SEO vs AdWords: What's the difference?
  • 21 Oct 2021
  • 4 Minutes to read
  • Contributors
  • Dark

SEO vs AdWords: What's the difference?

  • Dark

AdWords vs SEO is an old debate that has raged between in the digital marketing field for years. One will always say that the other is worse, and will scream it in their face until they’re blue. This article isn’t going to decide which one is better because to be completely honest, they are both just as good as each other, the beginning and the end of what’s better for you is that “it depends”.

Firstly what is SEO; going to our trusty old friend Google to get a definition – SEO is Search Engine Optimisation, which is the endeavour to improve the online visibility of a website or a web page in a given search engine’s unpaid results — often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.

And what is AdWords; Google AdWords is an online advertising service developed by Google, where advertisers pay to display brief advertising copy, product listings, and video content within the Google ad network to web users.

Primarily, the differenc between both forms of advertising are as follows; SEO is organic, it takes a longer period to sit at the top of Google. AdWords, however, will only work when you turn it on and are paying per click if you don’t pay you won’t rank.

Let’s look at several key factors and compare the two forms of marketing


Price is always a key factor when it comes to choosing a form of advertising for your business. You don’t want to spend the world on marketing, but you want to make sure you’re getting bang for your buck. Adwords is nearly always going to cost more to implement. This is simply because of the nature of the platform, every time someone clicks on one of your ads you must pay money to Google.

Whereas SEO is usually charged at a fixed monthly cost (or hourly depending on the type of agency you’re dealing with).

Let’s say you spent 1000 dollars on both advertising platforms. Once the 1000 dollars of your AdWords budget was spent, that’s it. You have no long-lasting effects on your website, you have to give more money to Google to keep displaying your ad at the top of their results.

However with SEO if you spend 1000 for a month with an SEO agency (as an example) and you decide to stop doing work with the SEO company, the effects will be much long term. This is simply because the changes made to your website with SEO aren’t a thing that can be “turned off”.

Speed to ROI

If you want more or less immediate leads from your website, the quicker solution will almost always be AdWords. This is simply because of the “off and on” nature of AdWords. Once you have perfected your campaign to the point where as soon as you give budget to your campaign, you know you will get leads, the speed to lead is almost instant.

Whereas with SEO it takes time to build momentum behind a campaign enough to get a website to the top of Google.

This is simply because all the websites you will be competing against have probably been doing SEO for months if not years. And you must make the SEO on your site better then all your competitors.

Increasing Asset Value

One very attractive benefit of investing in SEO is that it creates value-over-time. If you own a domain that is ranked top of the list in the SERPs for a highly profitable, high search frequency and high purchase-intent keyword, then the value of owning that domain would be retained for example if you were to sell your website, domain, brand or company to someone else.

While it may be tempting to let the website “coast” once you’ve out-competed your competition, it’s worth at least continuing to maintain that position by leveraging SEO investment and defending the competitive advantage you’ve gained in your niche.


In conclusion, neither platform is better then one another, if your pushed for time and really need leads into your business, and have the cash, go with AdWords.

If your happy being a little more patient and wanting more “long-term” results go with SEO.

Ultimately AdWords can be a fantastic advertising tool when used correctly. It allows you to (if you set it up properly) get your business in front of potentially thousands of people in only a few clicks of the mouse. However the obvious downside with AdWords is the fact that you have to pay for every single click you get, and once your budget runs out, you will have no more leads

SEO, on the other hand, you don’t have to pay for each click that goes through to your website. However, it takes longer to get to the top of Google (there is no real timeframe estimate any SEO could give you, but I usually tell my clients that within three months of starting the SEO campaign you will see a significant increase in their rankings). The good thing about SEO is even if you stop working with an SEO agency, the effects of SEO will stick around for a little while, even after you have stopped paying them.

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