SEO vs. PPC vs. SMM – Where Best To Invest Your Marketing Muscle

SEO vs. PPC vs. SMM – Where Best To Invest Your Marketing Muscle

This blog has been co-authored by Barry Buckman and Fran Jakubowicz

An interesting back story.

In a recent LinkedIn post, I asked marketing colleagues the following: 

“What will be your big digital marketing investment this year? Slow but Steady SEO? Quick & high converting PPC? The power of social media?”

Participants were given three options to choose from; SEO, PPC, or SMM – and they could only choose one answer.  The very question, was near impossible to respond to because a good digital marketing campaign almost invariably includes an omnichannel approach, right? And what about the plethora of marketing strategies I omitted like email marketing, influencer marketing, and beyond?  Still, my goal was to get a visceral response from my peers to ascertain how they were most likely prioritizing marketing in-house.  Here are the results of the poll:

Do You Want to 10X Your Revenue this Year?

  Contact us today!

SEO vs PPC vs SMM – Where Best to Invest

As the poll above showed, while SEO was the winner, PPC and SMM weren’t far behind.  It’s confusing, even for veteran marketers, to decide where best to invest their digital marketing efforts. To make a judicious decision, marketers need to consider a number of variables including: 

  • Goals
  • Audience
  • Industry
  • Budget
  • Location
  • Timeline

Let’s start to explore these 3 core digital marketing pillars (with some useful resources listed after each section).

What is SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a system to gain visibility in Google and other search engines by ranking in queries (for non-branded keywords or keyphrases) that will showcase your website’s pages in search results, ultimately generating more and targeted website traffic. The more high-quality traffic you have from organic traffic, the higher likelihood that you will achieve your online goals.


  • SEO traffic is free (with a caveat. There is a BIG investment in content creation).
  • High visibility in organic search from SEO activities helps to position businesses as the experts in their space and supports reputation management. It also positions the brand as an authority in Google, which increases the likelihood that Google will continue to serve up these pages.
  • On-page SEO (which relates to SEO of website content) is accessible for anyone, independent of ad budget (as long as the brand is willing to put in sweat equity).
  • Organic traffic can be tracked in Google Analytics and Google Search Console (both free Google tools).


  • It’s a slow process and takes many months and even years to gain real footing on competitive keywords – even more so if you’re a new domain.
  • As mentioned above, there is a big investment of both upfront and ongoing optimized content development and website optimization to meet the demands of Google updates.
  • To enjoy the benefits of technical SEO you will need to have basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, etc. or you will have to hire a professional. 
  • Link building, one of the many tactics used in SEO can be painstaking, and often companies end up hiring third-party agencies to take on this arduous task.
  • It’s not a slam dunk that all of your hard work will get you the results you desire.
  • Organic rankings are often dominated by large brands and entities with extensive backlinks, making the barrier to entry very high.
  • You are completely at the mercy of Google’s whims. If Google changes its algorithm in a way that devalues your website and wipes out your rankings – so be it. You could see an instant, massive reduction in traffic and revenue, and you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.
  • Building on the point above; in the SEO realm, Google does not care about you. Your site is nothing more than a brick in the wall. It’s organic algorithms are not built to help you succeed.  Instead it’s there to give users the best content and search experience possible.  PPC, on the otherhand relies on algorithms specifically built to help you reach your goals.


Want to get more SunHouse Marketing advice? Contact us today!

What is PPC

Sometimes known as paid search marketing or search engine advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) is an advertising model used to drive targeted traffic to a website (or app). In simple terms, an advertiser (website owner) will pay a publisher (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to place an ad on their network and pay the publisher for that exposure . In its most classical form, Google (and Bing) search ads allow advertisers to bid on relevant keywords in an ads auction that will help them reach targeted potential customers, and pay Google every time their ad is clicked

The nature and mindset of PPC is very different from that of SEO. Your focus will not be on rankings or even traffic. Instead, you will need to be hyperfocused on metrics such as conversion rates, cost per aquisition, and the return on investment that your campaigns provide for you. 

A paid social media campaign (sometimes referred to as social advertising) also falls under the umbrella of PPC.  Serving up ads to a targeted audience based on interest and demographic targeting as opposed to keywords, these ads are designed to achieve a number of digital goals (sales, leads, app downloads, etc.) video views, and many other KPIs. 


  • Ad platforms’ algorithms are built to help you reach your marketing goals. For example, if you have a goal of $40 per conversion, you can simply enter this goal in your campaign, and Google’s algorithm will work tirelessly to reach this objective. Simply put – your goals matter.
  • PPC is far more inclusive and democratic than SEO. Whereas organic search is often ruled by large entities and brands, a business of almost any size can run an effective PPC ad campaign. 
  • You can build and structure a campaign around your goals, and define exactly how much you are willing to pay for a conversion. This in turn enables you to scale your campaign while ensuring that you maintain your desired ROI.
  • You can start getting results immediately
  • You won’t have to worry about Google’s algorithmic changes throwing a monkey wrench into your campaigns.
  • Campaigns can be optimized to your specific marketing goal (such as leads, return on ad spend, or brand awareness)
  • Through ads on Facebook or Google Display, you can reach your target audience even when they are not searching for you. This is obviously not possible through SEO.


  • If you aren’t working with a professional (usually a professional who is a certified Google Ads Partner) you can suffer from a lot of wasted ad dollars from “leaky” campaigns. More than 25% of ad budget is wasted by inexperienced marketers when they bid on keywords that are either too broad, nonrelevant keywords, or from poor bidding practices.

PPC Resources

What is SMM?

According to Wikipedia, social media (think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube,  LinkedIn, etc.) “are interactive digital channels that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression through virtual communities and networks”.  There are two types of Social Media Marketing (SMM) approaches, organic and paid:

Organic Social Media

An organic (non-paid) social marketing campaign will be built around published curated content on one or more popular social media platforms to build a brand’s consumer fan base. Content may include posts, memes, videos, photos, stories, and more. To target audiences, marketers need to rely on hashtags, the use of audience-specific groups based on interest or industry, and a/b testing of content to manually see who is engaging with your content with the hopes that they are relevant.


  • The top social media platforms give companies the ability to create free online company profiles while allowing the platform’s users the ability to “follow” any company that resonates with them. This gives businesses the ability to discover new and limitless audiences – and there is always the chance that your content will go viral.
  • You can publish content for free and (with the exception of Facebook where you are severely limited in organic reach without paying for ads) you are able to still reach an impressive number of users organically.
  • Organic social media done right doesn’t cost a dime in ad spend (just elbow grease).
  • Already invested with your brand as they chose to follow your company’s account, social platforms make it easy to engage with followers directly, strengthening brand awareness and eventually brand loyalty.
  • Connect with and message with your customers directly to monitor real-time, customer feedback and create a personalized experience.
  • All social platforms offer paid ad opportunities through their business accounts, allowing businesses to reach vast audiences through demographic, interest, and behavioral targeting.
  • Increased social media exposure,  whether through organic or paid efforts lead to more website traffic and conversions.


  • While SMM is an effective way to engage with your existing audience, it will not help you gain new clients or customers (or revenue). You’re going to need ad campaigns or SEO to acheive that goal.
  • Along those lines – SMM is not ROI-centric. The main KPI’s of SMM efforts will be based around engagement, whereas the KPI’s of ad campaigns will be based around money in your bank account.
  • With all that direct communication with customers expect at least some negative feedback.
  • Like other ad campaign types, a campaign done right will be efficient while a campaign done wrong can become an expensive and ineffective waste.
  • Content creation is very time-consuming, laborious, and requires skill in order to stand out from your competitors.  And trends change so that companies are required to be nimble in moving from one content type to another.
  • Posting content that is poorly received and where users react negatively can leave you very publically vulnerable.
  • Successful brands need to post frequently, either daily or multiple times a week, which makes the act of scheduling and publishing content an arduous task.  With all that activity, you’ll want users to engage highly which will also require you to respond to comments in a timely fashion.

Social Media Marketing Resouces

What Digital Marketing Goals Do You Want to Accomplish?

To keep things simple we’ve broken down goals into 3 main categories:  Lead Generation,  eCommerce product sales and brand awareness. Which will be the right channels to achieve these goals? Read on.

Lead Generation

Digital lead generation is the process of identifying, attracting, and transforming online users into a prospect or “lead”. The lifeblood of any business, a lead is identified when a user shows interest in a company’s products or services by taking an action.  Depending upon campaign goals i.e. engaging with users at the top of the funnel vs. the Bottom of the funnel, a sales team may identify these users by type:

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): A user who has downloaded a whitepaper or filled out a quiz in exchange for an email address but isn’t ready to be contacted by phone.  They are in the warmup stage and will likely be added to an email drip campaign or remarketing campaign for further warm-up.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): A user who has filled out a contact form or clicked to call the company directly. In other words, they are showing clear interest in becoming a customer.

Recommended Channel: PPC

PPC will be the most successful source of qualified leads (and service-based sales) for a lead generation campaign. There are a variety of paid channels to consider with Google Search being only one.  Consider if you are targeting a B2C (business to customer) or B2B (business to business) audience.

B2B Leads:

  • Depending on your industry, you may find that there is enough search volume on relevant keywords to roll out a Google Search Ads campaign. If there is enough volume to support a search campaign, this will usually be the best-bet for a winning campaign.
  • LinkedIn ads are possibly the most effective way to reach a very specific B2B  audience with the ability to target by industry, company size, seniority, industry groups and skill base. Suggested ad types for lead generation include text and dynamic ads or dynamic messaging, that lead users to a custom landing page (as opposed to a lead generation form which is automatically prefilled and may be too forgettable. This is also true for Facebook).
  • Facebook/Instagram ads allow for Job Title and Industry targeting, and if company size and seniority, aren’t a necessary targeting requisite, it can be a cost-effective alternative to LinkedIn. As well, consider custom and lookalike audiences. Ensure your ad campaigns are optimized for conversions and drive users to a custom landing page.

B2C Leads:

  • It depends on your vertical, but Google search ads will usually be your best bet
  • Facebook ads are also extremely effective, and in certain cases can outperform Google
  • Not mentioned yet, Google Display may also be an option. Not usually considered a bottom-of-the-funnel ad type, Google Display ads can be a successful lead generation channel when you handpick ad placements strategically.

eCommerce Sales

eCommerce refers to transactional sales (buying and selling of goods and services) that occur online, and these can be both B2B or B2C and even C to C (consumer to consumer, think eBay) and C2B (Consumer to Business, think Upwork or Fiverr).

Classically when we think of eCommerce, we think of product sales.  This also has a variety of models like private labeling, dropshipping subscription, Freemium, and beyond. Furthermore, an eCommerce website may be brand-focused or may resell multiple brands, it may be a marketplace (think Amazon). Regardless of the model, when it comes to eCommerce there is a clear winner.

Recommended Channel: PPC

Service sales work very similarly lead generation with one difference.  When a user is driven to a website or landing page, rather than filling out a form, they will be prompted into a funnel to purchase a service directly. Product Sales on the other hand may rely on Google Shopping ads. Shopping ads are possibly the most engaged ad type in Google’s ad network. According to Shopify, “Shopping ads account for over 60% of their paid clicks..and consistently deliver some of the highest return on ad spend of any paid channel.” Shopping ads, also referred to as Product Listing Ads (PLAs), are the ads that appear in Google Search results when a user enters a product-related Google search. They appear in main search results, on the shopping tab in Google, on price comparison engines, and beyond.

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is a marketing term that describes the ability of prospective and current customers to remember or recognize a consumer brand ( as compared to the competition) and to share their brand story and brand values.  It’s one of the first steps in the marketing funnel of a new product or service. In certain verticals, this can serve as an importantThis is a “warm-up” stage to encourage brand trust so that users will go through the funnel and take action.

Recommended channel: Social Media

According to Statista “as of 2022, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 147 minutes per day, up from 145 minutes in the previous year”. With this much usage, combined with excellent targeting capabilities social media has become one of the first places brands invest. Social media channels allow brands to build relationships because the brand can engage directly with users and users can engage directly with the brand in real-time.  Furthermore, it’s one of the least expensive ways to strengthen a relationship and personalize customer experiences, manage customer feedback, answer product or service questions, or just say thank you with a coupon or give-away. It makes the engagement authentic and human.

Social Media is also the only channel that will help you tell your brand story.   Social media provides a myriad of ways to share strong, visual content that will help to tell your story in an impactful and hopefully unforgettable way (think stories, reels, posts, etc.). This is a brand’s opportunity to share why the company was created, how their product or service benefits humanity, showcase the members of their team as well as testimonials from happy customers.

What About SEO?

This is where I’m a little sneaky.

SEO can’t be relied on as a sure-fire methodology to meet your online goals.  That said, it should be unswervingly invested in, despite the fact that it requires an enormous amount of attention, both on site and off as it will drive qualified traffic to your website.  

If we harken back to the poll results shared at the beginning of the article, SEO was the winner, no surprises there –  but there are no “quick fixes” with SEO. It can only be relied on as a long-term strategy. Rely on the recommended channels above to get the most out of your strategic efforts.


  • Fran Jakubowicz

    Fran Jakubowicz is the CEO of SunHouse Marketing, a full service digital marketing agency with a track record of excellence. A digital lead generation expert, Fran and her team have generated hundreds of thousands of leads and millions of dollars in sales for her clients. Fran invests in training and certifying her team across all digital marketing channels to ensure that her clients are benefiting from the freshest digital marketing strategies, Google best practices and tools available. Working across multiple verticals including health, pharmaceutical, finance, law, education, non-profit and eCommerce, Fran and her team have been helping organizations reach their digital goals since 2009. Fran grew up in communications. Early in her career, she worked in her family’s public relations firm, DCI (Dworkin Communications Inc). Since that time Fran has been involved in an impressive array of projects, assisting companies and non-profit organizations to attain their goals. In the days before the internet Fran practiced traditional marketing and PR. With this background, it was only natural for Fran to evolve her skills, and to become a very successful online marketer. In a rare combination, Fran blends over 20 years of experience with her love and passion for the latest and hottest technologies. This unique worldview allows Fran to assist companies to achieve their goals. Connect with Fran on LinkedIn.

Contact SunHouse For Your Free Strategy Session

Rooted in a deep understanding of your market and backed by 15 years of experience and a commitment to results, our strategies are designed not just to attract leads but to convert them into clients, ensuring a high return on investment for your organization.