Digital Advertising vs SEO | Pay-Per-Click Advertising or Organic SEO?

Digital Advertising vs SEO | Pay-Per-Click Advertising or Organic SEO?

Digital Advertising / Pay-Per-Click Advertising Pros and Cons


  • Can begin to produce results quickly
  • Can be targeted to very specific individuals and interests
  • Can be Geo-targeted to specific locations
  • Is usually based on pay-per-result


  • Cost per click or cost per impression means you pay for everything you get (nothing more)
  • Results end when you quit paying
  • Often takes ramp-up and campaign “learning” time
  • Is very competitive because of bidding systems
  • Contains hundreds of strategies and some will not work

Search Engine Optimization Pros and Cons


  • Provides long term benefits even after a campaign ends
  • When done correctly, nearly always produces ROI
  • Is less competitive because it does not involve bidding on keywords
  • Is easy to track results, because those results are leads


  • Budgets are not as customizable as digital advertising
  • Requires more on-going work between the agency and the client
  • Can take a longer time to start seeing results
  • Can be more difficult for clients to understand, but when they do, they love it!

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization is the process of getting a company ranked higher in Google’s organic search results for keyword sets that its target customers are searching. Organic search results are those listings on a page of Google that are not a result of paid advertising.

How Does SEO Work?

Google ranks websites in search results based on the correlation between what the searcher is looking for, and the content on websites. In essence, if a person is looking for “Pittsburgh landscaping companies,” Google will search for websites that have a page containing those keywords. During an SEO campaign, pages on a website are optimized for these desired search terms. This only has the battle though, the SEO process cannot end with this “on-page SEO” because there are often many websites that want to rank for the same keywords. Because of this on-page competition, a successful SEO campaign must incorporate “off-page” SEO too, which makes a website appear more important to the search engine.  

What Can One Expect from an SEO Campaign?

At weCreate, our SEO campaigns allow us to easily demonstrate results. We place tracking codes on your website that provide chart views which will show significant increases in traffic and ranking over time. In addition, we track the leads a client receives through the web which inevitably increase in number as the traffic increases.

What is Digital Advertising or Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

Digital advertising encompasses a number of techniques which allow companies to reach audiences through the web. These techniques usually employ a pay-per-click or a pay-per-impression model. Read this great article about Google's pay per click advertising.  

What are some Examples of Digital Advertising Strategies?

Google Ads & Bing Ads

One of the most common online advertising strategies is Google Ads, formerly known as Google Adwords. Google Ads (and Bing ads) are text ads that show at the top or bottom of a search result after entering a search query, and the advertiser is charged for every click thru to their website. Google Ads also gives an advertiser the ability to distribute display or video ads on Google’s ad networks, and an advertiser usually pays per impression for these types of ads.


Geo-fencing is a pay-per-impression advertising channel that allows you, the advertiser, to create a virtual fence around a location where a customer might be located. The geo-fence activates when a target customer’s device or smartphone enters the virtual fence, at which point the device can display your ads when the potential customer is browsing the internet or using apps for up to thirty days after breaking that digital fence. Advertisers can also set up “conversion fences” to see how many target customers ended up in their store/event from a targeted location.


Retargeting display ads work two ways. One, when an individual within a target market visits your website and then serves those individual ads while browsing other websites that are hooked into an ad network, much like Geo-fencing. This method differs from Geo-fencing in that instead of targeting individuals who visited a location, it instead targets individuals based on the websites they visited. The other way retargeting ads work is sending ads to individuals who search for certain keywords. For example, if someone searches “car dealerships near me” that might trigger ads from the local car dealership to start popping up as that person surfs the web.

Social Media Advertising

Many companies make posts on social media platforms to advertise their brand, however, this “organic posting” has a reach that is limited to those who follow or “like” the business page.  Social media advertising allows the advertiser to customize the audience they wish to reach based on interest, geography, other pages they like, age, gender, and more. Social media advertising uses a pay-per-action or pay-per-click model, so when someone clicks on your post in the form of a like, share, website visit, or sees the post, the advertiser pays.

What Should You Choose, Digital Ads or SEO?

Assuming a company could only use one of the two marketing methods, let’s discuss which is appropriate for whom.  

What Businesses are Best for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) works great for companies that sell products and services which require a substantial investment from the consumer or business – at least a couple of hundred dollars. The reason for this statement is that most large purchases start with a research phase. Many consumers in this group start with a Google search. The other reason higher price tag items work well with SEO is that these types of campaigns usually require a significant amount of agency effort, which would take a lot of pizza sales to make up for that kind of investment. SEO also works great for companies with a large target market; multi-state, national, or international. In the case of a broad market, we can make up for low price margins on products with sales volume. Companies that just target local clients are usually more retail in nature and may not necessarily reap the benefits of an SEO program.

Simply put, if any of the above applies to your company, and the choice had to be made between SEO and digital advertising, we would recommend SEO. Why SEO? Because it is provable, consistent, and garners long-term results. Here are some examples of ideal SEO clients:

  • Manufacturers
  • Service providers who have most new clients return for services
  • Product manufacturers
  • E-commerce stores
  • B2B service providers

Businesses can use Digital Advertising

For digital advertising to produce measurable results, the advertiser needs to have a very refined strategy. The reason for this is that there are hundreds of combinations of platforms, devices, networks, and search engines all producing ad inventories. Each of these combinations is loaded with companies wanting to promote their products and services. Most digital advertising avenues have a relatively low barrier to entry, which means that for every campaign run by a qualified company, there are likely five ran by a business owner that is just throwing dollars at a half-baked strategy.  

One of the benefits of digital advertising is that if the right platform is chosen, small businesses with limited dollars to invest can at least move the needle in terms of sales. As a couple of examples, we have seen great success in: using social media advertising to get apartments and condos leased for a property management company; geo-fencing Italian restaurants to drive traffic to another Italian restaurant; using social media advertising to sell unique / niche products; Using Google shopping ads to sell specialty manufactured products priced around $150.  

In addition to the cases mentioned, most of the customers that most benefit from SEO, can usually also benefit from some type of digital advertising.

weCreate Provides Digital Marketing, Pay-Per-Click & SEO Services to Healthcare, Education & Manufacturing Industries

As is the case in most comparisons, the answer to which is better comes down to what the scenario entails. My personal preference in most cases is SEO, but I realize that SEO is not appropriate for all companies, usually because of budgetary considerations. If you are trying to build a general awareness for your brand, then digital advertising might be right for you. If you are looking to grab individuals who are looking for your services right now and you are willing to invest in long term growth, then SEO might prevail. The great news is that you don’t have to choose. Submit a quote request today and we will work out the best strategy based on your goals.  


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