SEO vs PPC: Which Is Best for My Business?

By Narwhal Media Group | August 16, 2023

Navigating the complex world of digital marketing can often feel overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to choose between two major contenders: SEO or PPC. Whether you’re an experienced SEO or you’re just starting out, we’re here to advise you on the differences to help you make an informed decision. 

These two powerhouses offer distinct advantages, and determining which one is right for your business requires careful consideration. So, let’s dive into it together…


The definition of SEO and PPC

Firstly, there’s no point in discussing the difference between SEO and PPC if you’re not entirely sure on the terms. 

There are a range of definitions out there, but we’ve put together the simplest definitions of SEO and PPC to avoid any confusion. We know that the topic can be confusing enough already, so it’s best for us to start off with a clear definition of the two.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): This is the process of improving a website’s visibility on search engines like Google through organic (non-paid) tactics. These non-paid tactics could include optimising your website’s content, structure, and backlinks (a link from another website to your own) for your website to rank higher in the search results. Consequently, this means that users are more likely to land on your website for highly searched keywords, building your website’s credibility and authority.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click): This is a type of paid advertising where businesses pay a fee each time their ad is clicked — hence the term, pay-per-click. These ads often appear above organic search results on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and look something like this: 

You can, however, also use PPC advertising through social media platforms. This is where websites such as Facebook and Instagram display your advertisements for a fee.


Key differences between SEO and PPC

The main difference between SEO and PPC is the immediacy of results each method can give your business, and how these results are achieved. 

PPC can deliver quick (though not instantaneous) results. When you create a PPC campaign, your ads can start appearing in competitive positions almost immediately after approval. Although, this success is only temporary; once your ad duration expires, your website traffic will immediately reflect this. 


Brad Burnham, our SEO Executive, explains the difference in simple terms: 

“PPC is not a sustainable (or cheap) way to keep your website’s visibility high, but it is highly effective for the duration of your PPC campaign, or if you have a short-term seasonal campaign in mind.”

SEO, on the other hand, is a long-term strategy. It requires consistent effort, and results can take weeks, if not months, to start showing. However, SEO is free and doesn’t require any money or budget, other than if you choose to outsource to an SEO/PPC agency with more experience and knowledge. SEO is definitely a more sustainable approach, as it builds your website’s credibility from the foundations, but it is in no way a ‘quick win’ like PPC.


Our Head of SEO, Andy Toone, states the importance of considering your long-term business objectives when making this decision:

“When deciding between paid or organic marketing channels for your business, always consider your long-term objectives. Whilst PPC offers quick results, SEO promises sustained benefits over time. However, the effectiveness of SEO depends on full business integration, meaning every part of a business must engage with the SEO strategy. 

“For newer businesses, investing in paid channels initially can build brand awareness and momentum, as long as there’s a budget and sustainable ad campaign management. Specifically, for e-commerce sites, leveraging tools like Performance Max and Google Shopping can be beneficial. 

“Ultimately, for enduring growth and cost-effectiveness in the long run, focus on organic and SEO efforts. This includes investing in unique, well-researched content that addresses user needs.”

Despite their differences, both strategies can bring necessary content updates or website design modifications to light that you may have been unaware of beforehand. Whether you’re working with an SEO agency or a PPC agency, remember that both SEO and PPC rely on successful landing pages. If a user clicks on your ad or organic listing and lands on a poorly designed page with irrelevant content, they’re likely to leave. So, in both cases, you’ll need to ensure that your landing pages are optimised for the best results.


Factors to consider when choosing between SEO and PPC


Your business niche

Some industries have intense competition, meaning the cost per click in PPC can be sky-high. In cases such as these, the high cost of PPC isn’t worth the result. If you’re in such a niche, an organic SEO approach might be more cost-effective and sustainable in the long run. If you’re unsure of whether your business is too competitive for PPC, get in touch with our team and we’ll be more than happy to talk you through our advice.



If the cost per click for your target keywords is substantial and your ad budget is limited, you might lean more towards SEO. Outsourcing SEO responsibility to an SEO agency can help you build your site’s organic presence naturally and sustainably over time. You’ll also learn about SEO along the way through regular updates from your chosen agency.



If you’re launching a new product or a limited-time offer and need immediate visibility, PPC might be the best option for your business. However, for establishing long-term brand presence and authority, SEO shines brightest for businesses that require an ongoing reputation and online presence.


Type of business

For businesses that thrive on repeat or referral clients, investing in SEO can pay off as it works on building and maintaining lasting relationships — without the expiry date of PPC. On the other hand, PPC is an excellent and effective method for quick short-term conversions, or for generating leads for new businesses.


In-house expertise

Managing a PPC campaign isn’t just about setting it up – there’s so much more to it, and many business owners don’t realise this. The same goes for SEO where you’ll need to generate consistent quality content in line with Google’s E-A-T / YMYL principle, fix any back-end technical issues, optimise meta-data, and use link-building techniques to build your website credibility. It goes without saying, but knowledge of SEO and PPC can go a long way.

Regular monitoring, optimisation, and design/content strategy shifts are essential for effective PPC and SEO campaigns. If you don’t have someone in-house who’s skilled enough to know how to manage your campaigns, or an SEO/PPC agency to outsource to, then this is definitely something you should consider to help you make the most of your budget.


Can you have SEO and PPC strategies at the same time?

Who says you have to choose? Many businesses benefit from a combined approach. Employing the benefits of both PPC and SEO strategies allows you to dominate both paid and organic search results, maximising your website’s visibility. 

As a leading SEO and PPC agency, we recommend a dual approach, especially when starting. This obviously depends on the nature of your business, but PPC can offer immediate returns while your SEO efforts begin to take root and grow behind the scenes. This way, they can work simultaneously.


SEO and PPC: Never a one-size-fits-all

Choosing between SEO and PPC is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It depends on your business objectives, your niche, your budget, and many other factors. By understanding the difference between SEO and PPC, you can make informed decisions tailored to your unique situation.

We’re lucky to specialise in both SEO services and PPC services here at Narwhal Media Group. So, if you’re unsure about the right direction, our experienced team can provide guidance, ensuring that your business thrives in the ever-growing digital landscape.

Whether you’re seeking a strategic blend of both or want to lean heavily into one, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. 

Get in touch with our team if you have any further questions, or if you’d like to hear more about our services — we’ll always be happy to help.


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