Google Ads vs. SEO – What’s Better For Your Small Business Right Now?

July 30, 2023
July 30, 2023 Mike Hauben

All businesses should be fighting like hell to rank as high as possible on Google. It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B company, a local storefront, a new startup working from your mom’s basement, a new clothing brand, or anything else – Google absolutely has tools to help you get customers.

But which ones are right for you? As someone who isn’t a digital marketer, it may be a bit daunting to try to figure out which marketing channels are worthwhile and which ones you should focus on. In this article, I’ll give a clear outline of where your business should be focusing its efforts in the biggest arena of them all – Google.


Google 101: How It Works

There are two areas of attack for getting found on Google:

  • Improve your website structure and content so that you eventually start increasing your organic search ranking
  • Pay for Google Ads, which enable you to instantly reach customers who are searching for your exact products and services at the right time

Organic Rankings

Google’s goal is always to show the most relevant website to the search of it’s user, and they decide this by a number of factors. Ultimately, it comes down to relevance. Google constantly sends out little “crawlers” (lines of code) out across the web to explore websites and gather as much information about each website as possible. They use the data they’ve learned to ranks websites based on their relevance in various categories.

Therefore, if you have a burger restaurant in Long Island and want Google to know about it, you should be writing about burgers all the time on your website. This is the first step to getting your website ranked higher on Google – simply by writing content on the topics of your business.

The second best way to increase your Google ranking is to earn “backlinks” from reputable websites. What does this mean? Google considers “links” from other websites as currency. The more times a reputable website links to your website, the more credibility your website has in the eyes of Google. This is another way Google will determine how relevant your website is to the searcher – by noticing that reputable websites are linking to your site. The bigger the website is that links to you, the more weight it will carry in the eyes of Google. For example, if links to your shoe blog, that’s a pretty big deal because Google views as an incredibly reputable website in your niche.

Unfortunately, most companies are surprised by the amount of work it takes to improve their Google rank. Search Engine Optimization – which is the art of improving your website’s organic search rank – is a long-term process. You’re going to have to produce content regularly on your website’s blog to help Google learn the topics and categories of your website. You’re going to have to create buzz and social awareness so brands link to your website. You’ll also have to make sure your website is technically sound, because Google also evaluates your website on it’s load speed and performance. It’s real work, and takes time to build this long-term equity and credibility in Google’s eyes.

And as you’re doing all this work and building all this content, you’ll need to do it at a pace faster than your competitors. They’re trying to increase their SEO rank also, right?

Well, it depends. Many major markets are fiercely competitive and require tremendous effort and budgets to rank high in Google. However, I can confidently tell you that many local business owners are completely neglecting their SEO and aren’t putting any kind of intelligent effort behind their digital marketing.

So what does that mean for you? It means that you should find out how difficult it will be to rank higher in Google and determine if SEO is a viable strategy for your business. It will depend on a few things, but will ultimately come down to your marketplace and how intelligently your competitors are executing their SEO. A reputable digital agency (ahem, like ours) can give you a free audit to give you a clear picture of how much effort you will need to outrank your competitors.

Google Ads

Google Ads are incredible. They’re displayed above the organic Google search results, which is the most prime real estate for your ad in the world. The enormous value of Google Ads is that you can choose precisely the type of person you want to show up to.  Having a great Google Ads campaign behind your business is like having a team of snipers… allowing you to target your customers perfectly when they’re in buying mode.

It starts immediately, too. Google Ads start attracting website clicks as soon as your campaign begins. Unlike SEO – which takes continual website improvements over the long term – Google Ads start appearing at the top of the search results as soon as you’re ready to pay.

Best of all, you only pay if someone actually clicks! For example, our agency pays roughly $1.00 per click for “new york web design agency” and related search terms. If Google displays our ad and someone doesn’t click on it, we don’t pay.

When you start a Google Ads campaign, you’ll begin by telling Google which key terms and phrases you’d like to appear for when someone searches for those terms. You’re competing with other businesses in your market, which will impact how much it costs to advertise for certain words.

The price you pay to be displayed varies on a number of factors. That $1.00 per click I just mentioned? Google actually forecasts that those same keywords should cost our agency $2.34 per click, not the $1.00 we’re paying. So how come we’re paying only $1.00 per click and not $2.34? Because the $2.34 is an average. Some companies are paying more, some are paying less. Luckily, we’re paying less. Thats’s a huge savings over many clicks, and one reason to hire an agency with a lot of experience running Google Ads.  An experienced Google Ads agency will be able to help you achieve much lower ad costs and much higher click rates. Achieving the $1.00 click wasn’t luck or accidental – we achieved this by fine tuning our keywords over months, optimizing our site, and more.

Where You Should Focus

Google Ads and SEO are two completely different marketing strategies. As such, theres no reason you can’t do both at the same time. I would recommend starting with Google Ads to start bringing in immediate traffic. Figure out that piece of the puzzle first and get a consistent base of interested customers coming to your website. Once you have this predictable flow of traffic, you can shift focus to growing your long-term SEO strategy. If you need any help, we’re always here to chat!


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