A question we often get asked here at Digital Hothouse is where people should be putting their budget – Paid Search or SEO. Although our answer will differ from client to client, the basic response is always the same; paid search will get you traffic in the short term and if you want to keep attracting traffic then SEO is crucial and should work alongside your paid search activity.

SEO is the foundation

SEO should be the foundation of your website. Making sure that your site is optimised for search should be the starting point whether you are a new business or you have been around for years. Optimising for search is about optimising your site for humans whilst obeying the guidelines and rules put in place by search engines. Good SEO is a combination of on and off page activity and also how you structure information in the back end of the site to allow search bots to crawl the site more easily and understand how your website works.

Getting this right should be the first step that you take as in the long run, this is going to help you rank well organically but more than that, if you optimise your site for users and ensure a positive experience when someone visits your site, this will also work well for any paid search campaign that drives traffic to your website.

Paid search has short term benefits

Paid search can be an excellent way of driving relevant traffic to your website as well as giving you the ability to ‘rank’ better than your competitors and large global organisations if you have the budget. The most common form of paid search is Google AdWords and this can give you an immediate presence in the search results pages. This can be especially good if you are a new business and you know your SEO activity is going to take a few months to kick in.

Benefits of paid search:

  • Time – unlike organic SEO activity, paid search is immediate. It’s relatively straightforward to set up a campaign and with the simple click of a button, your site can appear at the top of Google search results for specific terms if you are willing to pay enough.
  • Targeting – PPC campaigns can be targeted to reach specific audiences and you can segment on a number of different elements including location, age, gender, industry etc
  • Reporting – perhaps one the biggest advantages of using paid search is that it is easier for you to see which keywords are working for you in real time and which aren’t and tweak your campaign accordingly. You can also report back on how each campaign performs, helping you to refine your activity and make better informed decisions both in terms of paid search and SEO.

Time, targeting and reporting are the main benefits of paid search and getting a presence quickly in Google can be hugely advantageous, especially at certain times of the year or when you launch a new site. There are however some drawbacks of using paid search:

  • Cost – probably the biggest barrier to companies doing more AdWords activity is the cost. The more competitive the keyword, the higher the price you will have to bid in order to rank for that term.
  • Time – although it is a benefit that you can launch a paid search campaign immediately, as soon as you stop paying, you stop appearing for those terms so your impact can be minimal if you don’t have a huge budget.
  • Trust – there is a natural distrust from people towards clicking on a paid advert in the search results. Our research shows that around 80% of clicks are still made on the organic results so it is crucial that any AdWords campaign is managed effectively to maximise its potential revenue.


Although it is relatively simple to set up a Google AdWords campaign, to manage your campaigns effectively takes skill and expertise and the time taken to do it well should not be underestimated. We have an expert team of people who manage our AdWords accounts 24/7, helping to ensure the best possible outcomes for your business and ensuring your budget is spent on those keywords that are driving the most relevant traffic that converts.

Working together

Our experience has shown that SEO and paid search should always work together and so the question ‘Paid search vs SEO – which should you be focusing on?’ should perhaps read ‘Paid search and SEO – how do they work together?’ There are without a doubt many benefits to using paid search and with the right budget and good management of your account, AdWords expenditure month after month should still bring sales and revenue at a positive ROI. After all, if your account is managed correctly, each click should generate you a profit that makes the advertising worthwhile in the first place.

SEO is our core business here at Digital Hothouse and there’s a good reason for that. We see SEO as the best long term strategy for driving relevant traffic to your website that is the most likely to convert. As an agency that also has a strong track record in managing successful paid search campaigns, we definitely get why AdWords is such an attractive proposition; immediate presence on Google and the ability to ‘rank’ well for targeted keywords. That’s why we encourage our clients to look at a combination of SEO and paid search if they want to drive the long term success of their website.

No reason to pick one or the other

To go back to the original question in this blog, we see no reason why you should pick one over the other. In order to be successful in the online marketplace, we think it is important to focus on both paid search and SEO. It could also be argued that one other element should make up the perfect combination and that would be conversion rate optimisation. Making sure that the pages that people land on either organically or through paid search are optimised for conversion is a vital cog in the wheel. Some would argue that this falls under paid search and that landing pages should be optimised when a campaign is set up. Others would say this is an SEO job and that all your product or campaign pages should be optimised for conversion. Either way, we know how important it is to ensure that people landing on your site are given the best experience that makes them most likely to convert.

When you have top ranking through Search Engine Optimisation along with a good Paid Search position, you are covering both bases. Not only that, but it is proven that a top position in both SEO and Paid Search doesn’t cannibalise each other, it actually leads to an uplift in visits that you otherwise wouldn’t have got.

When a brand new website goes live, the question of whether to go with SEO or Paid Search is often asked of us. Paid Search definitely has the upper hand as you can start advertising there and then and start to bring in visits, sales and revenue. However, we advise against just choosing Paid Search because if it’s done correctly, it should pay for the investment required in SEO. Waiting 6 months until you’ve started to get sales and revenue to be able to pay for SEO only puts your chances of ranking on SEO back 6 months – at which point, there’s a high chance of other competitors entering the marketplace and the job of ranking on SEO is made even harder.

Talk to us

We have a lot of experience and expertise both in SEO and paid search and feel confident that we can help your business to grow and develop online. If you find yourself asking whether you should spend your budget on SEO or paid search, give us a call and find out why you don’t need to choose one or the other and let us help you get the best out of both.

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