Paid Ads vs. SEO: Which is Better?

Frequently Asked QuestionsSEO
By Jaime Theler | December 12, 2022 | 7 min read

Digital marketing can feel overwhelming, but really, most efforts fall into two categories: paid search vs. organic search marketing (or in other words, PPC Ads and SEO). And while it would be nice to have unlimited resources to throw at both, we know that isn’t reality. Unfortunately, that means businesses are left to wonder which is better.

Do you opt for the high-priced, quick gain of paid advertisements? Or do you sacrifice now to win later with a strong foundation of organic SEO? Big Leap is here to help you make the best decision for your company. This expert’s guide to the pros and cons of organic vs. paid marketing can help you determine the best way to most effectively cover your bases in 2023.

Read more about SEO costs and benefits:

What Is Organic Marketing or SEO?

Organic marketing (also referred to as inbound marketing) is anything you do to get customers to come to you naturally, rather than through paid marketing tools. While there are a variety of different methods to reach your audience organically, it all comes down to the quality, strength, and expanse of your SEO.

Business blogs, press releases, newsletters, guest posting, videos, case studies, and social media posts are all examples of organic marketing. With a good SEO and content marketing strategy, you can boost the visibility of your business by having your site and content rank on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP).

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What Is Paid Marketing?

Paid marketing is anytime you pay for ads or clicks to drive internet traffic to your website, a certain landing page, a social media profile, etc. You can utilize the power of paid marketing through platforms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, AdRoll, and other PPC (pay per click) options. Essentially, you are buying visits to your website.

Paid search ads often appear above organic search results on the SERP. If you’re using display ads like banner ads, these are generally embedded and displayed across various sites.

Key Differences Between Paid Search and Organic Search Marketing

Besides the obvious—you directly spend money for paid marketing and don’t for organic—there are several differences between the two. Understanding how paid and organic marketing differ is important in choosing the best path to achieve your goals.

A paid marketing strategy is typically used for quick results or a hard sell. You are “pushing” content to your target audience to send them to pages that are optimized for converting new website visitors into long-term customers.

By contrast, organic SEO strategy is cultivated over a longer period of time. Tactics are authentic, natural, and value-based; you are building valuable brand equity and industry authority with your customers.

Now take a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of each marketing strategy, and when you would want to use organic vs. paid marketing for your business goals.

Pros and Cons of SEO

Organic search marketing has definite strengths that fit in many well-rounded marketing strategies.

A comparison between SEO and PPC


  • There is no limit to how many people you can reach.
  • Payments are spread out over time, rather than owed immediately.
  • Organic marketing is a long-term solution that can continue to work in your favor for years to come, so long as you keep up with it.
  • Greater flexibility and more freedom to be creative and uniquely you.
  • You’re able to market on every channel imaginable, from Google to YouTube.
  • Builds on previous effort, so your investment keeps growing over time.


  • You have less control over who you’re targeting than with paid ads.
  • Organic SEO can take months of groundwork before you start seeing real results.
  • It’s not a guaranteed win — especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Your success depends on far more variables than with paid.
  • It requires a certain level of expertise and constant upkeep to achieve your goals.
  • You must be ready and willing to adapt to the frequent changes in the digital landscape or hire an agency that is prepared for such inconsistency.

Common Objectives:

Organic search marketing is best suited for brand-building purposes, such as:

  • Improving your rank in search engine results to attain better visibility online.
  • Educating and converting blog readers to establish credibility.
  • Earning qualified traffic to your website and other online assets.
  • Fostering authentic interactions with customers.

Pros and Cons of Paid Ads

Paid search also has a place for many businesses, with strengths that can be quite appealing.


  • Fast results, which make it good for short-term objectives and temporary campaigns.
  • Guaranteed reach (but NOT guaranteed results).
  • Specific and granular targeting allows you to find the niche audiences and market to them on a more personal, relatable level.
  • You can use retargeting to reach site visitors and offer more chances to convert.
  • Easily measurable data and results.
  • Quick setup and fairly easy maintenance.
  • You can immediately find your target audience on any platform that offers paid advertising.


  • You pay for every click, whether that visitor converts or not.
  • You have to pay to play, so those with a bigger budget have an advantage.
  • Once you stop paying, traffic and lead sources dry up.
  • Not a long-term strategy, which can trick you into a quick fix mentality.
  • Typically you will receive fewer clicks since 70-80% of all searchers ignore paid ads and focus on organic results.
  • The use of ad blockers makes it more difficult to reach your audience.

Common Objectives:

Paid marketing is suited for more sales-oriented objectives, like:

  • Hitting specific sales goals.
  • Obtaining quantifiable results.
  • Achieving a solid ROI.
  • Advertising a temporary promotion or campaign.
  • Getting the word out about your new product launch.
  • Outranking competitors in paid results because your organic marketing has yet to take effect.

Combine Paid Ads and SEO for the Perfect Match

After taking a closer look at PPC ads vs. organic marketing, it’s clear that one is not inherently better than the other. While one method may serve a certain purpose now, it’s likely that you will turn to the other method later down the road for even better results.

They each serve an important purpose. The best strategy is to combine these two methods to get the best of both worlds, rather than choosing one over the other.

More and more, we see that one of the most potent forms of advertising is excellent content (an organic tactic). And advertising great content (a paid tactic) helps it spread. So use organic marketing to improve your paid ads, and use paid marketing to increase the reach of your organic efforts. It’s a perfect match.

A Word on Timing…

When weighing the benefits of paid vs organic marketing, timing is also an important factor. Typically, it’s wise, to begin with, organic marketing. An organic marketing strategy is both essential for ensuring the long-term success of your business, and it can help you figure out what converts well. Then, use paid search to add an extra kick to those efforts. Starting with paid can be an expensive way to learn what works.

Get the Best of Both Worlds With an SEO Agency You Can Trust

Big Leap is dedicated to digital marketing that delivers. We can help you get started or fine-tune your organic SEO marketing. Then we’ll set you up with our trusted partner in the PPC space to help align both sides of your business’s marketing efforts for a powerful and successful combination.

Contact Big Leap today to see how we can boost your marketing efforts.

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