What Is the Key Difference Between PPC and SEO?

Consumer skepticism about ads and marketing has always existed. Yet, these days, that skepticism covers around 96% of all consumers. That’s a challenge all businesses face.

When you start your first forays into online marketing, though, that challenge can end up as a secondary concern to simply understanding the language. For example, a couple of common acronyms in online marketing are SEO and PPC. They pop up together in articles about digital marketing all the time.

If you’re new to marketing, you may wonder about the difference between PPC and SEO. Keep reading for our quick guide to SEO, PPC, and how they contrast.

What Is SEO?

SEO or search engine marketing is a set of recommendations provided by search engines for improving your page rankings and securing organic traffic. It typically breaks down into two main areas: technical improvements and content.

On the technical side are site-based factors that search engines use to evaluate your site for ranking. These factors change over time, but include:

  • Page Load Times
  • Image optimization
  • Mobile readiness
  • Quality links both internal and external

On the content side, it mostly boils down to providing high-quality content that addressed your target market. That means creating content that answers questions, provides how-to information, or otherwise provides value.

What is PPC?

PPC or pay per click is an advertising strategy. In essence, you create an ad around your product or service. Then, you bid through an advertising partner like a search engine.

The bid is the amount you’re willing to pay for each person who clicks on the ad. Then, based on your bid amount, the ad partner displays your ad when certain people search for certain terms or phrases.

Related Reading:   How To Rank Well In The Latest Google Algorithm

Each time someone clicks on the ad, they go to your website or a product page. The ad partner typically displays the ad until enough people click on it that you exhaust your budget for the day.

Difference Between PPC and SEO

The key difference between SEO and PPC is the kind of traffic they generate for you. SEO helps you bring in organic traffic by improving page ranks when people search for certain kinds of information or services. While improving SEO with help from an SEO agency can cost something, there’s no hard limit on traffic generation.

PPC brings in paid traffic. You get charged for every single person it brings to your site regardless of whether they buy anything. Your budget puts a hard cap on how much traffic it can generate.


The difference between PPC and SEO isn’t competition in the sense of SEO vs PPC. Both approaches provide you legitimate ways of generating traffic for your website.

The difference is more about where the activity happens. While some pieces of SEO happen off of your site, most of the work happens on your site. With PPC, almost all of the activity happens off of your site, typically on search engine results pages.

Looking for more traffic building tips and advice? Check out the posts in our Traffic Building section.