SEO vs. AdWords – Which one is best?

There has always been a lot of discussion about AdWords and SEO, with many people standing their ground and believing that one works better than the other. There are actually many similarities between AdWords and SEO, and a lot of differences as well. AdWords and SEO are the two central components of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Both these components are fairly important when running a digital marketing campaign.

They both compliment each other and work well together. If you are looking for a well-rounded SEM campaign, you will probably need to use both AdWords and SEO. However, there are some situations that you could be better off using them separately and this will depend on your overall goal and marketing budget.

What is SEO?

SEO structure

SEO is all about developing strategies that will assist your business in achieving the highest possible ranking in search engines for your website. Each different search engine (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) has similar ranking factors and you need to ensure your website is as search engine friendly as possible to achieve the best ranking. When your website is search engine friendly, it means that search engines are able to easily ‘read’ or scan through it and it is also easy for users to understand.

What is Google AdWords?

There are a lot of different terms used that actually describe AdWords, so it is easy to get confused. Terms such as PPC and CPC, bids and campaigns are used to describe AdWords. They all essentially mean the same thing so don’t worry if someone is using all these terms! As the name suggests, Google AdWords is owned by Google and it is an advertising platform. Businesses use AdWords to ensure that their website has a higher position in search results.

When you type a keyword into Google, you will find a few advertisements in the first couple of spaces that are in relation to your search query. This is AdWords, all the ad spaces you see here the business has paid to be there. Being at or near the top of Google search results is a hard achievement and usually takes a significant amount of time. However, with AdWords you can pay to be at the top. Usually, businesses choose to only pay when a user clicks on your ad.

Below is a screenshot taken from Google search results page and it shows the difference between SEO and AdWords:

seo and adwords

Compare the Pair

After reading the above information, you should have a general idea on what AdWords and SEO are! So now let’s conduct a comparison so you can find out which one would be best for you:

  • Results for AdWords are usually much faster, you put together your campaign and are likely to see your active ad soon after (this is also dependent on how competitive your keyword is). However, with SEO you will need a lot more time, especially if your website is brand new.
  • AdWords are placed on the top and bottom of search results page making your website highly visible, with SEO it will take more work to push your website to the first page of Google results.
  • AdWords campaign can cost a significant amount of money, while SEO is usually free (if you aren’t using an SEO company to run your campaign for you!).
  • SEO is for all search engine results (so for example, your website will show up in Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), whereas AdWords is only applicable on Google and Google based/ owned websites.
  • It is easier to target a larger amounts of keywords with AdWords, however with SEO is it beneficial to only focus on a smaller amount of keywords.
  • Running an AdWords campaign means it is easier to calculate your return on investment. It is much hard to calculate for SEO.
  • When you terminate your AdWords campaign, your traffic usually also stops as well. Whereas, with SEO, once you start to see organic growth this is likely to continue.

Which one should you use?

thinking about SEO

Many people ask this question every day, especially before deciding on using an SEO company. Like most things in marketing, the choice usually comes down to money. Although there are a significant amount of differences, the big one is the money. It costs money to run an AdWords campaign and SEO is free if you are doing it by yourself. You should always be looking towards SEO as a base and if you have the extra cash to splash around (and you know what you are doing) then you should definitely invest in an AdWords campaign. SEO and AdWords are referred to as organic and non-organic strategies respectively. Developing both at the same time can work wonders for your business. So while AdWords gets you the results you want faster, SEO is building your organic results so when your AdWords campaign is over, you will still have the work SEO has done to give your business further results.

Keep It Simple

With both SEO and AdWords, it is important to understand what you are doing and realise that both will take a lot of time and effort to develop an effective campaign. I find that some businesses, even if they do have a solid grasp on SEO and AdWords, they simply don’t have the necessary time to dedicate towards the cause, therefore they look to digital marketing agencies for assistance. These agencies will most likely have the ability to construct and run both a SEO and AdWords campaign for your business. If you are going to spend money on AdWords or SEO you do not want to waste it on either trying to do it yourself but not really knowing how or on agencies that don’t have your business’s best interests at heart.

So what would I recommend?

Always start with SEO, it won’t cost you a thing and starting here will help you understand other aspects of SEM like AdWords. Results from organic SEO will take longer but these are the more important results because it gives a more reliable understanding of how your website is going. After you have developed a solid SEO campaign, you can beef up your results with a bit of AdWords, if you have the funds and a good understand of how it works (so you don’t waste your money).

If you do your research on both SEO and AdWords and find that you do have the money to pay experts to run the campaign for you, I would recommend you do. SEO and AdWords require a lot of effort and continual monitoring and you may have the time for this today, but get busier and not allocate the necessary effort. But ultimately it is your choice and you should do what you feel comfortable with.

If you have any questions, please ask below!