Google Ads vs SEO: What’s the Difference?

Melissa Clarke, Freelance Digital Marketing Specialist, Sydney

25 November 2019

It’s the age-old question that seems to pop up over and over again, so I thought it about time I put pen to paper on the subject. Here’s everything you need to know in 3 minutes or less.

What are Google Ads?

Google Ads are adverts you pay for so that you can appear at the top of the search results page on Google. If you’ve ever heard anyone talking about Pay Per Click (PPC) then the chances are they were talking about Google Ads.


Google Ads position in search engine results. 

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about embedding keywords (natural search terms used by your target audience) into your website text. The goal is to signpost search engines so they know your content is relevant so that it appears higher up the search results page.


Do Google Ads Boost Your SEO?

The quick answer here is no. Whilst you want to target keywords with your Google Ads, doing so does not improve your SEO. To do that you’re going to need to research relevant long-tail keywords and embed them naturally into your text in a way that doesn’t sacrifice quality and readability.


“Marketing has never been about keywords, it’s about people” Simon Penson, Digital Entrepreneur, Marketer and Investor

Which One Costs Less?

Google Ads cost money to run and you’ll be charged every time someone clicks on them. This is why they’re known as Pay Per Click ads. SEO also costs money if you hire an expert to help you with it, but it doesn’t cost money every time a user interacts with your content. For this reason SEO is seen as a free way to generate organic traffic.


Is the Approach to Keywords the Same?

SEO works across all search engines, whereas Google Ads only show up when a browser searches using Google. It’s also worth noting that with SEO you want to laser target a few relevant, niche keywords that connect directly with your target audience. Whereas with your Google Ad campaign you can target far more keywords, changing them frequently to fine tune your campaign.

Why Would You Ever Use a Google Ad?

At first glance it might seem like the focus and cost of SEO sets it miles ahead of an ad campaign, but there’s a little more to it than that. The ability to effectively target a larger number keywords is actually a strength as it allows you to introduce your offering to a wider audience. There’s also no substitute for the instant recognition an ad gives you when it appears right near the top of the results page.

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