Both Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click advertising are nuanced, multifaceted Internet marketing strategies. The results of both are affected by a number of varied factors both internal and external. If everything were equal, however, what's the right choice for your marketing strategy? SEO or PPC?
The Major Difference
SEO is a primary means to draw a greater number of audiences into your website and from there, into your sales funnel. PPC, on the the hand, ideally targets a smaller group of more sales-qualified traffic already intent on engaging in ecommerce. It's more complex than general versus specific traffic, however, since you can also adjust your SEO efforts to target only a smaller and more sales-qualified traffic demographic. The major difference, then, boils down to what happens after your audience clicks on either a search result listing (ranked through SEO) or a text ad (shown through PPC): you pay every time a PPC ad is clicked, and nothing when a search listing is clicked.
This doesn't necessarily mean that SEO is better and lighter on the marketing budget. PPC ads are ranked differently than SEO, which means your ads usually have better chances of actually being displayed in search results compared to a webpage being listed because of its PageRank. Furthermore, your audience knows that your PPC ads are in fact ads. Typically, people avoid ads when they are not prepared to spend for something online. People who click your PPC ads are most likely ready to purchase and are in fact looking for places to purchase whatever it is they want.
The major difference is in the risk (cost of click-through) versus the reward (Return On Investment).
Prioritization, not Isolation
This comparison between SEO and PPC isn't meant to steer your decision to isolate one strategy and use it exclusively over the other. It's meant to direct your attention on your prioritization. In general, an SEO and a PPC campaign work very well together and should be used together, but you will need to prioritize one over the other. In this respect, in general it's ideal to prioritize the strategy that will pay off in the long run. Focus too much on PPC, and when you suddenly stop your ads, your traffic and lead generation will inevitably suffer. SEO, on the other hand, is a long term strategy with an ROI that doesn't stop when your efforts do.