Google Ads vs SEO: Which is Best for Your Business


This blog post is a companion to episode on of the Ignite Podcast, “Google Ads vs. SEO. You can listen to that here

It’s hard to think of a world without Google readily available everyday to help us find information, places to eat, entertainment, and services we need. You’ve likely seen sponsored ads appearing above your Google search results. As a business owner, you may be curious about whether or not these sponsored ads are effective, and how the top results for what you search are generated. In this blog let’s take a look at Google Ads vs SEO, and consider the pros and cons of each.

The Basics

To start with, the easiest way to explore the debate between Google Ads vs. SEO is to understand how each actually works. Google Ads is a paid service automated by Google that will list your results on a sponsored list for particular search criteria. Instead of subscription type fee, you’ll be assigned a CPC (cost-per-click) price based on the competitiveness of your industry. SEO on the other hand, or Search Engine Optimization, is a form of marketing strategy that prioritizes getting your website to rank higher on the search results for targeted keywords. This is organic growth achieved by creating content such as blogs, landing pages, and original images. This process is more collaborative and personal, focusing heavily on your company’s story digital brand.

Three Different Approaches

Small Business:

Let’s say you own a small local coffee shop. You employ a handful of baristas, an assistant manager, and you’re looking to draw in more clients. However, you’re not sure whether Google Ads or SEO is a more effective way to do this. The issue with Google Ads in this scenario is that many local small businesses are going to be generating client leads through their web presence (primarily social media pages), word of mouth, and locals organically discovering a business in person. This means that prioritizing a personal, story-driven approach to marketing and content is more likely to resonate with prospective customers. Don’t have the budget to outsource to a firm? See if one of your baristas is handy with a camera or a skilled writer (however, make sure that if you’re in-sourcing these duties that the employee professing themselves a photographer actually takes good photos). Lastly, SEO is the more value-effective strategy for small businesses whose revenue is generated more from quantity. Google Ads’ cost per click value may not be worth it if for every five clicks you’re charged you get one client that comes in and purchases a $5 coffee once a week.

High Value Freelancer:

In scenario 2, let’s say you’re a freelance videographer whose primary business is filming weddings. And again, the same question emerges: Google Ads vs SEO. Which the one for me? Unlike our afforementioned coffee shop, where business is reliant on a high quantity of customers to purchase a low-cost product, you rely on a modest quantity of customers who pay a large amount for each service. What this means is that utilizing Google Ad services has a higher value to your business due to the significant value of each prospective lead. As such, the CPC may be high, but if it only costs you $500 to get a $6,000 job, then the money you put in has made a profitable return. As such, for your business Google Ads may be a strategic choice that helps generate signifcant leads. However, this is not to say that SEO isn’t important. Every business, especially those that rely on visual and stylistic mediums such videography should have a compelling social media prescence and suite of digital content. So, the question then is, perhaps a balance between the two is best?

Large Local Business:

Lastly, let’s take a look at a larger local business. For this scenario let’s imagine a local health insurance provider that has a few dozen employees and operates within a very competitive industry. You have seasonal times when large marketing pushes are more significant, in this case enrollment seasons, and you want to stay competitive. Google Ads is a great way to make this timed marketing push, what is called a campaign, but the rest of the year you don’t want to fall from search relevance either. So you split your allocated resources between your marketing campaigns on Google Ads and maintaining your domain authority with year-round SEO. So, the dynamic is no longer Google Ads vs SEO but how can both Google Ads and SEO work in tandem for my business.


Google Ads vs SEO is a pretty timeless internet marketing question. However, the answer really depends on the scenario. That being said, SEO and social media marketing are the more flexible strategies. Google Ads works very much like a faucet. When turned on it can work well for the right businesses, but the moment you turn it off all of the promotion you paid for stops. SEO, through thoughtful content creation and consistent analytic management continues to help your rankings at what is typically a more cost-effective rate. Google Ads works faster but it also lacks longevity. So when it comes to Google Ads vs SEO, it is dependant on scenario, but it is safe to say that SEO is of a higher value to a larger variety of businesses.

If you’re interested to learn more about how SEO and social media marketing can be utilized to help your business climb the online rankings, contact Urban Ignite today.

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