Online marketing is unmistakably powerful. It’s also unavoidable for most companies. There is only a tiny minority of businesses that can get by without attracting online traffic. Even then, businesses don’t want to just survive and ‘get by,’ they want to thrive! Tapping into the billions of people shopping and searching online is definitely the path to thriving.
With online marketing, there is an ongoing and tedious debate about whether SEO or Google Ads is the best option. Many marketers mistakenly treat these two as the only options, without considering using both paid and organic search marketing together.
In this discussion, you’ll learn the key definitions and differences associated with Google Ads and SEO, as well as why the two strategies should be used together to achieve online marketing success.
Table of Contents
What Is Google Ads?
Google Ads is an advertising platform that allows marketers to publish paid messages on search results pages, YouTube, Gmail and millions of other sites partnered with Google. The Google Search Network is the most popular and arguably the most potent advertising network within Google Ads.
The Search Network is where marketers target keyword searches and pay for top positions on these SERPs (search engine results pages). For instance, if you’re selling carpet cleaning solutions, then you would find value in being a top result when people search for “how to clean a carpet” or “best carpet cleaning products.”
Google Ads allows you to pay to have one of the top search results for queries that relate to your brand and products.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the practice of creating content, inserting keywords and improving the speed, authority and navigability of your website. Essentially, the more effort you put into your website and its content, the greater the chance that Google recommends your pages at the top of search results.
If you don’t want to pay to be present on relevant search results pages, then SEO is your alternative. It doesn’t require any monetary investment. However, it does take time, effort and a little bit of know-how.
What Are The Differences Between SEO and Google Ads?
The most obvious difference between these two search marketing strategies is simple: money. Creating and publishing ad content through Google Ads has a direct cost element involved. You cannot advertise through Google Ads without spending money. With SEO, on the other hand, you can organically reach the top of the results without ever spending a dime.
There are, however, several other differences between SEO and Google Ads.
Speed & Timing
With the unpaid element of SEO, Google Ads also has to have a key advantage, right? The primary benefit of using Google Ads has to do with speed and timing. Establishing your site authority and climbing the results pages organically takes a substantial amount of time.
For some search queries, reaching the coveted top three spots is a fool’s errand. You aren’t going to establish the same level of presence and authority as some sites. In some cases, SEO takes over a year to fully mature and yield a top position for the most valuable keywords.
Paying for a search result position through Google Ads is a fast-track to the top of the page. This allows you to promptly capitalize on top-of-the-page visibility, without investing hours and hours into creating keyword-rich content, developing backlinks and performing many of the other SEO-related tactics.
Position On SERPs
When Google users complete a search, they don’t want to travel far for an answer. It’s exactly why the top 20% of organic search results see roughly 80% of clicks. Google works hard to ensure that only the best, most relevant sites are at the top of the results. In the SEO world, reaching this top floor can be painstaking.
Paid search ads commonly land ahead of even the #1 organic result. Marketers don’t just pay to be on the first page of the SERPs, they pay to be the first result on that page! Not only does this greatly improve the chance of attracting clicks, but it also guarantees that your message is at least seen by search users.
While being at the tippy top of the results page carries several benefits for the Google Ads side, there is a caveat. Every paid Google Ads message has a small “Ad” logo next to the result. This helps searchers distinguish between paid and organic results.
People have a natural tendency to distrust advertisers. Thus, most Google users will see the ad logo and skip down to the organic results. Even with search ads commanding the very top of the results page, organic links still attract the majority of clicks.
For most keyword searches, the organic links will attract the majority of clicks. However, there are some high-value searches where ads take the lead. It all has to do with the user’s intent. Most of the time, ad content is just a distraction, but when we’re actively searching for the offer or product being advertised, then ads become the fastest route to obtaining that item.
Intent is a significant factor in the success of Google Ads. If a user searches for “buy men’s jeans,” then he or she is signaling that they are in the market for a new pair of jeans and ready to buy right away. Thus, paid results are more appealing because an ad for new jeans will connect the user directly to what they are after.
Expert advertisers become adept at targeting these high-intent searches and producing fast conversions for impressive revenue. When it comes to users at the end of the marketing funnel that are ready to convert, paid ads have a clear advantage over SEO results.
To recap, there is no clear choice regarding which is better, Google Ads or SEO. Both styles of online marketing have their strengths and weaknesses. What is interesting is that the strengths of one strategy tend to be the weaknesses of the other. For this reason, many marketers incorporate both strategies.
When you include SEO and Google Ads in your digital marketing strategy, you can optimize your entire marketing funnel. Prospects in the beginning of the funnel will lean more towards organic search results, while those ready to convert will rely on ad links.
Blending SEO and Google Ads together will ensure that you facilitate this transition from interested/deciding to ready to convert. And, that you are there to make that conversion happen!