Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is coming of age… in a big way. From Fortune 500 corporations to sole proprietorship’s, more and more companies are starting to realize the power of the Internet for brand awareness, client retention, lead prospecting, and revenue generation.

This has lead to huge interest in, and demand for, the two most-effective SEM strategies: Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

PPC is the process of bringing visitors to a website by paying a ‘click-through’ fee for each click. This is accomplished by ‘bidding’ on keywords that are relevant to the business. Results are usually displayed in the ‘sponsored’ or ‘featured’ areas with the highest bidder getting the number one ranking.

SEO is the process of making a website more search engine ‘friendly’ to help it rank higher. Improvements are made to the site content, internal and external linking structure, server configuration, and Meta Tags. Search engine ‘spiders’ visit the site and attempt to classify what it is about. When a search is conducted, the website is compared to other websites for relevancy to the topic being searched for. Results are displayed in the ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ areas in order of most-to-least relevant.

Which one is best? That depends entirely on your business requirements and budget constraints. Don’t let anyone tell you that one is better than the other… they both have their advantages and disadvantages and each is geared towards meeting certain needs and wants.


PPC Pros:

  • Fast… top rankings can be achieved in a matter of hours or days –not months.
  • Very little website changes required.
  • You can target as many keywords as you want.
  • Control… you can control/ change almost all aspects of the campaign.
  • Costs are only incurred when someone clicks on your ad.
  • Results can be tracked and measured precisely… improving ROI.
  • Permits geographic targeting… pick your country, region, state, city, or town.
  • Permits running of ads at different times… 24×7, morning, afternoon, evening, night.
  • Will direct users to the exact page on your site you want them to visit.
  • Allows for testing of landing pages and conversion rates.
  • Immediacy… get instantaneous, real-time feedback on changes/ adjustments.
  • Ideal way to ‘test’ whether online marketing is right for your business.
  • Must rank for a particular keyword? If you have the budget, you can rank for it.

PPC Cons:

  • Rankings disappear as soon as you stop paying.
  • Can be expensive in the long term.
  • Be wary of ‘bidding wars’… costs can quickly spiral out of control.
  • Susceptible to ‘click fraud’… people/ competitors clicking on your ads to drive up costs.
  • Keywords are initially reviewed and approved/ disapproved by the search engines.
  • The cost for keywords is going up.
  • Search engines don’t care how much you value a keyword… if it doesn’t generate enough traffic, they will disable it.
  • Your rankings can be affected by the number of ‘click-throughs’ your ad generates… so even though you ‘bid’ for the number two position, someone else may get that spot.
  • Rankings are viewed by people as being a form of ‘advertising’… some users consider this a plus, others a negative.
  • Most people prefer to click on ‘natural/ organic’ (i.e. SEO) results rather than PPC ads.


SEO Pros:

  • Rankings can remain for a long time after the optimization process is done.
    You don’t have to pay every time someone clicks on your listing.
  • Long-term costs can be lower than PPC.
  • Good ROI and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other forms of advertising… both online and offline.
  • People trust SEO rankings more than PPC rankings… more than twice as many people will click on an organic listing than a PPC listing.

SEO Cons:

  • Results are not guaranteed… be very wary of any company that guarantees top rankings.
  • Higher start-up costs and longer timeframe… approx. 2-6 months to start seeing results.
  • Rankings are unpredictable… top rankings can come and go based on any number of factors that are beyond your control.
  • Requires on-going maintenance to ensure website remains relevant to search engine algorithm changes.
  • Many changes may have to be made to the site itself to make it search engine friendly.
  • Changes may have to be made to the Web Host server(s).
  • Good SEO costs money… you get what you pay for.
  • Geographic targeting is more difficult than with PPC.
  • To the search engines, ‘content is king’… websites need to have good, unique content.
  • Content written to target keywords isn’t usually the most compelling or the easiest to read from a human perspective.
  • You may not know whether your SEO company is using ethical or unethical techniques… unless they are certified.
  • Competition is fierce and some companies use unethical practices to attain top rankings.
  • Un-doing what is already done can be difficult… especially if your site has already been penalized in the past.
  • Some keywords are just too competitive to be even worth going after… unless you have a large budget.



  • Provide highly targeted, motivated customers… people who are actively searching for your products/ services.
  • Enhance corporate sales and marketing efforts… leading to improved profits.
    Help to maximize a website’s exposure on the Internet.
  • Are great for brand awareness, lead prospecting, and revenue generation.
  • Can turn a website from being a business expense to a business asset.

The Internet is vast, immensely vast… people turn to the search engines for help in finding what they are looking for… PPC and SEO make it possible for people to find your site. Ultimately, an online marketing strategy that combines both PPC and SEO strategy is the best strategy to pursue but there a very few companies that can afford the luxury of investing in both.

Making the right decision is not easy and this is where considerable research should be done on selecting the right company to work with. They should be willing to openly discuss both PPC and SEO with you, and provide solid input as to which of these two Search Engine Marketing strategies would be best suited for your business. They should be active participants in helping you to develop and implement an SEM strategy that successfully meets your online business goals and requirements… so choose carefully.

In their simplest and purest forms; SEO is about optimizing and lucking into rankings… PPC is about controlling and paying for rankings.
About the author:
Chris Genge is the President of 1st on the List Promotion Inc, a website promotion firm that specializes in search engine optimization and pay per click management. Chris writes on current and emerging search engine marketing theories and has been involved in the SEO industry since 1997. He and his team focus on researching and implementing the most effective and ethical search engine optimization techniques. To learn more visit /