If you run a business, you’ve probably asked yourself at some point, which is right for your business – Google Ads or SEO?
The short answer is that BOTH can be useful, but which one you should implement first will come down to several factors.
These factors include what your budget is, what shape your website is in, and what you ultimately want to achieve in your business (for example your strategy might be very different if you want to build a personal brand vs promoting a short term sale).
To help you work out which is right for your business, Google Ads or SEO, first you need to understand exactly what each one is, and what they can offer your online presence.
What is Google Ads?
Google Ads is a form of paid online advertising.
Ads can appear on the search results page when you look up something on Google search, or they can appear across other sites that belong to Google’s display network (news websites, blogs, etc.).
For a super quick overview on how Google search ads work, watch this 2-minute video from Google:
When people click on your ads, you pay a (usually small) amount to Google for each click. For most search campaigns, this is between $1 and $3 per click, but can be as little as 1c or $100!
These costs for your clicks are then charged to your credit card each month or when you hit your payment limit (for many accounts this is set to $1000 or once a month, whichever comes first).
The key thing to know about Google Ads is that this is a paid service and while your ads are running, you will be charged for clicks.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. Essentially that means you are optimising your website and its content to try to help it rank as high as possible in the search engine results.
For a super quick overview on how Google search works, watch this 5-minute video from Google:
If you’re selling hand-knitted guinea pig pyjamas, you want your website to appear on the first page of Google whenever someone Google’s ‘pyjamas for guinea pigs’.*
These are called the organic results and usually there are up to 10 organic results per page when something is searched on Google.
You do not pay when people click to visit your website from the organic search results. This traffic is free – well, if you don’t count your time spent optimising your website.
*Turns out there aren’t any decent results for guinea pig pyjamas but how cute are these guinea pig clothes!
Features & Benefits Of Google Ads
Here are some of the key features and benefits of using Google Ads as part of your digital marketing strategy.
- You can start appearing on the first page of the search results immediately.
- You pay for every click to your website.
- Google Ads can be a short term or long term strategy.
- It’s easy to calculate your return on investment (what you spent vs what you made)
- If your ads stop, your clicks from your Google Ads campaign will stop too.
- You can target any keywords you specify (do make sure they are relevant to your business though).
- Your website can appear on other websites too, not just search results pages (if you choose to show your ads on search partners or the display network).
- Google Ads is ideal for targeted traffic with set goals (buy my guinea pig pyjamas online / sign up to my guinea pig fashion newsletter / enquire about my custom designed guinea pig pyjamas now)
- You can specify who should see your ads (based on things like user location, user language, their interests and what devices they are using to browse).
Features & Benefits of SEO
Here are some of the key features and benefits of using SEO as part of your digital marketing strategy.
- SEO is definitely a long term strategy as it takes on average around 4 months to start seeing results from your SEO efforts.
- The changes your make to your website for SEO purposes will apply across any search engine, not just Google
- There is no cost per click from the organic results – your traffic from search engines is free!
- You do need to create relevant content to rank for specific search terms.
- Anyone can see your website when it appears in the search results page – you can’t prevent your website for showing for specific search terms. (Funny story – I’ve written some blogs about a famous South African comedian, Kevin Fraser, over on my migration blog, Proudly South African in Perth. These blogs include some photos of me and him. Because of this, I get quite a few clicks to my images each month for search terms like ‘Kevin Fraser wife’!)
- SEO either takes time or money (but often both). You will need to either invest in your time to learn and implement SEO best practices on your site, or if your budget allows, pay an SEO freelancer or consultant to take care of it for you.
- SEO builds brand credibility and awareness – people often trust the organic results over the paid ads.
So Which Is Better For Your Business – Google Ads or SEO?
Now that you know more about SEO and Google Ads, let’s work out which one might be better for your business.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you already have a website?
If not, there are plenty of tools that allow you to easily create a landing page to send your paid traffic to, if you want to run Google Ads but don’t have a site built.
What shape is your website in?
What does your website look like now? Is it one that people would trust and buy from? Or does it look like it was built 10 years ago and hasn’t been updated since?
There is no point paying for traffic to a website that just won’t convince people to buy. If that’s the case, you are probably better off spending any marketing budget on refreshing your website before doing any paid marketing.
How quickly do you want to see results?
When do you need to see results? If you need quick results at lightning speed, Google Ads is your better option as your ads can start appearing as soon as you activate them.
What do you want to spend?
Do you want to spend a regular amount of money each month to be visible online, or would you rather work on ranking as high as you can organically and not have to pay for Google Ads every month?
How much is your product/service worth?
This is something that a lot of people (especially Google Ads sales reps) fail to highlight.
Google Ads works best when you have a higher value product or service – unless you are a famous brand already or have gazillions of dollars to spend.
If you have a low value product range, e.g. lip balms for $5, you’re going to have to shift a hell of a lot of lip balms to justify a $500 spend on Google Ads. You’ll need to sell 100 lip balms just to break even!
If you sell a $500 e-course, and spend $1000 on Google Ads each month, you only have to sell 3 courses to be making a return on your investment.
That’s not to say Google Ads is not worth running for lower value products or services, just that it can be trickier to get that all important return on investment.
This is also affected by many other factors such as who your ideal client is, who your competition is, and how well your website and sales funnel is set up.
My Final Thoughts on Google Ads Vs SEO
One final word from me on this topic – no matter which one you think is best, if you are considering which one to choose, I always recommend starting with an SEO audit and optimisation on your website before running Google Ads.
By running Google Ads to already-optimised landing pages on your website, your ads have the potential to appear higher on the search results page and cost you less per click. This is because Google can see that the landing page matches the search term you are targeting and has relevant content for the user.
So if we’re talking chicken vs egg, I’d say in an ideal world, work on your on page SEO first, and then look at running a targeted Google Ads campaign.
Still unsure? Get in touch with me today for a completely free and obligation free digital marketing consultation.