How Paid Ads Compare to SEO in 2023

Paid ads

How Paid Ads Compare to SEO in 2023

SEO and paid ads both come highly recommended for digital marketers. But which is more effective for your business in 2023, and how much should you invest into each practice?

Our guide covers all you need to know about paid ads vs. SEO in 2023. We’ll discuss how each strategy works, the advantages and disadvantages of each method, and how to integrate them into your digital marketing strategy to maximize revenue.

About SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is used to help your website rank higher on Google’s organic listings. It’s generally divided into on-page, and off-page SEO:

  • On-page SEO describes optimizing your website to appeal to Google’s algorithm. This could mean including more keywords, organizing your website more effectively, and speeding up your website’s loading times.
  • Off-page SEO involves improving your website’s authority by working with external entities. One of the most popular types of off-page SEO is backlinking. This means encouraging other high-trust websites to link to your web pages.

“Organic” ranking is how highly Google places your website on its SERP (search engine results page) without paying for the top spot. Paid ads often fill the top spots on Google, but organic rankings are longer-lasting and generally more valuable.

What’s So Great About SEO?

SEO marketingSEO is a long-term strategy. It’s often misunderstood – one beautiful piece of content with all the right keywords isn’t instantly going to propel your website to the top spot. You must consistently invest in SEO to boost your site’s SERP ranking and persuade Google that you’re an authoritative source.

The advantage of SEO compared to paid ads is that if you reach the top spot organically, you’ve established a very solid position. Just as you don’t gain top SERP rankings overnight, you don’t lose that spot overnight. You’ve made it there through hard work and careful optimization, and Google respects that.

Being ranked at #1 is its own reward, but it has additional benefits. Other sites looking to boost their authority scores will be more likely to use you as a reference, making backlink campaigns easier and cheaper. It takes time, but it’s well worth the patience and investment.

Drawbacks of SEO

Good SEO takes time. It means consistently spending money on services that won’t yield immediate results and may appear unprofitable. Paid ads can seem like a much better alternative because they dramatically increase traffic by putting you at #1 instantly.

You’ll also need to work with an expert SEO agency. Those with the expertise and experience to consistently improve your website’s performance are a rare breed. It pays to understand what SEO entails and ask questions about an agency’s track record before entering a long-term partnership.

When to Use SEO

Are you interested in establishing a long-term, successful online business? Do you want your website to be seen as an authoritative information source? Would you enjoy the benefits of consistently being a top search result when customers search for businesses like yours?

Then you need SEO.

Portion out a chunk of your quarterly marketing budget for SEO. Contact a specialist who can provide a full SEO audit of your website and identify areas you need to improve. It pays to have a long-term strategy.

About Paid Ads

Paid ads are also known as PPC ads (pay-per-click). They allow you to appear at the top of Google’s SERP without long-term, organic growth. This makes them extremely attractive to marketers as they can yield immediate results.

What’s So Great About Paid Ads?

Well-placed paid ads can direct high volumes of traffic to your website and provide a huge sales boost in the short term. They don’t cost money unless someone clicks on them, making them a cost-effective marketing strategy.

They’re excellent when used in conjunction with flash sales and in-season products. For example, say you run a garden center. Placing paid ads in spring gives you a great chance of being seen by shoppers who are keen to add to their gardens at this time of year.

Drawbacks of Paid Ads

The cost of PPC ads depends on how much traffic the keyword attracts. High-traffic and non-specific keywords, e.g., “t-shirts,” cost an awful lot per click because you’re competing with thousands of sites advertising the same product. For this reason, it’s worth using PPC ads for more specific, long-tail keywords that come at a low cost per click.

Another drawback is that paid ads are marked as such. People are less likely to click on content marked as advertisements because they know how the game works. This doesn’t mean people won’t click – it just means that your paid ads need to provide a compelling reason to shop at your store rather than expecting their visibility to do the work for you.

When to Use Paid Ads

Paid ads should be used opportunistically. If you’re planning a flash sale on a certain product, it’s the perfect time to launch a paid ad campaign. Why?

  1. It means you can tailor your ad campaign to the specific products you’re upselling. This means longer-tail, less-used keywords, and a lower cost per click.
  2. It lets you include important words that shoppers want to see – “sale,” “clearance,” “offer,” “% off,” etc. These make an instant impression and will encourage shoppers to visit your website even though they know it’s a paid advertisement.

Avoid generic, non-specific paid ad campaigns for overused keywords. You’ll end up paying a lot per click, and there’s every chance you won’t have what a customer is looking for – a shopper looking for t-shirts won’t necessarily find what they’re looking for in your range! The expensive click will have been wasted.

However, if you advertise to a niche, like “House of the Dragon t-shirts Daemon” you’re vastly reducing your cost per click. You’re also increasing the number of times your ads will be seen because fewer competitors are advertising for the same keyword.

Finally, remember to provide a strong advert. Include sales-y information such as discounts and value, e.g., that you sell official merchandise or handmade products. This should be completed with a strong CTA.

SEO vs. Paid Ads – Side-by-Side Comparison

So which is better, SEO or paid ads? Here are the advantages of each.

SEO is best for:

  • Long-term, organic growth.
  • Cementing and sustaining a position at the top of Google’s SERP.
  • Building authority.

Paid ads are best for:

  • Short, focused campaigns.
  • Niche product sales.
  • Attracting new customers who usually wouldn’t find your site.

These digital marketing strategies aren’t designed to compete with each other. Rather, they work in harmony to deliver short and long-term gains for your business (see below).

One question remains – what will 2023 bring for these strategies?

The Outlook on SEO & Paid Ads in 2023

Google’s algorithm is constantly being improved and updated. Likewise, Google’s policy on paid ads is subject to change. Here’s the 2023 outlook on SEO and paid ads.


There haven’t been any major changes to SEO in recent years. It doesn’t appear that 2023 will see a major shake-up, so tried-and-tested SEO strategies will likely remain effective.

However, expert SEOs know that Google is always looking for a better way to provide searchers with more relevant results. There’s always a good reason to keep a finger on the pulse and watch for announcements that changes are being planned.

Paid Ads

The future of paid ads is slightly more volatile. Google’s report from Q3 in 2022 suggests that people are clicking on PPC ads less frequently. This is likely because consumer budgets are being squeezed. Customers are more inclined to browse and window-shop rather than going straight for the sale.

This doesn’t mean PPC ads have had their day. Rather, it’s an incentive to improve your PPC ad design. Improved targeting for niche and long-tail keywords, stronger CTAs, and more useful information in the ad will improve performance regardless of trends.

Should I Use SEO and Paid Ads in My Marketing Strategy in 2023?

Social Media MarketingYes. Both these strategies improve your website’s performance and boost sales. It’s worth combining long-term goals with short-term advertising efforts to ensure your marketing budget works for you.

A good digital marketing agency will help you implement PPC ads when they’re most effective. They’ll design them to minimize the cost per click and include information that will draw customers to your store.

They’ll augment this short-term profitability with an effective SEO strategy for your website’s long-term growth. These techniques are best used in tandem – the best experts will implement both as part of a concerted growth strategy.

The Takeaway

SEO and PPC ads are both tried and tested digital marketing strategies. Learning how to implement them in your business is a good start – finding an agency that can help you achieve this is the next step.

Reach out to the team at BRANDefenders to learn more about SEO and paid ad strategies and build an effective campaign today!