Which is better: SEO or Google Ads?

    seo and google ads are effective digital marketing strategies

    Which is better: SEO or Google Ads?

    There’s a common misconception that simply having a website is enough to attract visitors and customers. That it’s something that can be created and then left alone.  

    In reality, though, if you’re looking to grow your client base and improve revenue, building a website is just the first step in creating an online presence. 

    To convert visitors into paying customers, your website needs to be regularly updated with fresh content and optimised to meet the changing needs of your prospects and search engine algorithms.

    As Select Web’s Head Honcho Eric Prinsloo always reminds us:

    “People have a need and are searching online for the types of products and services you provide. If they don’t find you, they’ll find your competitor.”

    Two of the most popular website promotion methods are search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google Ads

    Both strategies are aimed at building a steady flow of website traffic and greater website visibility. 

    In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two digital marketing strategies and when to use each one.

    SEO: A long-term marketing strategy 

    SEO is a process of optimising a website’s content and structure to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords and phrases. 

    The goal? To attract organic traffic to a website. In other words, the traffic that comes from people who find the website naturally through a search engine and not by clicking on an ad.

    SEO is a long-term marketing strategy that can take months or even years to produce significant results. 

    However, once a website reaches a top position in the SERPs, it can generate a significant amount of traffic. 

    SEO is a durable source of website traffic

    Organic search is critical for most businesses’ website performance and, ultimately, getting users to complete a conversion or engagement.

    Digital marketing expert Andy Crestodina uses a the analogy of a boat to explain search optimisation

    “Every page can catch traffic, like a sail catches wind,” he writes. 

    This is because search traffic is durable and the keyword optimisation opportunities are “virtually limitless”. 

    However, because of the competitiveness of organic search marketing, the emphasis falls on creating high-quality, relevant content that is optimised for specific keywords and phrases. 

    But SEO doesn’t start and end with great content. It also requires technical optimisation of the website’s structure, including the use of metadata, sitemaps, and other factors that can affect how it ranks.

    If you’re serious about improving your website’s performance on search engines, it’s important to hire a digital marketing agency or website optimisation agency to help.

    When to use SEO

    SEO is appropriate for businesses that are looking for a long-term marketing strategy that can generate organic traffic over time. 

    While SEO requires a significant investment of time and resources to produce results, it can be a cost-effective way to attract high-quality traffic to a website. 

    It is particularly useful for businesses that operate in a niche market, as it can help them rank higher for specific keywords and phrases that are relevant to their industry.

    Google Ads: a pay-per-click model

    Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is an advertising platform that allows businesses to create ads that appear in Google search results and on other websites that are part of the Google Display Network (GDN). 

    According to Google, the GDN is a group of ”more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps where your Google Ads can appear.”

    Google Ads uses a pay-per-click (PPC) model, which means businesses pay each time a user clicks on their ad. 

    Google Ads

    Google Ads is useful for doing market research.

    Using Crestodina’s analogy again, Google Ads would represent the motor on the boat.

    By essentially buying website traffic, your website can quickly gain visibility and traction on search engines. 

    And there’s a good chance that your visitor is of a high quality (shows interest) because they clicked on the ad. This means the ads are generally well-targeted.

    When to use Google Ads

    However, some points to note. 

    Google Ads can be temporary and are, therefore, less durable than SEO. 

    If you don’t keep topping up your ads account, your website will be invisible on the Google Ads network. 

    And then there are costs to consider. The cost of Google Ads depends on several factors. These include the competitiveness of the targeted keywords, the quality of the ad, and the targeted audience.

    If your business is looking for an immediate boost in website traffic and you are willing to pay for it, Google Ads is a useful tool. 

    It’s also useful for a company that wants to test new products, services or marketing messages to see how well they sit with their target audience.

    Arguably, Google Ads provides businesses with more control over their advertising than SEO.

    Advertisers can choose which keywords and phrases to target, set a budget, and customise the appearance of their ads. 

    Detailed analytics enables businesses to track their ad’s performance and make adjustments to improve results.

    Double marketing impact by using SEO and Google Ads

    In many cases, businesses can benefit from using both SEO and Google Ads. 

    SEO can be used to generate organic traffic over the long term, while Google Ads can be used to supplement traffic in the short term. 

    As your website’s traffic through organic search grows over time, you also have the option of reducing your Google Ads budget. 

    The bottom line is that you can be flexible in how you approach using these strategies in combination.

    For example, businesses can use Google Ads to target keywords that are not currently ranking well in the SERPs (search engine results pages), while they work on improving their SEO strategy. 

    Using both methods can provide a comprehensive marketing strategy that can produce results in the short and long term.


    In the world of digital marketing, two of the most popular methods for attracting website traffic are SEO and Google Ads. 

    While both methods are used to increase website visibility and attract users, they differ in several ways, including cost, timing, and the amount of control over the process.

    In many cases, businesses can benefit from using both methods to create a comprehensive marketing strategy that can generate high-quality traffic over the short and long term.

    Do you need some advice on the best strategy to use for your business?