Preston Pilgrim
Author Preston Pilgrim
Digital Marketing PM
Posted in Marketing
March 29, 2016
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SEO VS Paid Traffic — What Should You Focus on?

It’s time for the big debate. Should you focus more of your marketing efforts on SEO or should you focus more of your marketing efforts on paid traffic? This is a common question that has many business owners stuck.

In this quick post, I am going to break down the pros/cons of focusing on SEO and the pros/cons of paid traffic.

Let’s start with SEO.

Pros & Cons of SEO

I get it; everyone is using Google now a days, and you want to be #1 for as many relevant keywords as possible. I mean how awesome would that be, it sounds like a dream come true.

One thing you have to realize right off the bat is that everyone else in your niche/industry is gunning for the same keywords. If you want to focus on SEO as the main marketing strategy, just be ready to set realistic expectations.


Below is a quick list of all the pros & benefits of using SEO.

It Can be Low Cost or Free: If you are on a tight budget SEO is a great choice as a lot of the tasks for SEO can be done with no cost. Link building, writing content, guest posting, social media sharing can all be done manually with no cost. The only cost for you will be time.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you are trying to rank for very competitive keywords, there will be some cost involved, but for the most part if you are on a budget you can do the majority of the tasks yourself (if you know what you are doing of course).

Everyone Uses Google: Now a days everyone is using Google to find businesses. It just makes sense to get your business on the first page of Google for your keywords because that is where the eyeballs are going. In fact, the top 3 positions in Google can take upwards of 70% of all the traffic.


Yes, there are cons for SEO, and we are covering them right now.

It’s S...L...O...W: This is no surprise. You can’t just decide that you want to do SEO one day and than be ranked #1 for your keywords the next day. This stuff takes time and can be a very slow process before you get an ROI on your money and/or time invested.

Typical SEO campaigns in moderate competitive niches can take anywhere from 3 months to 12 months to get first page rankings. There are many factors that determine the success of your SEO campaign, but this will give you a rough idea on what to expect for a timeline.

No Guarantees: Another important factor to consider is that there are no guarantees with SEO. Yes, you hired an agency to do your SEO, and they promised you first page rankings, but just realize no individual or agency owns Google, so you will always want to make sure you do your due diligence to make sure you hire a strong SEO team that can help you achieve first page rankings.

Google's algorithms can also come into play. Google is always making updates to their algorithms and what works today might not work tomorrow. You will want to make sure you hire an SEO team or consultant who is up to date with Google terms of service and is following the best practises to get long term stable rankings.

Now that we got SEO out of the way let’s talk about paid traffic now.

Pros & Cons of Paid Traffic

Paid traffic, a completely different beast than SEO and for multiple reasons. If done right, it can be one of the most rewarding avenues for your business, if done wrong it can leave your business with empty pockets!

Let’s dive into the pros and cons.


Instant Gratification: This one is pretty obvious, but unlike SEO you do NOT have to wait months to see traction on your marketing efforts. You can turn paid traffic on today and have traffic coming to your website tomorrow. This is by far the biggest benefit when comparing paid traffic to SEO.

You Can Scale: Another massive advantage with paid traffic is the ability to scale your marketing campaigns. If you find a profitable campaign and are getting a positive ROI from it, you can scale and put more money and advertising into the campaign. This gives your business a huge advantage to scale and grow.

Google Analytics & Improvely will give you the ability to track just about anything you want on your website with your paid advertising campaigns. This makes it very easy to see what PPC campaigns are working and which ones need to be cut out in order to achieve a positive ROI.


It Can be Costly: If you are going to be putting the majority of your focus on paid traffic, just be willing and ready to lose money if your paid campaigns don’t work out. Marketing is all about testing, and you might have to try multiple paid campaigns before you find a winner that you can scale. The key here is to make sure you are tracking all of your numbers to know 100% if a campaign is profitable or not.

Depending on your knowledge, skill set and marketing capabilities it might take you a while before you finally find some winning ads that are producing a positive ROI. Between doing A/B split tests, keyword research, setting up the campaigns it can take anywhere from 1 month to 3 months or even longer before you find the winning ads that you can scale. This is a short term cost for a long term gain.

Competition: Depending on the niche and industry PPC marketing can be very competitive. This ties back in with the first Con, which is the cost of PPC marketing. If the competition is high, it can cost a lot more money to get your ads showing up on the first page of Google because everyone is bidding each other up. This is why it is always important to track and measure all your campaigns to see if it is worth it to be using PPC marketing as your main strategy. 

To wrap things up, I have compiled everything into a nice chart for you to see the big differences between paid traffic and SEO.

  SEO Paid Traffic
Takes Time Before Traffic Starts Coming in  YES NO
Requires Upfront Investment  Depends YES
Easy to Scale NO YES
Guaranteed to See Traffic NO YES

What Now?

The choice is up to you. You can either do SEO or paid traffic… or you can do both. Just realize what the pros and cons are for each marketing strategy and base your choice on whatever makes more sense for you and your business.

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