What is the difference between PPC and Inbound? A Speedboat or a Sailboat.

9 min read

Inbound Sales SEO

The other day we were talking with a client about ways to speed up their marketing. We talked about how when inbound marketing is in place properly that a PPC campaign can speed things up. 

So, how does that work?  When should you use it?  Is it right for you?  Let's find out.

If you understand the details of how paid search marketing works and how it differs from organic search, you can use both of these aspects of search engine marketing (SEM) to drive traffic, leads and therefore ultimately revenue, to your website and your business. 

Paid vs. Organic Search

Organic search results are the search results naturally produced by a search engine. Based on complex algorithms, like Penguin and Panda, searcher’s queries are answered with results that closely meet their needs. Using widely accepted search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, you can influence these search results to a degree.

Paid search is where search engine providers allow you to pay to place an ad above or alongside the organic search results.

The ads you provide for placements will be displayed based on the keywords searchers use for their search queries. Whether, where, and when your paid ad is displayed is on based on how relevant your ad is to a search query and how much you are willing to pay (compared to your competitors) to display the ad.

About 70 percent of people will click on organic search results while about 30 percent will click on paid search ads. 

Although it would be nice to succeed online solely based on organic search results, the reality for every business is that paid search helps to supplement your efforts to get found online and can over time improve your organic search efforts while driving traffic to your website right now.

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Paid search, while effective, is not a replacement for anything; it should be an integral part of a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy. When a user sees your website displayed in both organic search results and as a paid search ad, it signals to them that you are a force to be reckoned with in your niche.

You simply need more promotion on your awesome content.

Paying for ads is not the same as paying for more customers, likes, or shares.

It’s quite simple:

If your business gets promoted and consumer clicks on your ad, but it leads to a dated website with little-to-no useful information (we’ve all been there, am I right?), that consumer isn’t going to be a lead.

Before you make your paid ad purchase, there is one absolute must: your offer must align with your ad. When a visitor clicks on your paid ad, it's important that they know what to expect when they click. You already have great content, now the paid ad should help get it to the right audience at the right time.

Benefits of PPC

If you've worked hard to make your content absolutely drool-worthy, your offers are top notch, and your landing pages are stunning–gorgeous and solve your personas major pain points, PPC could be the way to go.

In 2016, paid ads contributed $78 billion to Google’s revenue, and the numbers have only been growing since 2001.

Here's the truth:

People still click on paid ads and are clicking on them more and more. Clearly! 

Even in an Inbound Marketing era with a greater focus on organic search traffic, paid ads are here to stay. But instead of thinking of that purchased Google reality as a pest, see that it’s actually a great way for your content receive visibility where it hadn’t before.

You can target keywords that you’re struggling to rank for in organic search and drive traffic to your landing pages for more lead conversion.


To use paid search properly, you must understand how it is best implemented to drive real-time results while improving organic search results long-term.

1. Landing Page Testing

Paid search is an ideal way to test and optimize landing pages using A/B testing. A/B testing is when you test two variations of a given campaign element. You can set a single ad to drive users to two distinct landing pages.

You can test one offer’s effectiveness against another, test different layouts and even test different features on forms. Using A/B testing, you can find the elements of your campaigns that drive the highest conversion rates from leads to customers.

2. Finding New Keywords

Paid search is also an excellent way to find new keywords to use in your overall inbound marketing campaigns.

As you create your paid search campaign, Google AdWords can generate keyword ideas for you. Although you may have chosen to only use “vending machines” as your search term, Google may also display other effective terms, such as “healthy vending machines,” “vending machine business,” or “used vending machines.” You can then decide if adding any of these terms to your campaign is worthwhile.

Knowing which keywords result in high search traffic can help you not only improve your paid campaigns but your organic efforts as well. You can use these keywords and phrases for SEO or to build landing pages thus optimizing all your inbound marketing efforts.

3. Getting in the Game

You can also use paid search to improve your visibility in specific areas and for search terms where you have not yet been as successful as you’d like to be. A well-placed search ad will get you seen and noticed therefore boosting your efforts to get ranked favorably in organic search results for this secondary keyword. Better yet, if your competitors are not running search ads for this term, your ad will appear at or near the top of the list, giving you a competitive edge.

Measuring with Metrics


Four basic metrics count most when evaluating your paid search efforts to increase your online performance: impressions, clicks, conversions and spend.

Impressions. This is the number of times your ad has been displayed. People may or may not have seen it or clicked on it, but they have been given the opportunity to be exposed to it via an impression.

Clicks. This is when someone who has been exposed to your ad actually clicks on it taking them to your landing page.

Conversions. Using Google Analytics or marketing automation software like HubSpot will allow you to track user actions to know when someone has taken the desired action from your landing page, such as purchasing your product or downloading a coupon or special content, such as an ebook.

Spend. Your spend is the amount of money you have spent on your AdWords campaign for any given time period (or to date).

Paid search is not a substitute for inbound marketing, it’s an integral part of it. Master your inbound marketing fundamentals first – blogging, lead generation, SEO, and so on – then, use what you’ve learned from those efforts to optimize your paid search initiatives.

Continue to track, monitor, analyze, and optimize. The more you know about the effectiveness of every element of your paid search campaigns, the more effective, and cost-effective, they will be.

What about Blogging vs. PPC: Which Is A Better Value?


When Blogging Beats PPC

Unlike an advertisement, a blog post lasts forever at no cost—which means it acts as a conversion tool for a long time. That's why blogging is a good solution for a long-term, continuous campaign. A blog post will continue to promote your company long after it's originally published. But an ad only helps for as long as you foot the cost.

If you're targeting a highly competitive keyword or your market is oversaturated, blogging is the way to go. The cost per click for those often-searched keywords can get pretty pricey—you'd need a ton of clicks to see an actual ROI. On the other hand, a blog about the popular topic can gain traffic—and potential customers—from social media promotion, email marketing, and referrals.
A blog post is better if your campaign focuses on something nobody searches for. Maybe that means you have a genius, innovative idea; maybe you coined a new term that could totally change your industry. That's awesome—way to be creative! But if no one's searching for your product or service, no one will see your PPC ad, and you'll just lose money. Instead, write a blog post to inform your current contacts and future site visitors about your brilliant idea.

When PPC Beats Blogging

When you need fast results, PPC can help. After all, 41% of clicks on search result pages go to the top three promoted spots, according to Wordstream. You can bet you'll get more traffic quickly by paying for one of those coveted spots. Blog posts take longer to gain traction, so PPC will help you meet fast-approaching deadlines.

For time-sensitive campaigns, you'll likely see a better ROI with pay-per-click ads. If your goods or services are seasonal—think pool maintenance or winter sports equipment, for example—running a campaign during that time could give you a big boost in sales. Plus, losing the ad at the end of the season won't hurt.

While blogs can help you reach your marketing objectives, PPC ads give you a leg up in creating a direct route to reaching those goals. For example, let's say your goal is to increase leads by 20% in two months. Instead of making a site visitor click to your blog, then click on a call-to-action, and then filling out a form on a landing page, your PPC ad can link directly to that landing page. Visitors will save time—making them more likely to convert to contacts.


So, Which Should I Use?

Ideally, with an endless marketing budget and more than 24 hours in the day, you could write blogs about campaigns, use PPC ads for the campaign, and even promote blog posts with PPC ads. But that’s probably not realistic for most businesses.

Here's how to decide:

You'll have to consider your specific goals and the nature of your products and services.

For example, if decreasing bounce rate is your goal, blogging might be better. If increasing contacts in a short timeframe is your goal, PPC will be more effective. If you have time-sensitive offers, pay-per-click will probably create a greater ROI.

Don't forget to think about where your prospects spend their time online.

If Twitter is your ideal customer's homepage, spending more time on your social media strategy might be the most effective approach. If your buyer personas Google everything, a PPC ad will be your best bet.
Simply put, there's no black-and-white answer (is there ever?).

But remember this:

Your main objective is to create a window to help prospects find your relevant content and services.

If you’ve just started your businesses, if you have a small following, or just don’t have enough links to your website content to help you rank in search results, investing some of your budget into paid ads can promote your inbound content.

This aligns with our first point:

Your already-brilliant content can be more easily found. In due time, your small following won’t be so small, your website will generate leads, and your inbound strategy can gather your more earned and organic marketing. Paid content can be the fuel to your business’s fiery take-off.


Paid marketing might sound like a risky investment, or it might seem to run counter-intuitive to the inbound methodology, but with the right content and the right strategy it can be a very useful tool for your brand. It doesn’t have to be a long-term thing, but it can produce long-term results for your inbound strategy. Don’t be afraid to jump into it–it could be the one thing your content needs to drive some of that organic, earned traffic.