘designer trainers.’ Within hours, they can start seeing clicks and even some conversions (Sales). They set a daily budget of £50, with an average cost-per-click of £2, leading to 25 potential customers visiting their website daily. Assuming the designer trainers sell for £90, if they have a conversion rate of just 10%, that means they would had sold 2 pairs of trainers, with a revenue of £180, by spending just £50. 

Strategies Employed

  • Ad Extensions: Using site link and callout extensions to showcase special offers and popular categories.
  • Negative Keywords: Excluding irrelevant terms like ‘cheap’ or ‘second-hand’ to focus on higher-quality leads.
  • Ad Scheduling: Running the ads during peak hours to maximise visibility and potential conversions.


SEO – A Practical Example

A local dental clinic invests in SEO to improve its Google rankings for the term ‘dentist in London.’ They work on on-page SEO, generate high-quality backlinks, and regularly publish informative articles about dental care. SEO is great for long-tail keywords i.e. phrases that have 3 or 4 words within it

Strategies Employed

  • Keyword Optimisation: Inserting target keywords naturally in the website’s metadata and content.
  • Local Citations: Listing the business in reputable local directories.
  • Content Marketing: Creating value-driven content to engage the audience and encourage social sharing, thus enhancing the site’s authority.


Measuring Success: Google Ads vs SEO Metrics

Understanding the success metrics for both Google Ads and SEO is critical for informed decision-making.

Google Ads Metrics

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Measures how often your ad is clicked.
  • Conversion Rate: Determines how many clicks lead to desired actions like a sale or sign-up.
  • Quality Score: Google’s rating of your ad’s relevance and quality.

SEO Metrics

  • Organic Traffic: Measures the number of visitors coming from organic search.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who navigate away after viewing one page.
  • Domain Authority: A metric that shows how well your website will rank on search engines.


The Verdict: Which One Should You Choose?

While Google Ads provides a quick way to get in front of potential customers, SEO offers the advantage of long-term stability and cost-effectiveness. Businesses often benefit most from a balanced approach, utilising both Google Ads for immediate visibility and SEO for sustainable, long-term results.

If your business requires immediate sales or leads, then Google Ads should be your go-to option. However, if you’re looking for long-term brand building and organic growth, then SEO is an indispensable tool in your arsenal.

To summarise, neither is inherently better than the other; it depends on your specific business needs, goals, and the market landscape.

Important To Note:

It is important to emphasise it could take many months to start seeing results (Sales/Leads) using SEO. Are you willing to wait that long? Thats where using the power of Google Ads you can start getting sales and enquiries fast, whilst using SEO for more of a longer-term strategy.


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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use Google Ads and SEO simultaneously?

  • Absolutely, many businesses successfully employ a hybrid strategy that leverages both Google Ads and SEO. 
  • For example, you might use Google Ads to promote a seasonal sale, targeting specific buyer-intent keywords like “summer dresses on sale,” while your SEO efforts focus on broader informational keywords such as “how to choose the perfect summer dress.” According to Google’s Economic Impact Report, businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on Google Ads. Concurrently, the organic strategies you employ in SEO could yield a steady stream of traffic with a high ROI in the long term.

2. Which is more cost-effective: Google Ads or SEO?

  • The cost-effectiveness of Google Ads vs SEO varies based on numerous factors like industry, competition, and goals. Google Ads work on a pay-per-click model, meaning you pay each time someone clicks on your ad. 
  • According to WordStream, the average cost-per-click in Google Ads across all industries is £1.58 for search and £0.46 for display. SEO, on the other hand, requires a significant upfront investment but can result in ‘free’ organic traffic over time. A study by BrightEdge found that organic search drives 53% of all site traffic, making it a highly cost-effective strategy in the long run.

3. How quickly can I see results from Google Ads and SEO?

  • Google Ads can yield almost immediate results. For instance, you could set up an ad campaign today targeting the keyword “luxury watches” and start seeing traffic within a few hours. On the other hand, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • According to a study by Ahrefs, only 5.7% of newly published pages reach Google’s first page within a year. Therefore, while Google Ads offer quick wins, SEO is a long-term investment that can take months or even years to show significant results.

4. How do quality scores affect Google Ads and does SEO have a similar metric?

  • In Google Ads, Quality Score is a crucial metric that influences your ad’s position and cost-per-click. It’s based on factors like click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.
  • While SEO doesn’t have a direct equivalent to Quality Score, metrics like Domain Authority or PageRank serve a similar purpose in gauging the quality and relevance of your website. A high Domain Authority indicates a strong likelihood of ranking well in search engine results.

5. Can Google Ads help improve my SEO rankings?

  • While Google Ads and SEO are separate entities, running Google Ads can indirectly benefit your SEO strategy. 
  • For example, the immediate traffic from Google Ads can lead to increased engagement metrics like lower bounce rates, longer dwell time, or higher conversion rates, all of which Google takes into account as ranking factors. However, it’s important to note that ad clicks do not directly improve organic search rankings.


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