SEO vs. AdWords for Online Visibility

Brands build websites for online visibility, but the mere existence of a site won’t magically bring in thousands of visitors right off the bat. First and foremost, the site needs to be discovered. Currently, two discovery strategies dominate the Internet: SEO and AdWords.

SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, SEO involves keyword usage and content building to make websites more appealing to search engines. On the other hand, AdWords is a Google-owned advertising platform that companies can use to place product ads on Google’s online properties, not just on the search engine. Remember, Google also owns YouTube, Blogger, Google+, Gmail, Waze, and more. On Google Search, AdWords results are marked as ads.

So what does this all mean?

Difference in Costs

As an advertising platform, AdWords charge brands for ad results. Usually the terms are on a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) basis, where you only pay when someone clicks your link and visits your website. Sometimes, impressions are used. Ad pricing is determined through a bidding process, where you need to up the bid of your competitor for certain keywords that users are most likely to use.

In contrast, SEO is free—technically. You can optimize your site yourself, but the process can be tricky. It’s not just about spamming the website with relevant keywords. In fact, that strategy is counter-productive and can result in hefty penalties from Google. To avoid any potential issues, you’ll need to enlist experts who keep up with the latest changes in search engine algorithms.

Another important thing to note is that as your AdWords become popular, the cost also increases. The cost of SEO, on the other hand, remains relatively constant.

Difference in Reach

Google’s search engine is very popular, but not everyone uses it. Google owns a search market share of 69 percent while Bing and Yahoo own 12 and 9 percent respectively. With AdWords, brands can reach a huge chunk of the search market via Google, but not consumers using non-Google engines. This is where SEO has an advantage. Search engines like Bing and Yahoo! use criteria similar to Google’s, making websites optimized for Google just as searchable in those other engines.

Difference in Speed and Constancy

SEO results take time, from weeks to months before a website finally appears on the first page of Google. In contrast, AdWords can generate results almost immediately, putting you on the first page of Google with just a few clicks. The downside, however, is that once your AdWords campaign ends, your first page results go with it. With SEO, your results remain—as long as you keep up with the changing search landscape.

AdWords and SEO both enhance your online discoverability in different ways, but you don’t have to choose one over the other. Both can be part of your digital marketing campaign so your brand achieves maximum benefit.

Learn more about how to improve your online discoverability by clicking here.