SEO vs Google Ads - Where Should You Invest Your Budget?

February 15, 2023

Ideally, your marketing budget would have a lot of wiggle room - allowing you to pursue both SEO and Google Ads. Many small businesses find that this is just not feasible, leaving them with an either/or scenario. So, instead of putting you in a position of feeling guilty for not being able to provide the best of both worlds, we are going to give you the knowledge you need to choose the best one for your business. 

SEO: What Is It? 

SEO stands for search engine optimization. In the vast world of digital marketing, this term is heard everywhere. Though it makes sense since being found via search engines is vital for nearly all businesses. 

Whenever you build a website, Google will, on its own, find it and index it without you having to do anything to optimize it. Here’s the thing, though - just because your website is indexed doesn’t mean it will show up for the searches you want it to. Let’s take a look at an example. 

Construction crews often vary their services based on the season. For instance, during the winter months, they may offer snow removal services. If their website only mentions construction and not snow removal, then it isn’t likely to show up when someone searches for snow removal in their town. This is still true even if snow removal is mentioned, but done so only briefly. It may very well show up in search engine results, but it will likely be somewhere after the first few pages. However, by creating a specific service page outlining the specifics of the snow removal services, there will be a greater chance of ranking higher in the search results. This is known as on-page optimization. 

If another construction company offers the same sort of snow removal services, they may have added backlinks to the local chamber of commerce, newspaper, or other local government offices. When it comes down to ranking two similar sites, Google will prioritize those websites that have backlinks from trustworthy sources - as well as those with business profiles on Google. This is known as off-page optimization. 

Certain technical key points also play a role in how a website is ranked. Google wants high-ranking websites to be safe, easy to use, quick to load, and free of errors. 

All in all, SEO’s goal is to optimize your web presence so that you can rank well with Google. Unfortunately, you can’t control the search engine’s algorithms and rankings - and that means there are no guarantees that your SEO efforts will work. But, by knowing the main factors Google looks for in a website and combining it with SEO best practices, you can increase your chance of ranking high. 

What are Google Ads? 

Depending on how long you’ve been following digital marketing, Google Ads used to be called AdWords. They are a means of getting around SEO, rankings, algorithms, etc., and have your business ranked at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Does this just happen? No. You have to pay to get there. 

Google search ads allow you to target a very specific audience and their search queries. The result is that you drive qualified and relevant traffic directly to your site. Google places these paid ad placements both above and below the organic search results. They appear similar with the only significant difference being that they are labeled as “ads.” 

Before you get too excited, there are a couple of catches. For one, you must bid on keywords. This means you are not always guaranteed that top spot on the first page of SERPs - a competitor may outbid you. Also, Google will assign an Ad Quality Score for each ad. This score, as well as your bid, will determine where your ad will end up on the page. 

SEO and GoogleAds: What’s the Difference?

By now, you can probably tell that both SEO and Google Ads serve their own purpose - and can work very well together. Google Ads can give you fast results while SEO builds long-term success. But if putting them to work together isn’t an option, then we need to break down the pros and cons of each. 

The Pros of SEO

More Cost-Effective: SEO costs less than Google Ads, and its effects have longevity. 

Steady Traffic: If you take the time to invest in SEO and quality content, you will likely always have a source of traffic to your website. 

Larger Potential Audience: The number of people who click on organic search results rather than ads is significantly higher. So, in that way, SEO gives you a larger target audience.

Build Trust with Consumers: Those ranking high in organic results are seen as being more trustworthy by consumers. 

Consider it an Asset: The effort you put into your SEO is an asset that can grow. The more you invest in your SEO, the higher your rankings - and the more it will drive traffic to your website and lead to conversions. 

The Cons of SEO

Results Can Be Slow: SEO doesn’t happen overnight - it takes time. 

Limits on Local SEO: You are limited by proximity regardless of the size area you serve.  

Limited Control: Google is always changing their algorithms. And, opting for SEO means this is something you’re going to have to deal with. 

The Pros of Google Ads

Quick Results: It is no secret - Google Ads yields faster results – that is, as long as you make large enough bids. 

Tracking and Metrics: Because you are paying for Google Ads, Google gives you all sorts of easily accessible tools to use for tracking and metrics.

Target Your Ideal Customer: With Google Ads you are bound to get precise targeting for your audience.

Expand Your Reach: By advertising,  you can expand your visibility for more search terms, including keywords that you may not be ranking for organically. So in this way, Google Ads also increases your reach. 

The Cons of Google Ads

Costly in Competitive Markets: Depending on your niche, you may find that pay-per-click costs are too high to make your campaigns profitable. 

Little Long-Term Value: Google Ads do not create value for your business over time. Once you stop paying for it, the benefit ends - and traffic to your site comes to a halt. 

SEO and Google Ads: Pick One

Remember, it will take a long time to see results from SEO, but the results will continue to be valuable to you for a much longer period. SEO is most often recommended as the go-to digital marketing channel for those with a smaller budget, an established business, and who don’t require fast results. Meanwhile, we recommend emphasizing Google Ads for newer businesses looking for sales, leads, and fast results -- and who don’t have the patience for the fruits of SEO labor to develop. 

If you have the budget, both SEO and Google Ads work well together. Consider using your Google Ads to uncover the best keywords with the highest conversions - and then focus your SEO efforts on these keywords. 

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