Aug 20, 2020 | 0 comments

When digital marketers talk about Google Ads and SEO (search engine optimisation) they speak about keywords and search engines – so what is the difference between the two?

The main difference between the two is that Google Ads (previously called Google AdWords) is a paid form of advertising while SEO is organic (free).

Differentiating between Google Search Ads and organic search results

Google Search Ads and SEO work in a similar way as both serve results in SERPs (search engine results pages) to users who have searched a related query. The difference is that Google Ads are shown at the top with a clearly marked “ad” sign, while organic results are shown below that.

With Google Ads advertisers bid on specific keywords or keyphrases (long-tail keywords) that they believe users looking for their product/service might type into Google. They then pay every time someone clicks on that advert.

A google search of 'plumbers near me' shows the google ads results to demonstrate the difference between google ads and SEO.

With organic search, the results are chosen by Google based on the relevance between the website and the user’s search query.

The example below shows the organic results for the query “plumbers near me”. You will notice that the results all mention Centurion, which is where I am searching from. This shows how Google chose websites of businesses close to me.

A google search of 'plumbers near me' shows the organic results to show the difference between google ads and SEO.

It is important to note that of the top three advert results not one of the businesses were based in Centurion. They were based in Pretoria East and Johannesburg which is a little way away. This proves that PPC ads are not always the best match for the user’s search query.

Google Ads vs SEO

The following table shows the main difference between Google Ads and search engine optimization.

SEO and Google Ads both help you to increase relevant traffic to your website to generate more leads. They are two methods to grow your online presence, but they are very different.

A table explains the difference between google ads and SEO.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better? Google Ads or SEO?

No digital marketing channel is better than another. Your digital marketing strategy should be based on your marketing objectives (what you are trying to achieve) and how quickly you want to see results.

PPC advertising allows you to pay to reach people who are searching for your product/service. As soon as you create your ads, with your allocated budget, you will start getting impressions and reaching your audience. This allows you to reach your goals and start generating leads almost immediately. On the downside, because you pay per click you will stop receiving clicks as soon as your budget runs out. Google Ads will be best for companies with want to see immediate results.

Learn more about Google Search Ads here.

With SEO you don’t pay per click, but it can take time to get your business to rank at the top, or even on the first page. Businesses often hire the services of an SEO specialist to help them optimise their website for search engines – this can be costly but is worth the investment. SEO is a long term investment that will keep delivering impressions, clicks and leads even if you don’t have a budget. SEO works best for companies who want to see a steady flow of traffic and leads over time.

Learn more about why SEO is necessary for your business here.

Still not sure how to choose between SEO and Google Ads?

If you aren’t sure it is best to consult a digital marketing agency or SEM specialist. A search engine marketer will be able to advise you on the best marketing channel for your business needs.

Does Google Ads (PPC) help my SEO?

No, your PPC marketing will not influence your SEO. This is because Google’s number one priority is to ensure that search users receive the most relevant search results. If businesses paid for higher rankings then the search results would no longer be based on the best, most relevant result but on budget.


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