Last updated on 13th June 2023 at 21:22 by Alex Nicholas

The importance of Google in the marketing world has changed over time, and there's been a lot of debate about it.

Both Google AdWords and SEO can assist your brand get better visibility in search results for certain inquiries. However, there are some significant differences, such as organic search rankings having an impact on higher organic results.

SEO vs Google AdWords: How are they different?

SEO and Google AdWords are two of the most well-known terms in the marketing industry, even for those who aren't involved. In fact, most people who use the internet are aware of at least one of these marketing channels. But what are they? And how do they differ? In our SEO vs AdWords guide, we'll explain everything you need to know about both terms.

To those in the SEO business, the distinction between these two is obvious. However, we frequently get queries regarding how SEO and Google AdWords are different, and which one businesses should use. So, without further ado, let's discuss the SEO vs AdWords debate, and what the key differences are between the two.

To give a quick response, the primary distinction between SEO and Google AdWords is that organic traffic doesn't cost you every time someone clicks on your link. Paid traffic is what Google AdWords is all about and how they make so much money – businesses bid on keywords to have their adverts appear in the search results. So, with SEO vs AdWords, one is free and one is paid.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What's SEO?

Although you can see results from SEO very quickly in certain circumstances, it's generally viewed as a medium to a long-term strategy that focuses on building links, improving content, and earning mentions from other sites, like e-Commerce website platforms like Shopify for instance, and other relevant blogs within your industry. The goal is to create a website that is both user-friendly and search-engine-friendly.

And if your content is good and you have enough quality backlinks pointing to your site you will rank highly in the SERPs (search engine results pages), potentially at the top of the organic search results since Google recognizes the website as an authority and highly relevant. Advertisers are only able to purchase their way to the top of these listings.

The primary aim of SEO is to improve your website's visibility in organic search results. However, it's worth noting that SEO is not a short-term strategy. It takes time to rank in Google, and you won't see results overnight.

Why Choose SEO?

If someone can't locate your firm, likely, they aren't calling to schedule an appointment or buy anything. SEO provides businesses with the ability to be found both online and offline.

Considering that organic traffic is free (in the sense that it stays visible in the SERPs even if you aren't continually optimizing your site), it's a great way to get in front of your target market without spending a lot of money, which isn't the case with paid ads.

SEO combined with pages that are set up to convert customers is a great way to generate more sales on autopilot.

SEO may take a lot of time and planning to create and maintain, but it continues working for you long after the work is done. And this goes for all types of websites, from large eCommerce sites to simple 10 pages sites that focus on bringing customers to their shop.

With help from an SEO audit specialist, you'll be able to rank higher in search engines for more targeted, specific keywords that bring in visitors and paying customers.

How Does it Work?

Google reviews all of the web pages it has in it's database when a user enters a search query in the search bar. It seeks websites that provide the most relevant and trustworthy answer to the query.

This is where keyword research comes into play. You must first identify which keywords your target market is using, then create content around those keywords.

For your website's page to rank for a search term, it must be simple and easy to read by Google (HTML, code, and Schema markup), contain relevant content, and have a healthy backlink profile.

What Services Does SEO Include?

Each SEO company has varying levels of experience and its own method of creating a data drive, keyword-led content strategy, and securing high-quality backlinks, but some services are common across all firms. Services offered generally include:

  • Keyword research
  • On-page optimization
  • Link building
  • Monthly reporting

Google AdWords

What Is Google AdWords?

The Google AdWords system (also known as pay-per-click) is a platform operated by Google that allows businesses to advertise their website in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Advertisers create adverts and then choose keywords that they would like their advert to show up for. They then set a budget, and Google will charge them each time someone clicks on their advert.

And as you can see from the screenshot below, some CPCs can be very high.

adwords cpc image

With AdWords, you're paying for a spot on the SERP which can become very costly very quickly. For example, if you're paying on average $20 per click and you're getting 50 visitors per day from your ads, you're going to be paying roughly $30'000 per month or $360'000 per year for your traffic.

But if you were to invest that initial $30'000 over a period of 6 months on an SEO campaign, you would get more traffic for a fraction of the overall cost.

Google AdWords AKA Search Engine Marketing

Although the terms “search engine marketing” (or SEM) and “SEO” are related, they aren't identical. It's a little easier to think of SEM as a form of paid advertising, and SEO as a form of unpaid (or earned) marketing. Although this isn't strictly true because there are upfront costs involved with SEO such as linkbuilding.

The Google AdWords platform, for example, is a paid-for search engine marketing service that helps clients develop and manage campaigns around particular keywords or demographics.

It's a little difficult to separate social media from search engine marketing, but it's useful to think of it as a way of using different platforms to create and maintain relationships with customers, rather than simply driving traffic to your website.

The #1 takeaway is that paid and organic search results are two separate things, but they can work together well to improve your website's visibility by being in front of them when they're searching.

Why Should You Invest in Google AdWords?

If you create an AdWords account and a high bid, you'll be sure that your ad shows when someone searches for the keyword you choose. This is an immediate way to get in front of your target market.

You can also target people who have visited your website before or people who are in a particular location.

Google Ads are also a great way to remarket to people who have already visited your website! This is especially true if you sell products or services that are expensive. This is because your customers might need time to make a decision and you'll need to make sure that you stay at the forefront of their minds when it comes to actually buy.

What's the Functionality Behind Google AdWords?

Advertisers pay each time someone clicks on their advertisement. You establish the criteria. Choose a daily budget, a maximum amount you are willing to spend per click, and the maximum amount you are willing to spend per day.

The placement and frequency of your adverts are determined by your budget and maximum bid and the quality of your advert.

Which One Should I Pick?

SEO or Google AdWords?

The answer to this question is complicated. The truth is, both SEO and AdWords can be beneficial to your website.

SEO is an ongoing process that takes time and effort to see results. You must continually work on your website to achieve better rankings. Google AdWords is a paid service that can provide immediate results but can be very expensive.

The best answer is to invest in both SEO and Google AdWords. This way, you can see the benefits of both in the long run. Then you can analyze your website's data to see which marketing strategy is working better for you.

Can any business run Google Ads?

Well actually no, some can't. Industries such as the adult niche aren't allowed to advertise therefore they can only find customers via SEO.

There aren't that many restrictions on who can advertise but I do recommend that you check before you go too far down your planning route.

Summing up

It's difficult to choose between SEO and Google Ads because they are both beneficial in different ways. If you're planning on investing your marketing efforts into one, it would be best to select a strategy that can provide benefits and sales now with potential long-term success as well. The most successful companies combine their organic search engine optimization with a paid search engine marketing campaign.

But if it is a stark choice between the two, obviously I'm going to choose SEO. The long-term effects of a properly optimized SEO campaign will see you reaping the rewards for years to come, oftentimes when your site is not actively having much SEO work done to it.

And don't forget, when you switch your ads off, the traffic goes away, too!