As most of us may or may not know, Google is used as the primary source of navigation on the internet. With that, comes the opportunity to either advertise on it through it’s various ad networks and/or to organically appear on it through it’s regular search. The ideal goal in either scenario is to appear on the first page or first position, as this guarantees more exposure and potentially more clicks/visits.
As a website owner seeking to maximize traffic, should you focus on the ad networks or appearing organically?
Well this article on Google Ads vs SEO is going to answer that…
2 years ago I had a post (here it is) where I compared the benefits, similarities and differences between getting traffic via advertising online and getting it via organic searches. I explained that ideally a site should focus on both things to maximize reach, traffic and profit, but there are scenarios where a website owner should focus their energy on one approach vs the other. But that was a broad article in that I was talking about multiple ad networks beyond just Google. I was also talking about Bing, Facebook, ect…
Here, I just want to focus on it specifically, the various paid networks it has for advertising and SEO in general, do a versus comparison and explain which works best for YOU.
Now I’ve personally done ads with Google for years and I’ve also done SEO for an even longer amount of time, got millions of clicks with both options so I can make a pretty good judgement call on what you should do.
Do note: The answer on which option is better varies…
It varies on what kind of website you have, what it’s goal is, how much work you put into it, how much money you’re willing to put in and some more scenarios. But I’m going to list every single one I can think of from my personal experiences and explain which one will work better depending on that scenario.
For me, I have a particular option I prefer and my website stats definitely show this:
70%+ of all traffic for me is through SEO, but just because this option works for me does not mean it’s the better one. Keep reading to see why the other may work better for you (or not).
Let me quickly explain each option, starting with Google ads:
It has a few paid networks to consider if you want traffic:
The first is adwords.
Here you place an ad, select keywords you want it to pop up for when people type the keyword, select a price you’re willing to pay for each click, and then you let it run.
My experience with this dates back many years where I was creating single pages, promoting affiliate products and putting up the page on this network. I was getting 100’s to 1,000’s of clicks daily.
I was also using smart bidding techniques which allowed me to pay very little in the process. With a good converting page, I was having scenarios where I’d pay about $10 a day clicks and making $100 each day, each time, so basically 10% was going to advertising, while 90% was profit. While this was a very good period for me, it inevitably came to a halt when adwords starting shutting the door down on affiliate sites like mine. In the process, I had to move my efforts to Bing and today, I use the same methods, but there instead (no more adwords :().
The next is Adwords express.
If you are a physical business, this is the network to consider. You will appear locally, on the first page in many cases, for your potential audience.
The display network (Adsense).
I honestly don’t even want to include this in the comparison because this method does not often have good results. You set up your site to show up on other sites (which use a network known as Adsense), not Google’s search engine itself and expect to get traffic and clicks that way. Often though, this doesn’t work out well since you can appear on many none relevant sites and get very little clicks from. And to be honest, I don’t even know if it’s a featured option anymore…
Either way, while I explained it briefly, omit it from this comparison, because it’s not a helpful option in my opinion.
Now let’s talk about SEO:
In SEO, the scenario is that I have a website, create content on it and Google, as well as other search engines, find this content and place it on the search engine according to certain parameters. For example, if I am writing content on growing your hair if you’re losing it, my content will be ranked for keywords related to this topic.
Often though, the content I write will not get ranked very high unless I have other parameters on my site: A lot of content, a lot of comments, shares, and website authority, all of which boost up my site’s positioning in Google and other search engines.
Ideally, the person who does SEO needs to try and boost their rankings up, all the way to the first page and ideally the first spot, especially for popular keywords and that is done through these types of methods.
Now having done (and still doing it) SEO for many years, I can tell you that this process is very difficult for most people as it requires a lot of time, effort in content creation and patience to succeed with, but it is also an extremely profitable venture if you manage to cross that point where the site starts to show up high on search engines. This is mainly because:
Sites with high SEO results/high rankings typically get MORE clicks and exposure overall on Google and other search engines than if you were getting clicks via ads.
And secondly, there is no cost required to appear organically, which means every single amount of money made, even if it’s just 1 penny is already a profit.
Now I do SEO because I find it to be the most suitable for my site/s, but I also actively do ads when it’s convenient to do so. So now that I’ve explained both options, let me make a few statements on what you should do as a website owner:
Google Ads vs SEO. When the advertising option wins…
It wins when you have a physical business to advertise. I’ve said this time and time again: If you have a business that you’re running physically, meaning you have a location, a service, and it requires that you take up time every single day to focus on, then you have no time to do SEO, but you still want that internet exposure, clicks and leads, so what is the alternative?
I would say, go the Adwords express route. You’d pay a little bit of money to show up on a map, but you’d get clicks and clients out of this.
This option also wins when you need faster results, aka faster exposure on Google. In that case, set up an ad through one of the options I listed above and you should see it running and accumulating clicks within a short period of time.
Speaking generally, you have a low probability of getting high page rankings with SEO. Hitting the first page is very possible, but the first position occupancy doesn’t happen often. With an ad, you can pay your way into this spot. And first position ads will get more clicks than 1st page organic positions.
Now do note a few things: A lot of the success you get from this doesn’t just rely on the network you’re using, it also is reliant on HOW you’re using them as well as how well your website is set up, which is a whole other topic that requires discussing, but I want to keep this focused on the main topic.
Google Ads vs SEO. When SEO wins…
Let us assume that you did all the right things in your SEO efforts and made your site pop up very high for MANY searches on Google (here is training which shows you how). Now with this in mind, let us go ahead:
With high SEO positions, you’re essentially making the need to use ads irrelevant.
You already occupy high positions and all that traffic is coming into your site for free. Why spend extra money to get extra exposure? You could definitely do this, but I would say, save the money and focus on the SEO solely.
Generally speaking, 1st page and 1st position rankings will get more clicks than ads.
And even those ads which have the first position. Do note that Google segments a section of it’s results for paid and organic results, meaning a person will see if the result they’re looking at for their search is an ad (it’ll say sponsored search). For example:
There is more exposure, beyond 1 search engine.
SEO doesn’t just apply to Google, it applies to other search engines and sites. You could very easily see high rankings on Bing and Yahoo as well from doing good SEO work. These extra branches of exposure can you get more free traffic.
And finally, if you run an affiliate site, you should stick to SEO.
The reason is that one of the networks on Google, adwords has made it nearly impossible to put up an affiliate page on it’s network. I was using it for years, but when things changed, my account got suspended. Now seeing an affiliate site as a sponsored search on Google is like finding a unicorn (it’s nearly impossible). Here is more info on suspensions and what to do if you are in this situation.
Where can you make more money?
Generally, the source that gets you more clicks/traffic can make you more money, but this is a VERY broad statement because clicks aren’t everything. You could be getting junk clicks and not make anything. The same goes for SEO. You need to correctly attract the right audience to your site. Then the clicks actually count:
The ideal scenario in BOTH circumstances is to get HIGH QUALITY CLICKS. Considering that is the case, I would say SEO provides more potential because it can get you more traffic (if you do things right).
If not, and you don’t have time to write content, wait for rankings to climb, then advertising on Google is better for making money (and that’s considering if you have a business site, not an affiliate site because as I said, they don’t typically let affiliate sites advertise).
My final thoughts and what I personally do:
Since I do affiliate marketing (and have since I started my whole online business), you can probably guess that my preferred method is SEO. While the process to reach success in this field has NOT been easy, I would have preferred doing this anyway, since the circumstances and the way the internet works makes this option the best for affiliate marketers (and bloggers I would add).
Now I will admit that I also advertise on Bing but that is because the same high positions I occupy on Google, I typically do not occupy on Bing. It happens, but rarely, so what I do with almost every new piece of content I create is that I make ads, but on Bing, so I can maximize traffic there. But like I said before, I want to keep the topic of this article focused on Google.
Now were I to create a website where I advertise my own services (none affiliated related) or perhaps help a client establish their business online, I would absolutely tell them to use one of the networks on Google (or I’d do it myself for a fee) and in fact, I have done that in the past and have had happy clients.
And finally, there is absolutely a case to be made for people to use both:
There is a circumstance in which if I have a business, that it absolutely benefits me to use both options. Perhaps I run a page where I teach people self defense. On the site, I could promote my own classes or private sessions, but I could also run a blog on the side where I get SEO exposure by talking about self defense related tips. This could attract audiences from multiple areas and really build up the business for me.
Now this is a scenario which will really only occur if the business owner has time to blog and grow the content on their site, and/or paying a person to create that content for them (freelancing). Otherwise, they should focus on advertising via PPC.