SEO vs Google Ads: What’s the Better Option?

“SEO vs Google Ads” continues to be an everlasting debate in determining which one delivers the best results for the value. It’s important to discern the differences between these two powerhouse strategies while also understanding when to use them in tandem for even greater results.

In this article, we will explain the differences between Google Ads and SEO, their pros and cons, and how to leverage both campaigns together.


Table of Contents


What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the practice of optimizing a website’s backend and copy to rank high on search engines for keywords. The ultimate goal is to improve a business’s online visibility to increase organic traffic and conversions to its website.

It’s an intricate process involving a combination of on-page and off-page techniques to improve a website’s ranking on platforms like Google. SEO strives to provide users with the most relevant and valuable search results through various strategies, such as:

  • Thorough keyword research.
  • Optimizing on-page SEO for relevant keywords.
  • Enhancing website content to provide genuine value.
  • Developing a website’s authority through off-page SEO.
  • Improving the technical SEO health of a website.


Google Ads is an exclusive advertising platform run by Google that allows businesses to run PPC (pay-per-click) advertisements. PPC advertising is when an advertiser pays only once people click on your ad.

It was previously named Google Adwords but has since been renamed to Google Ads.

Advertisers meticulously select keywords related to their offerings and create targeted ad campaigns. These ads appear at the top or bottom of search engine results and within the Google Display Network.


SEO vs Google Ads: What’s the Difference?

Two of the biggest differences between SEO vs Google ads are:

  • Organic results generated from SEO are NOT paid for, whereas the “paid search” results from Google Ads are.
  • Paid search generates leads and conversions much faster than SEO. SEO is a long-term approach that can take at least 6-9 months to gain traction.

The cost-per-click (CPC) dollar amount multiplied by how many clicks the advertisement received is the amount the advertiser must pay to run the marketing campaign. Google Ads will show the associated CPC for each keyword. More competitive terms typically have a higher CPC.

Google Ads is a powerful tool for businesses seeking immediate and measurable results. It allows them to fine-tune campaigns, budgets, and targeting to maximize their return on investment (ROI).

SEO is another powerful digital marketing strategy that generates organic traffic and conversions by optimizing a website with on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. Optimizations are made based on findings from algorithm update testing and best practices determined to increase your online rankings.

The wonderful thing about SEO is that it requires zero ad spend to drive results. The cost of SEO will change depending on various factors:

  • The type of agreement (monthly retainer or project-based).
  • The kind of SEO needs (national, local, global, ecommerce, or industry-specific).
  • The type of SEO provider (an organic SEO company, an in-house SEO provider, a freelancer, or DIY).


Even with ads, Google still uses its algorithm to serve you the best content no matter what. Better ads and content win over less relevant ads, and the same applies to SEO.


Is There a Better Option Between SEO vs Google Ads?

There is no a better option between SEO vs Google Ads. Both digital marketing channels add significant value to businesses. There comes a time to use each one and it’s entirely dependent on a business’s goals and timelines.

If you’re looking for fast results and have an ample budget, Google ads may be a more worthwhile investment. If time is on your side and you don’t want to spend a fortune to generate results, investing in SEO is the best solution.

Businesses can make an even more significant positive impact on their online presence if SEO and paid search campaigns run simultaneously. Both channels have data to share to increase traffic and conversions for the other.

To help make your decision easier, take a look at the pros and cons for both SEO and Google Ads below.


Google Ads Pros:

  • Generate results and traffic quickly.
  • Excellent tool for building brand awareness and capturing conversions.
  • Gain exposure in multiple locations on the SERP (search engine results page).
  • Target specific locations, demographics, and many other criteria for hyper-focused targeting.
  • PPC ads capture attention using effective CTAs (call-to-action).
  • Tracking conversions is much more conclusive with paid search.
  • Generate traffic to specific landing pages for more effective and organized paid search campaigns.


Google Ads Cons:

  • Advertisers must pay for the engagement of the advertisements.
  • Google ad campaigns are more expensive than SEO campaigns.
  • Results stop once the ad budget is spent.
  • Advertising is not considered a long-term solution.
  • Advertisements contain “Ads” in the listing, which can make people wary of clicking on it depending on where they fall within their buyer’s journey.
  • It requires a lot of time and effort to tailor the campaign to be effective and cost-efficient.


SEO Pros:

  • SEO success does not require ongoing ad spend.
  • Continue increasing traffic and conversions over time.
  • Builds a website’s authority and trust with search engines and people.
  • Consumers are more trusting of organic listings than advertisements.
  • Capture potential customers in all stages of the buyer’s funnel (awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy).
  • Enhances brand awareness and relevancy.
  • Increase website engagement and conversions with a well-optimized website.


SEO Cons:

  • Results are not immediate and can take anywhere from 6-9 months or longer.
  • Ongoing SEO success will require continual optimizations to the website.
  • Reporting is not as simple and distinct with SEO as it is with paid search.
  • The search landscape changes frequently due to algorithm updates.
  • It requires a great deal of time and effort to understand the latest best practices.
  • Technical SEO may require some coding or understanding of basic HTML and CSS.


Should I Do Google Ads and SEO Together?

Businesses will see a larger impact on their online presence when Google Ads and SEO are optimized for. Rather than treating the two digital marketing channels as siloed strategies, use insights from both to help enhance the performance of your SEO and advertising campaigns.

Here’s how to do this!

1. Use Google Ads to Identify High Converting Keywords

Both digital marketing channels require thorough keyword research, but there are nuances. With paid search, the advertiser will bid on relevant keywords to be displayed within their ads. SEO uses keywords in strategic places throughout the website to increase organic rankings online when people search those specific terms.

As mentioned above, it’s much more straightforward to associate success with a particular keyword with paid search than SEO. This is where the two channels can work together to deliver better insight and results by using keywords that will increase rankings AND clicks.

Identify the top converting keywords from Google Ad campaigns and use them to optimize your web page copy. Match the relevancy and intent of the advertising keyword to the appropriate product or service pages on your website.


2. Grow Brand Awareness with Google Ads

When a business is new or needs a boost in brand awareness, Google ads are a highly effective tool in growing a business’s recognition quickly. Bid for relevant keywords with high searches and low competition levels to get the most bang for your buck.

While your ads are working to enhance your brand awareness, supplement this with informative and valuable content. Create content that addresses questions or targets related topics associated with the keyword the landing pages and website copy are targeting.


3. Increase Conversions with Paid Search Remarketing Ads

Remarketing (aka retargeting) is a powerful advertising strategy used to capture conversions at a later date after the original interaction resulted in a drop-off. A drop-off refers to when a person leaves a website or landing page without making a conversion. The conversion can be a purchase or any other desired action, like a lead generation form fill.

Remarketing ads have been shown to increase ad engagement by 400% and can increase conversion rates by over 160%.

This advertising strategy relies on strategically placing targeted ads across various digital channels, including Google Ads and social media platforms. These types of ads reengage with potential customer, keeping the brand at the forefront of their minds.


4. Capture Audiences in All Stages of the Buyers Funnel

Google Ads are excellent for capturing conversions, which means people who are ready to make a purchase. Tailor your landing pages to promote your products or services, limit distractions, and strategically place CTAs to drive conversions.

Create multiple landing pages targeting separate campaigns, keywords, and promotional offers. It keeps your team and efforts organized as well as makes it easier to monitor performance.

SEO is more robust in being able to create content tailored to people in all stages of the buyer’s funnel:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Conversion
  • Loyalty
  • Advocacy

seo vs google ads buyers funnel










Awareness-type content can look like blog articles that target common questions about your industry or products and services, how-to tutorials, and videos. For conversion-focused web page copy, this would be product and service pages optimized for high-converting keywords, user experience, and conversion rate optimization.


Take Advantage of Both SEO and Google Ads!

Whether you’re looking for a trusted organic SEO company or a PPC consulting agency, Summit Scout can deliver both! Our digital marketing experts have years of experience and the necessary resources to deliver successful SEO and PPC campaigns that will grow your business’s online presence.

Call us today to schedule your free consultation — no strings attached.


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Maja Teagle

Maja is the SEO Manager for the marketing team at Summit Scout. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in Marketing, her focus has been on expanding her knowledge and skill set in SEO. Prior to joining the corporate marketing team at Summit Scout, Maja gained experience working at several digital marketing agencies in Salt Lake City, focusing on SEO strategy development and fulfillment, as well as client account management. Working closely with clients ranging from small businesses to enterprise organizations, she has managed and executed SEO strategies for over 20 different company websites. Outside of work, Maja loves to go on hikes with her husband and dog, play volleyball, bake and cook, and try new restaurants throughout the city (she considers herself a fry-connoisseur).