Content Marketing vs SEO vs PPC

Designing a comprehensive digital marketing plan has its challenges. Where do you focus your time and energy? How much should you budget?  Should you try to increase email efforts? Buckle down on your social efforts?  

With so many options, the right decisions can feel like it’s out of reach, but today’s online marketing experts tend to agree on one thing:  SEO, Content Marketing, and PPC can all play a vital role in your marketing ecosystem.

Each of the three marketing tactics can increase traffic and qualified leads, but which one fits your immediate and long-term goals? Sadly, if you came here searching for a quick, single-word answer, you’re out of luck.  The answer depends on where you are in your journey and where you want to be.

Before we go any further, let’s take a quick look at their defining qualities, many of which can lead you in the right direction.

Content Marketing vs SEO vs PPC: Which One's Best for Me?


Search engine optimization offers an organic route to move up on the search engine result pages (SERPs).  This method requires site owners to match user intent with keywords and build a strategy around those connections.  And, though keywords and keyword research play a very important role in SEO, success is based far more than that.

With content marketing in play, many identify SEO as more “technical,” as factors like page speed, site errors, backlinks, metadata, URL structures, and keywords take the stage and determine whether or not a particular effort will be successful.  

Regardless, the end goal is to organically move up the search results, ranking in top spots for specific search queries.  The problem? It takes time, but when done right can have a long-lasting, positive impact on your bottom line.

Pay-per-click (PPC), on the other hand, is a paid effort that essentially acts as a shortcut to the front of the line, building targeted, keyword-focused ad campaigns that hopefully will engage search engine users and lead to conversions, This  sounds like a great idea, and it can be, but there are some things to consider.

Firstly, it’s not free, and once you stop funneling money into a campaign, you’ll lose your place at the front of the line.  If you have an equally strong SEO strategy, that may not be a big deal, but if you don’t, it can be a quick way to bottom out your budget.

PPC can, however, be a great way to quickly draw in a targeted audience, which is often just what you need if you’re trying to immediately increase brand awareness, push out a specific promotion, or otherwise quickly gain an audience.

However, since it’s paid, it’s not always sustainable; this is particularly true for small businesses with limited financial resources.

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Content Marketing

Content marketing has become somewhat of a buzzword, and anyone who’s spent more than a second immersed in the world of marketing has probably heard the whole “content is king” line at least 10 times. But today, as Google tries to increase relevancy, the now cliched saying is true.  If you aren’t supporting quality, relevant, and helpful content on your site, then you likely won’t find your brand in the top SERPS.

Not only does intent-driven content bring traffic to a page, it keeps visitors there long, increases conversion rates, and boosts brand reputation.  Quality content acts as a bridge, joining email readers, social media followers, and search engine users with your website.

Take SEO and PPC efforts, for example, both of those will be rendered useless if the landing page they push traffic to had poor content.  You may be able to push visitors somewhere, but if you don’t have quality content, you’ll have trouble getting them to stay.

Choosing Between PPC, SEO, & Content Marketing

An optimal content marketing strategy is one that includes focused, well-written content that addresses the intent and needs of your target audience.  It also includes a distribution strategy, whether that’s on your social media pages, in emails, or tied to your SEO and PPC efforts.

So, back to the original question – which one is best?  If you need immediate visibility to get in front of a targeted audience, then PPC is your best bet.  But – and this is a big “but” – every PPC campaign will direct traffic to a specific landing page.

If the content on that landing page (or really, your entire site) leaves more to be desired, you’re going to see increased bounce rates, a lot of money going out, and minimal revenue coming in to justify that PPC budget.

If you want to start working your way up the SERP ladder, and you have some time, then SEO is likely going to play an essential role in your efforts because you are consistently working towards dominance in a specific niche or for specific keywords.  

In other words, SEO provides a great way to lay the foundation for future success. And, since it’s typically more affordable than a long-term PPC campaign, SEO allows you to spread a wider net (targeting numerous keywords) without liquidating your budget.

Content Marketing vs SEO vs PPC: tips

A successful SEO campaign is far more than keyword research and some cleverly placed words. The same is true for a PPC campaign – you can’t simply pay your way to the top and expect revenue to come rolling in.

Though we’re talking about three unique marketing methods, SEO and PPC will never live to their true potential if there isn’t an honest effort towards content marketing. Today, consumers and search engines alike are both driven by highly relevant, well-written content. Even a meticulously designed PPC campaign and a laboriously researched keyword list are nothing without supporting content.

Whereas PPC and SEO can boost curb appeal, the content inside is what helps visitors decide if they want to pull up a chair and hang out for a while, or, as many hope, head over to the cart and make a purchase.  Masterfully crafted marketing strategies (email, PPC, SEO, Social, etc.,) matter little if what follows doesn’t engage the reader. A solid content marketing strategy will do that.

So which do you need?  A healthy mix of everything can help you increase reach and maintain visibility, but at the heart of it all, a robust and meaningful content marketing strategy that incorporates SEO tactics is going to give you the biggest ROI.



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