SEO vs. Google Ads: Which One Should You Use?

Most businesses are commonly using digital marketing methods like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Ads to drive traffic to their website. 

But many businesses fail to determine which digital strategy brings them the best results for their investment.

As a business owner, when you look at SEO and Google Ads, which one do you think works better for your business?

In this article, we’ll compare SEO and Google Ads and help you choose the best digital marketing strategy for your business.

So, let’s get started.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is the process of optimizing your website and its content to appear high on search result pages (SERPs) for relevant search queries.

When your potential customer searches on Google, the search engine produces the best results matching their search queries. If you want your web page to appear for those search queries, then you must implement SEO techniques that involve various tasks. 

Once your site is optimized for both search engines and users, your site will start to attract quality search traffic that results in higher conversions and sales.

So, how do you get your website ranked on Google?

Google ranks based on more than 200+ factors, and these are the most essential ones:

  • Keywords/Phrases: People search for the services or products they want to buy using keywords or phrases. For your business to appear on the search results, you need to perform keyword research and choose the most relevant keywords for your business. Google usually rank your pages based on the keywords you’ve used on your page. There are a few on-page techniques you need to implement to your page to rank higher for the targeted keywords. 
  • Content quality: Google wants to provide the best results for its users. So, Google only ranks sites with high-quality content with relevant information that matches users’ search queries. According to various research studies, long-form content ranks higher on search engines. This is because long content keeps your visitors engaged and provides all the information they need on a specific topic.
  • User Experience (UX): User Experience has become one of the most anticipated SEO factors since 2020. As Google focuses on providing the best experience for its users, they expect the same from the websites ranking higher on search results. If your website provides a positive experience for visitors, you’re more likely to convert them into paying customers. So, when your site provides a positive user experience, it shows good signals for search engines like Google to rank your site higher on search result pages.
  • Website Security: Internet users are highly concerned about their privacy and security online. When you look at your URL on the browser, you can see a padlock sign. It shows the search engine and people visiting your website whether your site is secured. If your site is not secured, people will get turned off and leave your site. People want to purchase or associate with sites that offer their privacy and security. And that’s what Google looks for when ranking a website as well.
  • Mobile-Friendliness: People using mobile devices to search for something has increased drastically over the years. Your site needs to have a responsive design and compatible with every mobile device. Google has also launched a mobile-first indexing system where your pages get indexed on mobile search result pages first. Without responsive design, you’ll be losing your credibility and authority on search engines.
  • Page Load Time: People are not patient when they are searching for information. They want it fast. If you have a slow-loading site, your visitors will easily bounce which results in a poor user experience. Slow-loading sites often have problems ranking well on search results.

There are to SEO. An SEO campaign is focused on positioning your site as an authority within your industry. So, you need all the necessary improvements to your site in terms of SEO to rank higher on Google.

Recommended article: Facebook Ads vs Google Ads: Which One You Should Use?

What Are Google Ads?

Google Ads, always known as Google AdWords until 2018, is a pay-per-click (PPC) digital advertising method to generate traffic from Google.

With Google Ads, you only need to pay when someone clicks on your search results or image (For Google Display Ads)

There are a few different forms of Google Ads, which include:

  • Search Ads: These are ads that appear on the result pages of Google. They are positioned above and below the organic search results. Although they look similar to organic search results, they have a small tag “ad” that differentiates them from organic search results.
  • Display Ads and Google Display Network (GDN): Unlike Google Search Ads, Google Display Ads are ads that can show up to almost 2 million websites and applications that are part of Google Display Networks (GDN). You’ll be able to set your targeting in terms of geography, demographics, placements, and interests. You need to narrow down your targeting to appear on websites and blogs that your target audience actively visiting. For example, if you’re selling cosmetic products, then your display ads should appear on skin care and health websites.
  • Shopping Ads: These ads are often overlooked. They work well for online stores. The ads appear in carousel format at the top of the search result page with images of products from different eCommerce sites. The ads consist of prices and discounts.
  • Local Search Ads: One of the new additions to Google Ads. These ads will help your business appear at the top of the local listings like the screenshot below. When your potential customers are searching for your business (for example, “skin specialist near me”), your listing will show up on the map listings. This happens when you enable local extensions in Google Ads. When you look at the map their location marker shows up in different colours.
  • YouTube Ads: You can advertise on YouTube using Google Ads. Although YouTube is part of Google Display Network (GDN), it is measured on its own. This is because YouTube is the third most visited website in the world after Google and Facebook

As we mentioned earlier, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, which makes it a better advertising platform compared to traditional advertising mediums like television, magazines, billboards, and newspaper ads.

The most unique aspect of Google Ads is that it uses a bidding system. For search ads, you will be bidding on the keywords after analyzing what your competitors are paying for them to stay on top of the search results. Sometimes, without proper optimization and strategy, you might end up paying more.

Many other factors influence the positioning of your ads. For example, the Quality Score (QS) of your ads determines how much you spend on every click. The better the score the lower the cost per click (CPC).

Comparison of SEO and Google Ads

Both SEO and Google ads help you increase search traffic to your website and drive qualified leads that convert. Although they bring in similar traffic, there are great differences between these two digital marketing strategies. Let’s look at their differences:


SEO: Generate long-term traffic after implementing the right SEO strategies
Google Ads: Generates traffic only when you run the campaign. Once you stop the campaign, the traffic becomes zero.


SEO: Only get placed on search result pages.
Google Ads: Can get ads placed on search results pages and other sites on Google Network including YouTube.


SEO: You don’t have to pay when someone clicks on your results (but you need to invest in SEO strategies for up to 12 months).
Google Ads: You need to pay when someone clicks on your ad or pay per view for the YouTube Ad campaign.


SEO: Takes at least 6 months to see results.
Google Ads: Offers immediate results.

Tracking Metrics and ROI

SEO: Track with Google Analytics and ROI takes longer (best ROI for long-term)
Google Ads: Track with Google Ads Dashboard and Google Analytics and provide instant ROI.

Which is better for my business, SEO or Google Ads?

For us to decide whether SEO vs. Google Ads is better for your business, we need to identify your business goals and what you’re looking to achieve with your marketing campaign.

Google Ads

Google Ads is suitable for businesses that need instant leads and sales. This strategy works best if you want to see immediate results and monitor the performance once the campaign is launched.

However, it also depends on your competitors and your product offerings. You need to set up landing pages that are aligned with your business goals and direct the traffic to your landing pages or product pages instead of sending them to the homepages for the best results. Moreover, you need to constantly monitor the performance and make changes to the campaign if required. Sometimes certain keywords will have high CPC and your budget will be utilized faster if you don’t set a maximum cost per click. 

So, you need to make ongoing tweaks to your Google Ads campaign to generate the best results.


If you have the patience and are ready to invest for long-term success, SEO is the ideal digital marketing strategy. Organic traffic from search engines will steadily flow over time and grow exponentially when you implement and follow a systematic SEO strategy. We’ve seen businesses increase their traffic by at least 200% within 6 months with an SEO campaign. 

SEO is long-term gameplay like your business. You want to have sustainable growth for your business in the next few years and the same goes for SEO. If you’re the type to give up fast on your marketing campaigns and look for instant results, SEO is not the right strategy!

What if I choose both SEO and Google Ads?

Although this article is about the difference between SEO and Google Ads, there are huge advantages if you combine them. Most experienced digital marketing agencies will recommend businesses blend both SEO and Google Ads in their marketing campaign to generate the best results from search engines. 

Even at our agency, we suggest our clients start with Google Ads and incorporate SEO from the 2nd or 3rd month if they have a limited marketing budget.

When you use both methods, you’ll be increasing your visibility on Google which provides maximum exposure for your business.

When you blend SEO and Google Ads, you’ll be able to:

  • Increase your search engine presence: SEO and Google Ads will help you dominate the SERPs for the keywords you’re targeting. You will be getting the best out of search engine marketing. When you maximize your presence, you’ll be increasing the chances of getting your potential customers from search engines to your website.
  • Boost overall traffic: With SEO and PPC, you’ll be generating more traffic compared to when you choose either one of them. While you’re generating instant traffic from Google ads, you’ll be slowly generating steady traffic from SEO as well.
  • Use the same keywords for both Google Ads and SEO: Bidding for the same keywords that you’re targeting with SEO, will increase your business exposure for those particular keywords. Moreover, experimenting with different keywords with Google Ads will help you determine the most profitable keywords that can be used for SEO campaigns.

Final Thoughts

You can’t test both digital marketing strategies because one provides instant results while the other produces long-term results. It comes down to your business goals. What you’re looking to achieve?

Need more search traffic? Want more sales?

You must decide on that. 

Most companies often focus on SEO becomes they want their website to consistently generate organic traffic even after they reduce their SEO efforts. As Google Ads stops generating any traffic after the campaign is stopped, businesses prefer to invest in SEO for long-term success.

Again, both SEO and Google Ads are the best digital marketing strategies that can bring you more leads and sales. You need to take a look at your marketing budget and determine the one that works best for your business. 

If you have the budget to invest in both. Go for it. You will never regret your decision. Even big companies are spending millions on SEO.

Which method are you currently using? Did you manage to get leads and sales?

Share with us by commenting below.

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