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If you are reading this article, it is probably because you are curious as to whether your small business should use a Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing campaign platform such as Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, or focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

If you are interested in tips on how to make a great small business website, read my other article “10 Key Steps To Building A Great Small Business Website“.

You have a valuable business model, a beautiful and mobile friendly website, and are ready to let everyone in the world know that you are worthy of their business. You want to drive traffic to your website but you do not have a large marketing budget. You are hesitant to spend a lot of money without receiving a significant return on investment.

You may be wondering, “Should I focus my funds on a PPC ad campaign, or on SEO?”

First, let’s go over the definition, explanation, and the main pros/cons of PPC marketing.

What is PPC Marketing?

Pay Per Click marketing involves the creation and placement of Internet ads in search engines and on websites, where the campaign owner is charged a fee every time an ad is clicked. The fee is charged whether or not the click turns into a sale. For example, you can create a Google Ad campaign that focuses on the term “New Hope Pennsylvania Bed & Breakfast” and your ad will show on search results and websites that are related to that term. You can even specify who will see the ad by defining certain target audience demographics like age, gender, and location.

How does PPC marketing work?

PPC marketing works by signing up with a platform such as Google Ads and creating highly organized campaigns that use thoroughly researched keywords. In Google’s case, the better your content and design is, the more Google will reward you by charging you less per ad click. This leads to higher profits for your business, so it’s important to create your ads and develop your landing pages optimally in order to be competitive. Additionally, it’s important to continually test, monitor, and adjust your marketing budget to optimize ad performance.

PPC Advertising Pros:

  • Retargeting/remarketing to past customers – Get customers to remember your business and return.
  • Quick, measurable results – It’s easy to read and analyze the metrics of your campaign as they are provided in detail. And you will get results as soon as the campaign goes live.
  • Enhanced control of campaign – You are able to direct the user to the exact web page you want him/her to see, and also show your ads to very specific targeted audiences based on demographics.

PPC Advertising Cons:

  • Consumer skepticism/ignoring – Most people glaze over paid ads when searching online.
  • Can be very expensive, you will be charged for each click – And not every click will turn into a sale.
  • Ads disappear when campaign ends – Once you stop directly funding your campaign, your ads are offline until you start paying again.

Described next is the definition, explanation and main pros/cons of SEO:

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is a set of technical and content strategies that assists search engines with thoroughly recognizing your online presence. Depending on the technical specifications and content quality, search engines will display your website in result pages depending on where it stands against websites with similar content. The ultimate goal of SEO is for your website to show up on page 1 or 2 of search engine result pages for keywords that are relevant to your business, such as “High Rise New York City Real Estate Agent” or “Best Las Vegas Lawyer.”

How does SEO work?

SEO works in a vast multitude of ways, but here are some key tactics:

  • Optimal website code
  • Fast loading speed
  • Being secure and having an SSL certificate installed
  • Using appropriate keywords throughout your site
  • Having a mobile friendly site
  • Routinely publishing relevant and high quality content using optimized metadata
  • Existence of high quality backlinks (links on external websites with related content) that lead to your site
  • Having lots of positive reviews online (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.)
  • Using internal links throughout your site to keep people clicking and reading
  • Using social media to link to your site (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.)

SEO Pros:

  • You become an authority – By publishing content online, either on your own site or on external websites that link to your website, you gain a reputation as an authority in your field.
  • Content stays online indefinitely – It does not go away when you stop paying for a campaign, like with a PPC campaign. The benefits of this compound over time to search engines.
  • Websites that appear organically in search results seem more trustworthy – Your business doesn’t look like it takes shortcuts, and has put in the effort to gain a positive online reputation.

SEO Cons:

  • Results are not instantaneous – It takes time for search engines to crawl, index, and evaluate your site, external content linking to your site (backlinks), and any enhancements you make.
  • Search engine algorithms can change – You will need to update your SEO strategy periodically to conform to search engine algorithm updates.


Due to competition and potentially high cost per click rates, some PPC ad campaigns may not be cost-effective for small businesses. However if your budget allows you to branch out into the world of PPC ads, it’s always a good idea to also have clout in search engine result pages as well so that your business appears to be legitimate and has a solid online reputation. Therefore, whether or not you choose to include PPC ads in your marketing budget, it’s certainly a best practice to ensure that your site is organically optimized for search engines.

If you want to spend your online marketing budget as frugally as possible, I recommend always focusing first on an SEO campaign. Once you see a significant return on investment from that, then allocate funds to a complementary PPC campaign.