So PPC Vs SEO VS Social Media. Not sure where to start? Let’s see if we can help!

If you’re a new start-up, or a company that has always relied on traditional marketing channels for business, then creating your first digital strategy can be one of the hardest things to do, especially if you are working from a limited budget. There are so many digital marketing channels to choose from. From paid search to email marketing, from content marketing to SEO, it is hard to know where to invest. Invariably if you are looking at a digital strategy you will have considered one of the three core digital marketing channels.

PPC – Pay Per Click Advertising.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation for organic traffic.

Social Media Marketing – A social media campaign through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc…

So where do you invest your budget for digital marketing?

Unfortunately there is no magic answer for any of this; each strategy depends on the business, the customer base, the product or service and the goals of the project. Before we send you back into the maze of digital marketing though, what we can do is offer you some simple guidance as to what channel to use for what kind of project and how the main digital advertising channels of PPC, SEO & Social Media compare.

Let’s start by briefly going into what each channel is and does as well as its pro’s and con’s. This will make it easier for you to understand how it can or cannot benefit your business.

PPC – Pay Per Click Marketing.

What is PPC?

Google (link to Google Adwords) describes the benefit of ppc advertising platform Adwords by saying:

“Be seen by customers at the very moment that they’re searching on Google for the things you offer. And only pay when they click to visit your website or call”

Simply put Pay Per Click lets you create and manage highly targeted advertising campaigns where you can choose who you appear to, under what context and when. You can then monitor the campaigns performances in real time with in-depth data reporting.

Pay per click marketing covers not only traditional search marketing (typing a search in a search engine), but also display advertising, video advertising, remarketing and more.

Some of the Benefits of PPC

  • You can have complete control over what you appear for and how.
  • You can get instant visibility on page one of search engines for terms relating to your services or products.
  • PPC ads get prominent position on Google Search Results (SERPS)
  • You only pay for a click on to your website or a call to your company.
  • You set and control the budgets
  • You have transparency of performance and data.
  • Changes can be actioned in real time.
  • You can start as large or as small as you wish.
  • You can turn it on or off quickly.

Some of the potential issues with PPC

  • You pay for every click on your website. So this can be expensive depending on industry.
  • There is no guarantee those clicks will turn into customers.
  • There are so many different options within PPC that it would be incredibly difficult for a non-PPC professional to understand and leverage them all.
  • Optimising a PPC campaign is a specialist skill. Professionals take up to five Google Exams to prove their proficiency and these are still only a basic proof of knowledge.
  • There is the potential to waste a lot of money on things that are irrelevant to you if you do not manage PPC correctly.
  • Managing a PPC account is labour intensive. It requires time spent in analysis and optimisation.

SEO– Search Engine Optimisation.

What is SEO?

SEO is the practice of improving your digital visibility and authority with a view to driving more qualified traffic to your digital assets (website). In simple terms its about improving the volume of free clicks/free traffic to your website.

There are so many ways to influence how you do this that it would require an entire article to just give those headline options. So we’ll narrow it down to just ‘improving your website, improving your content, improving your authority online by getting more people referencing and talking about you online.

Some of the Benefits of SEO

  • The traffic you get is free!
  • Organic traffic outweighs pay per click traffic. More people use organic results than paid as part of their decision making process.
  • Those who achieve high positions organically in search engine results are seen by both search engine users and the search engines as authorities on that particular search, which leads to trust.
  • Creating natural brand mentions and links through Anchor text is one of the great benefits of SEO.
  • Can be used for all manner of activity from direct sales to brand awareness to PR.
  • Did I mention its free traffic?

Some of the potential issues with SEO

  • While you can control most aspects of SEO, ultimately your position in the search results pages of search engines like Google is decided by their algorithms. Therefore you cannot what you do will work, or work how you imagine it to.
  • Once you have started down a long term seo strategy it is then difficult to quickly change it if you realise it is the wrong strategy.
  • Algorithms change overnight. Therefore positions can fluctuate as the months and years go by. This means SEO can be an unpredictable (albeit lucrative) marketing channel.
  • Returns are not instant. It requires investment of both time and potentially money before positive returns are made.

Social Media Marketing

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is the actions and processes used to gain relevant traffic, customers, engagement, brand awareness and more, through social media platforms. Social Media marketing can include both paid social media advertising and natural (organic) social media advertising. This channel of marketing shares a lot of similarities and a lot of cross-over with search marketing.

Here are some of the social media platforms most commonly associated with social media marketing (in order of most commonly used for marketing):

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,  Instagram, Pinterest

Some of the Benefits of social advertising.

  • The market place is huge! Facebook has over a billion users on its own!
  • You can interact with your customers and audience in real time.
  • You can control your brand perception and social communication.
  • You can use text, images & videos to engage with people in many different ways.
  • Social media paid advertising offers many in depth targeting options to get to your ideal audience.

Some of the potential issues with social advertising

  • Social media is what we call secondary advertising, in so far as the people you are trying to engage with on social media aren’t necessarily looking for your products or services at the time they see you unlike someone who is sat down doing a search for example. Therefore expected revenue
  • Building a social presence takes a lot of time. A LOT. That is unless you deliver an excellent viral social campaign or drop on some good celebrity or social influencer endorsements. Not impossible, but don’t rely on it.
  • As social media is effectively a forum for any voice months of good work can be affected by a few rogue bad social comments.
  • Traffic to your website from social media can be a fraction of what you receive from SEO or PPC.
  • Social paid traffic can be expensive without results if targeted wrongly.
  • Social paid traffic is based on the profile of the people and not the intent that you get when they’re sat actively looking.

What are the benefits of a joined up digital strategy?

We have gone through the benefits of each digital marketing medium, but what are the benefits of working on more than one of them at once? Below we will bullet point some of the more obvious reasons as to why a multi-discipline digital strategy will work best.

  • The more relevant traffic you can get to your website the more you should perform. So getting potential traffic from three sources and not just one makes sense.
  • While PPC traffic can be profitable on an ongoing basis, social media and SEO traffic can potentially be delivered successfully without ongoing cost per click cost. All it takes is the right level of expertise and time. That traffic is free.
  • You are mitigating risk by not putting all your marketing eggs in one basket.
  • By having a PPC ad and an organic listing you have double the opportunity to be visited from a search engine results page.
  • Ready for the really clever stuff? What if your organic visitors who didn’t convert on your website could be remarketed to online using PPC, and then shown tailored ads on Social Media? Well they can! The beauty of a fully integrated digital marketing strategy means you can work on cross channel activity.
  • You are connecting with people across multiple devices at multiple stages in their customer journey. Maximising those micro-moments with a customer. Take advantage of search, video, display and social advertising for maximum exposure.
  • Brand messages can be communicated quicker and more concisely to a larger audience.
  • PPC can complement the gaps in your SEO rankings, ensuring you have maximum visibility for your relevant terms.

These are just a few examples of the importance of a multi-channel digital campaiugn. Quite the compelling argument for running SEO, PPC & Social Media eh? Although this does not address the original issue. What to do if you do not have time, resources or finances for launching across all three mediums?

Which digital marketing channel is the right one for me? 

As we said before there is not definitive answer. However we can ask you a series of questions, whose answers might influence your decision making and help simplify your decision making.

Are you looking to market internationally, nationally or locally?

Building up a social presence or gaining organic SEO rankings nationally is much harder than locally. International SEO & Social Media increases the difficulty exponentially. So if you’re looking to market yourself just locally then a small localised PPC campaign, some social media activity, and some good local SEO work will all help you achieve your goals. If you are looking for national rankings and traffic, then potentially SEO is not the first place you would look at investing in. Not when a lot of the good basic SEO practices you can do yourself for free.

Do you need immediate ROI or are you playing the long game?

If you have a small budget and need to generate revenue from it to continue with your digital strategy then you PPC is the obvious starting point. It can be turned on or off in real time and can get you highly relevant traffic from day one.

Neither social media or SEO work can be relied upon to offer immediate returns.

Do I know my best keywords and search terms?

If the answer to the above is no, then SEO is pointless. As you might optimise your website and content strategy for one set of keywords or subject, only to find out that they are not the best for you and your business.

PPC is a great way of finding out what searches and people are the best option for your SEO strategy. This is where running more than one digital channel can compliment what you do.

Is your business product led?

This is a big one. If it is product led then you have fantastic options for all three digital marketing channels. Google Adwords can offer you shopping. Being highly specific with your product pages can give you quick SEO wins and people might be interested in your products through social media if promoted in the right way.

Is your business service led?

Are you an accountant? Do you deal with employment law? These are key services, yet neither are things you would necessarily immediately recognise as industries that would create a ‘social buzz’

People tend to look for services when they need them and do not want to necessarily engage with them on an ongoing basis.  Also consider whether your service is something people would want to connect with and share on social media? Before committing to social media take a moment to consider these things before investing so much time and energy.

Social Media can be good for garnering positive feedback. Here’s an example. A Plumber asks his customers to leave good comments after jobs, on his Facebook page. He then invites people who land on his website to look at the reviews on Facebook as proof of his good work.

A nutritionist allows members of the public to ask them any question about healthy eating and living and they’ll respond.

That is where service led social media campaigns can be beneficial. Yet because social media is popular do not assume your business is automatically right for investing in social media immediately.

Is my industry highly competitive?

Are you a service or product supplier who is in competition with some of the UK’s biggest brands online? If that is the case then it will be incredibly difficult to rank organically for SEO. PPC clicks might be too expensive. Therefore getting a good social following through clever social marketing might be a solution to start you off.  Again remember though social might not necessarily provide short to mid-term revenue directly.

How tight are my margins?

If you are in a highly competitive market or one that has high cost per clicks in PPC, yet your margins are not as good as competitors, or your websites conversion rate is not as good as it could be; then investing in PPC might not deliver positive ROI (although that should always be sanity checked by a professional in paid search).

If that is the case then a focus on SEO or social media might be a better option.

Is money an issue but time not?

If you have not got the money for paid search regardless of whether it performs or not, then SEO and social media marketing is possible to do yourself without significant costs. Obviously you would need to learn and you would need to work hard at it, and granted your performances would likely not match that of using a professional agency, but it is a possibility.


Here’s a quick reference to sanity check before you begin your digital marketing strategy and choose your digital advertising channel or channels.  If you want to pay a specialist agency to work on digital marketing but need to choose which

Choose PPC

  • If you want immediate returns.
  • If you want flexibility of strategy.
  • If you want to get information to help shape how you approach marketing in future.
  • If you want to test different products or services from your business.

Choose SEO

If you want a long term success.

If you want to generate free traffic to your website.

If you’ve already have PPC or tried Pay Per Click with more than one agency and could not make it work.

If you know you can get good rankings and traffic because you are in a more niche industry.

Choose Social

If you think your product or service is something for people to get excited about and want to share.

If your service or business needs to allow you to connect regularly with your customers.

If you have not got an immediate need for ROI.

If you want to build brand awareness.

Closing Comments

We hope this PPC vs SEO vs Social Media article helps. If it proves anything it is that there is no one answer, unless that answer is ‘choose a multi-channel digital marketing strategy!’ Simply put if you have budget to allow you to attack multiple fronts then you stand more chance of making a serious impact on both ROI and growth.

If you are struggling to choose a digital strategy and need help then please speak to a digital marketing consultant here at Converted and we will be happy to help. For more information on these marketing channels then visit any of these pages – PPC SEO or Social Media Marketing.

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