Discover the most effective search marketing strategy for your business

Digital360 on 25 May 2017

What's the best way to attract quality traffic to your website? While some managers and search marketers put greater emphasis on search engine optimisation (SEO), others prefer to put their budget towards AdWords. The truth is that every business is different.

So what is the most effective strategy for your search engine marketing? And what will work best for your business? To help you answer these questions, here is an overview of the key differences between SEO and AdWords.

What is the difference between SEO and AdWords?

To appreciate the benefits and differences of search engine optimisation and AdWords, it's important to understand how each work.

Search engine optimisation looks to drive traffic 'organically' by improving your website's ranking for keywords and phrases in search engine results. By creating page content that targets keywords and search terms, a business can maximise the chances of attracting relevant search traffic. There are many other factors, like backlinks, page loading times and mobile responsiveness, that also play an important part in SEO.

Adwords is a very different method of search engine marketing. This is the advertising platform that businesses use to serve ads on Google properties, such as search engine results. You (or your digital marketing agency) bid for keywords using the AdWords platform. When a potential customer uses those terms in search, an ad for your business may appear in search results, above or below the organic results.

Note that AdWords does not improve your search ranking. Rather, it positions an ad for your business in the context of search results to drive relevant traffic to your website or landing page. This type of advertising is often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC), meaning you pay for every time a visitor clicks through your ad.

Benefits and downsides of SEO

The biggest advantage of SEO is that it provides long-term results. While AdWords may increase web traffic in the short term, a well-designed SEO strategy can pay off well into the future, helping your website organically generate search traffic that does not depend on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

In this way, SEO can be a more sustainable search engine marketing strategy than AdWords. It can improve the quality and quantity of incoming links and is more likely to increase the number of return visitors. With an SEO strategy, your business will reduce its reliance on PPC advertising to generate new leads or customers.

But it is important to remember that just as SEO can provide long-term returns it also requires long-term investment. Be prepared to wait months before your business sees results. It is also important to understand that there is no guarantee you will achieve a first-page ranking, no matter what a digital agency will try to tell you.

The other point to consider is that while SEO can be done in-house, it requires time and expertise. You do not have to pay Google directly to appear in search results, but it still requires an investment. That's why to develop an effective SEO strategy, it's often a good idea to work with a reputable SEO consultant or digital agency, rather than the cheapest SEO company. When it come to SEO, you get what you pay for.

Benefits and downsides of AdWords

Unlike search engine optimisation, AdWords provides immediate results if your campaign has been properly set up. It allows you to quickly boost web traffic which can particularly useful for short-term, seasonal campaigns. Using the Google Display Network, AdWords can run on a variety of websites – not just Google search results – meaning your business is likely to receive wider exposure.

The other benefit of AdWords is that it's more targeted. You can direct your ads toward specific demographics or geographical areas which can improve the quality of your leads. Importantly too, the service lets you use negative keywords so your brand does not appear against unsuitable search results.

What is best for your business?

In search engine marketing, both AdWords and SEO have advantages and disadvantages. Deciding what will work best for your business will depend on your objectives and the conditions of your search marketing campaign.

Short-term, local promotions may benefit more from AdWords, whereas search engine optimisation is likely to be better for long-term strategy. Keep in mind too that AdWords is good for users with immediate purchase intent, while SEO builds brand awareness and is more useful for customers still in the research stage.

SEO vs. AdWords





Accumulative ROI

Immediate ROI



Builds brand awareness

Good for immediate purchase intent

But remember though that SEO and AdWords are not mutually exclusive. You do not need to invest solely in one tactic or the other. Indeed if the goal of your search engine marketing campaign is to occupy as much real estate as possible, the best results will come from combining both approaches into a single digital strategy.

Looking for search engine marketing expertise?

If you have any doubts about how to achieve your SEO or AdWords goals, consult a search marketing specialist.