Ads vs. SEO: Why Ads Are Like Drugs + How SEO is the Cure

Miles Anthony Smith

Are your ads costing more & yielding fewer leads/sales? Which wins: ads vs. SEO? Why you need to pair paid ads with a robust, long-term-focused SEO strategy.

Paid ads can revolutionize your online business. A sudden traffic + leads/sales boost will make it seem like you’re achieving rapid growth. 

However, what happens when your ad campaign ends? Crickets…

Your traffic slows and you think about taking out more ads for another quick fix. Eventually, you realize that you’re like an addict hooked on a drug. 

The problem with ads is that while they are a good short-term strategy, they end up costing more per lead/sale over time. And on the flip side, SEO costs more time and money upfront but pays off better over time (and lower cost per lead/sale when the investment is viewed over a longer time horizon).

Looking for a long-term cure? 

Try pairing your paid ads with an SEO strategy. Ads can only take you so far and will end up becoming too expensive. Backing it up with SEO helps you achieve stable, consistent growth.

What Are the Differences Between Paid Ads & SEO?

When trying to get more visitors to visit your website, you have a couple of options. First of all, you could purchase some ads. 

Just like ads on TV, an online ad is given a special place to promote your business’s products and services. Because it’s online, though, it has a direct link to your website, encouraging people to click. This ad could appear just about anywhere online but most commonly, it will be placed on the Google search results page or as a sponsored post in users’ social media feeds.

SEO is quite different…

It involves optimizing your website so that it will naturally appear near the top of Google search results pages. This is a more organic way of bringing new users to your website. By using the right keywords, improving user experience, and getting other authoritative sites to link to your pages, your content will be considered valuable by Google, which will then place it higher on the search results page. 

This requires a lot of work and can be expensive at first but as a long-term strategy, it pays off. To further explore the difference between paid ads and SEO, see this list below.

Paid ads vs. SEO chart

What are the Top 5 Ad Platforms & How Do They Compare?

If you’re still interested in taking out paid ads, then it’s important to compare your options. Each service offers something slightly different. Think about the audience you’re trying to reach in terms of who you’d like to attract to your website.

The top 5 ad platforms are Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon. Use this table to compare each and see which one works for you.

Paid ads vs. SEO chart

Will Ads Help with SEO (& Vice Versa)?

The short answer is no…not directly.

Buying paid ads will NOT help with your overall SEO score; Google has debunked this myth many times. 

A successful ad campaign will increase traffic. However, a poorly-run ad campaign can indirectly increase the bounce rate, damaging your overall SEO score.

Having a strong SEO strategy will usually improve the performance of your ads if you use your new SEO-optimized pages to send ad traffic to. Users will see your site as valuable and send good signals to Google about their experience (longer dwell time, completing a lead form, social sharing, etc.). 

Focusing on the user experience helps both ads & SEO to perform better.

Should I Use Ads or SEO?

You’re probably wondering which option you should use. 

The truth is that you need to be using both in parallel. Yes, digital ads can be addictive. They get the job done quickly and efficiently (and are needed while you build your SEO campaign). But they’re not sustainable in the long run. Like a drug addict, you’ll end up spending more and more while feeling the benefits less and less.

Cure your paid ad campaign hangover with a carefully-planned SEO strategy created by an experienced consultant. You’ll get the advantage of a long-term lead generation machine to complement your ad strategy. But then you’ll be able to choose to stop paying for ads whenever you like, rather than feeling compelled to continue.