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. 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. 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. AdWords 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. Most clicks average around $2 to $6 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.
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.
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 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 running campaigns make 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
- 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
- Can take time to find the best keywords to use
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, Bixby, Amazon Alexa, and Cortana. 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.
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. 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 specially clicks something we just know certain user metrics on if they clicks 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. 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
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?
Google Ads are better for:
- Quick, top of the page results.
- Top of the first-page search result immediately then Google Ads is better for you.
- Easily tailor your ad or message that customer searching sees
- Fast results, can invest for paid clicks
SEO is better for:
- Long-term Google ranking
- Organic Search Clicks
- Lower budgets and you have lots of time available
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 and get a $100 first month ad credit from Google. Thanks for reading and let us know what you think in the comments below.