Imagine you are a SME (Small and medium enterprise) and you have a limited budget set aside for your online marketing needs and you are not sure whether to invest in SEO or PPC, how can you possibly decide which will give your organization the best ROI? First of all, let’s define these 2 Search Engine Marketing (SEM) options.


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SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation which is the process of ensuring that your website is as visible as possible in all the major Search Engines such as Google, MSN and Yahoo for the search keywords that your buying customers are using in their searches.
Statistics suggest that web users rarely venture out of the Top 10 search results, if they find what they need in the top listings. In terms of traffic; there is a large difference between even position #2 and #1 in click throughs and hence conversions (sales). If you are not in the top 5 positions, you are missing up to 80% of search engine traffic, and if you are not in the top 10 positions you can expect 1 in 100 hits by comparison to the #1 Position.

Search engine optimization is the instrument that can make sure that your website will be listed within pertinent organic search results, and as close as achievable to the top of these results. One way to ensure a positive ROI is to use the services of a SEO firm with an established track record of achievement, knowledge of new trends and techniques, and skills working with the major players in your industry.


PPC stands for “pay per click.” Pay per Click is an advertising strategy where enterprises pay a decided upon amount each time a user clicks on their ad. Advertisers choose keywords, keyword phrases, or keyword groups for which they want their advertisements to appear. Advertisers prepared to pay out the most money for a suitable ad will generally be listed foremost. Google Ads, Yahoo! Advertising and Microsoft Ads are three of the most often used PPC programs.

When you set up a PPC campaign you can manage the traffic. While a new site takes time to rank well in search engine results, with PPC you determine when your ad will be displayed. With PPC, you can generate almost immediate website visitors. Unlike SERPs, you control the information and where the visitor is directed on your website. Another advantage with regard to PPC ads is the opportunity for worldwide visibility. Organic search listings fluctuate in different countries. With PPC, you have power over where your ads are seen. A thriving PPC campaign should be targeted not too narrowly and not too broadly. The campaign should direct the visitor who clicks on the ad to a relevant landing page that has information associated with the keyword used in the ad campaign.

Difference between SEO and PPC

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and PPC have a number of key differences. SEO is the science of increasing traffic to your website by improving the internal and external factors influencing ranking in the organic (free) search results. There may be a more expensive cost of optimizing the website upfront, however, once this is complete, any traffic you gain is free.

PPC is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion – this is most often called PPC for pay-per-click. PPC ads show up above the organic results on most search engines. However, the layout does vary depending on which search engine you are targeting with each campaign.

Which online marketing method should you use?

There is no hard and fast rule that says you should use PPC exclusively or SEO exclusively, it all depends on what your defined objectives for your online marketing campaign are and what kind of time scale you need to achieve these results. If you need results fast then PPC is probably your better option as the results are pretty much immediate whilst implementing SEO takes a fair bit of time. If you are looking at sustained ROI then SEO is the better choice as the work and resources dedicated to SEO repay themselves many times over, within a longer period of time. If you have a limited amount of expertise on the matter and are determined to carry out your online marketing campaign yourself then you should probably use PPC as it takes much less knowledge on the matter to implement. If you are a small business with locality as a USP (unique selling proposition) you should use SEO to improve your overall online presence in the organic search results.

Results are easier to measure and analyze with a PPC campaign than with SEO, so if certain stakeholders are expecting detailed ROI reporting PPC might be the correct element of SEM to implement. Organic listings are generally more trusted than PPC ads so if you have a product or service that is somewhat perceived as unreliable or risky; you should try to use SEO to get in the organic search results. PPC definitely has merit, but overall PPC will leave you with thinner margins and an ever-decreasing ROI. The reason for conducting an organic SEO campaign is to appreciably increase your ROI over the long term. If you want to direct visitors to a specific page on your site as opposed to your website as a whole, you should implement PPC, as you have the ability to choose your landing page.

In conclusion, there is no real comprehensive answer to the question of which SEM element to use, you need to examine your objectives, evaluate your resources, and see which method will lead customers to choose your website over competitors, whether that means using SEO, PPC or a combination of both.

P.S. Here is an eye tracking study showing the difference in levels of attention that organic and PPC listings get.

Ready to maximize your online presence and ROI? Contact us today to tailor a winning strategy with the perfect blend of SEO and PPC for your business growth. Talk to us

FAQ: As a SME, should I invest in SEO or PPC for my online marketing to achieve the best ROI?

SME owners face the difficult choice of investing resources where they will garner maximum return on investment (ROI). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising are two popular avenues. When making this decision, be sure to consider your marketing strategy, budget, and goals when making this choice.

  1. SEO: The Organic Foundation

SEO is the art and science of improving your website’s visibility in the organic search engine results.

– Sustainable Growth: SEO builds a strong foundation for sustainable, long-term growth. Once you’ve established your website’s authority, it can attract organic traffic for years to come.

– Cost-Effective: Unlike PPC, SEO doesn’t require you to pay for every click. Over time, it offers a cost-effective way to maintain traffic.

– Experiential Tip: Focus on creating high-quality, informative content. This not only pleases search engines but also engages and retains your audience.

  1. PPC: Quick Results, Targeted Advertising

PPC, on the other hand, is a paid advertising strategy where you bid on keywords to display your ads at the top of search results. Here are the benefits of PPC:

– Quick Results: PPC delivers immediate visibility and traffic. You can start getting clicks and conversions as soon as your campaign goes live.

– Highly Targeted: With PPC, you can target specific demographics, locations, and even the time of day your ads appear.

– Budget Control: You have full control over your budget, making it suitable for SMEs with limited resources.

– Experiential Tip: Regularly analyze and optimize your PPC campaigns to ensure you’re getting the best ROI.

  1. Finding the Balance for Optimal ROI

To achieve the best ROI, the ideal approach is often a combination of SEO and PPC. Here’s a strategy to consider:

– Start with SEO: Begin with a robust SEO strategy to build a strong online presence over time. This provides a sustainable stream of organic traffic.

– Supplement with PPC: Use PPC to boost your online visibility immediately, especially for time-sensitive promotions or to target specific audiences.

– Monitor and Adapt: Continuously analyze the performance of both strategies and adjust your budget allocation accordingly.

  1. Conclusion: The Winning Formula

SME owners shouldn’t make a binary decision between SEO and PPC; finding an optimal balance is essential to maximize ROI. Both can contribute immediately to online visibility; combined together effectively, they can help businesses succeed in the digital marketplace.

By understanding the unique strengths of SEO and PPC and using them strategically, you can create a dynamic online marketing approach that delivers outstanding results for your business.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Choosing Between SEO and PPC for SMEs

  1. Assess your business goals and budget constraints.
  2. Understanding the Differences Between SEO & PPC
  3. Consider both the short and long-term objectives of your marketing plan.
  4. Research your target audience and their online behavior.
  5. Determine the competitiveness of your industry and target keywords.
  6. Start with SEO to build a strong, organic online presence.
  7. Optimize your website’s technical aspects, content, and backlink profile.
  8. Regularly produce high-quality, informative content.
  9. Begin PPC campaigns to achieve immediate visibility and targeted traffic.
  10. Set up your PPC budget and choose relevant keywords.
  11. Monitor and analyze the performance of both SEO and PPC.
  12. Adjust your budget allocation based on the results.
  13. Continuously optimize your PPC campaigns for better ROI.
  14. Focus on improving your organic search rankings over time.
  15. Leverage the trust and credibility gained through SEO.
  16. Maintain a balance between SEO’s sustainable growth and PPC’s quick results.
  17. Use PPC for time-sensitive promotions or specific audience targeting.
  18. Adapt your strategy as your business and industry evolve.
  19. Remember that the ideal approach often involves a combination of both SEO and PPC.
  20. Aim to maximize your ROI by intelligently managing and balancing both strategies.

This article was updated on November 28, 2023.

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Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent PPC/Pay-Per-Click posts is better than the last!

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