which is better SEO or Google ADs? Find out with this article from Kow Abundant.

Which is better SEO or Google Ads?

I get this question a lot, “what is better SEO or Google Ads?” I also hear, “should I focus on SEO or Google Ads?”

Both SEO and Google Ads have their advantages and disadvantages. They also require an investment of time and money but each has differences in the investment required. Google Ads is Google’s advertising platform that uses Google search. Google Ads is also starting to be incorporated into newer AI platforms like Gemini and SGE (the AI results you see when searching).

SEO, in this case, focuses mainly on optimization for Google since the majority of searches take place on it. Other search engines use the same ideas, though, so this can be applied to others as well.

In this article, I will go over How Google Ads and SEO work, the good and bad of both, and recommendations of which is best for you. So let’s dive in and look at both to find out what is better.

How Google Ads Work?

Most businesses want to be on the first page of Google for their products or services. For example, if you sell widgets, when people search for “widgets near me” you want to be the first search that pops up. Google Ads benefits include getting to the top of a search, usually, top 3 is possible for certain keywords (depending on competition and budget).

The marketing benefit of online advertising is that your business can quickly rank as a top search result if you have a good website and a proper bid.

Google Ads works by you placing a bid for the search phrase “widgets near me”. Each time a person clicks your specific ad you pay Google a certain agreed amount for that click. Bids or Cost Per Click (CPC) ranges from $0.50 to $12+ depending on industry and other factors. For example, some keywords in the insurance and medical industries can be as high as $120+ per click. Most clicks average around $2 to $8 per click; although they can cost higher or lower. Google recommends that you get 10 clicks to get that one customer that buys so you can do the math.

Google Ads works under the premise of “paid search”. This means that you pay for placement on Google’s search engine.

“Organic search” is what SEO often refers to.

This means search results that are not paid for. Even with ads, Google still uses its algorithm to serve you the best content no matter what and better ads and content win over less relevant ads. Just because you have a massive budget doesn’t mean you will always win or even be shown, especially if you product or site is not relevant.

How Long Does It Take To Run Google Ads?

This is how we look at Google Ads at our pro agency. You can technically run Google Ads as fast as the campaigns can be set up plus a period of 1-2 days for approval however, there are some important time caveats that should be noted. The first month is information gathering. We set everything up and get things running usually within 14 days. We begin to understand the account and create the relevant search and display ads and Youtube ads if assets are given or created.

During this month, we usually make the spend lower while things are tested. We also set up and test conversion tracking for the account. This is separate from what Google Ads calls the “learning phase” which is around 7-14 days for Google Ads to run your ads vs the competition and see how and where to place you relative to the market and search volume.

The second month is testing. We begin to see conversions and our testing now shows what is starting to resonate with users. From here, we expand the ads and create similar ads based on the ones that are working. We remove any underperforming assets and keep fine-tuning.

We will remove underperforming keywords, adjust terms so that they better match the sales funnel, and make sure conversions are working. At this point, clients generally see more interest in their business and we adjust accordingly or add more to the budget based on needs.

By the third month, we are in our stride, campaigns are working well, and we get an idea of what really works. From here, we will get in a comfortable stride and budget with the client to move forward and keep maintaining pace with the campaigns. We can fully see at this point the cost per conversion (as long as their site allows so) and we try to lower the overall conversion costs from here using a variety of our skills and experience and our team’s efforts.

How Long Does Google Ads Learning Phase Take?

Google says that the “learning phase” takes 7-14 days when you first create a new campaign and even after edits sometimes they don’t want you to touch anything for 14 days. We have even seen it take longer up to 21 days. This is a wildly long time so we have learned the best ways to optimize campaigns to better work in these windows. During this time, Google Ads is testing your ads versus others and seeing what ads users respond to.

Ultimately, the learning phase is designed so that Google Ads can test your ads and see what ads drive the best conversions or actions and at what cost.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make running campaigns is they constantly change things.

This never gives Google Ads any time to adjust or find your audience and actually makes your campaigns less successful. It is best to have an ads strategy and know how to run your campaigns to avoid these issues in the first place.

Benefits of Google Ads

  • Get in top 5 website results or get shown at top of the first page
  • Can specify local targeting by zip code or around your business (limited for Housing and certain sectors)
  • Can set hours you wish to show for certain keywords or phrases
  • Drive customers to a specific landing page
  • Track conversions or leads
  • Create custom remarketing lists to show display ads to

Disadvantages of Google Ads

  • Not a long-term solution
  • Costly over time vs SEO
  • Can only use 1 website or domain per account
  • Ads show up labeled “Ads” in Google search
Example of a google ad

Example of a Google ad, note the “Ad” callout

  • Can take time to find the best keywords to use
Paid Ads vs SEO diagram showing the benefits of both and how they work together. From SEMrush

Paid Ads vs SEO diagram showing the benefits of both and how they work together. From SEMrush.com

How SEO Works

Google Ads has its benefits if you want to get high in the rankings fast for a specific amount of time. However, if you are looking for a long-term solution then SEO might be the best option for you.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization, involves doing backend website work so that Google, or search engines gives you higher rankings over time. This process involves content creation, optimizing your website, establishing goals, and tracking progress over time.

Nowadays, we optimize not only for Google but for Bing, as well as voice searches like Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung Voice, and Amazon Alexa. We even optimize for AI search like Google Gemini, Microsoft Copilot, and ChatGPT. DuckDuckgo is another search engine but it essentially uses Bing as the backend as does Yahoo so we optimize for those through our Bing search efforts.

SEO also includes optimization of Google Maps listings and getting what are called backlinks to many other sites to improve your standing. Having a backlink is like getting a reference from a nearby business. It makes you look more credible when you get a recommendation from someone and Google sees this credit as beneficial and it helps your rankings. The more you work with other businesses and get these backlinks or recommendations from their own websites, the better your website will rank. Get a free listings test here

Dwight doesnt need SEO

Dwight doesnt need SEO

How to track conversions for SEO impact

SEO involves improving your website to increase traffic and optimize site conversions. A conversion is an action someone takes to complete one of your goals. This can range from staying on your site for a certain amount of time, clicking a certain link, playing a video, adding an item to their cart, or making a purchase. Generally, the most important conversions would be filling out a contact form, or clicking a phone call link on your website or a live chat conversation or message.

These are all things we can track for our customers. We do this by adding code to websites that allows us to track clicks anonymously; we don’t know who specifically clicks something, we just know certain user metrics on if they click and can gauge how relevant that click is for their business. A site with great SEO will load fast, have great content, be easy to understand and navigate and be very helpful to your customers. We can even go above and beyond and use what is called a CDN or Content Delivery Network to host your site so that it loads much faster to all users.

Great SEO also includes items that you cannot see that developers or professionals work on behind-the-scenes to get your Google rankings higher. Some of the advantages of SEO include the following:

Benefits of SEO

  • Great long-term solution for higher Google ranking
  • Get organic traffic which leads to lower abandonment rates
  • Do not have to pay for clicks
  • Higher trust rate for customers vs ads
  • Google and search engines love optimized sites
Example of an SEO search result, does not have any "ad" mentioned

Example of an SEO search result does not have any “ad” mentioned

Disadvantages of SEO

  • Can take 3 to 6 months of work to see ranking improvements
  • Ongoing effort required to keep higher rankings
  • You often will not see immediate results or returns unlike Google Ads
  • Requires long-term investment and time

So which is better, SEO or Google Ads?

flowchart of SEO or AdWords, decide which is better SEO or Google Ads

click to view larger – a flowchart of SEO or AdWords, decide which is better SEO or Google Ads

Google Ads are better for:

  1. Quick, top-of-the-page results.
  2. Top of the first-page search result immediately then Google Ads is better for you.
  3. Easily tailor your ad or message that customer searching sees
  4. Fast results, can invest for paid clicks or conversions bidding
  5. Faster results but can cost more quickly

SEO is better for:

  1. Long-term Google ranking
  2. Organic Search Clicks
  3. Lower budgets and you have lots of time available to rank over time
  4. Requires more upkeep & time, cost is made over time.

A strategy of incorporating both is best. This allows you, in the beginning, to focus fast results with Google Ads to get top of page results quickly, then, while doing SEO as your Google ranking improves you can lower your Google Ads budget accordingly. By now, you have a good understanding of what SEO is and how it differs from running a Google Ads campaign. This way you will not have holes in your online search strategy.

Visit our pricing page now to chose which plan is best for you. Sign up now for a limited time spend $500 get $500 ad credit back from Google! Thanks for reading and let us know what you think in the comments below.



  • Excellent article man! Covered everything I needed to know about SEO vs PPC Cleared up my whole perspective on the topic!

    • Thanks Siddhesh, glad you liked the article!

    • Fantastic, glad you enjoyed it. If you have other questions or what to know more so we can better fill out the article just let us know here.

  • I must say that Secrets of SEO Success in Other Languages Research your keywords, rather than translating them. Keyword research should be the first step to identify potential markets and show levels of competition.

  • I must say that SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results

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