PPC Ads Vs Content Marketing: Which Is Better?

author image Written by: Lia           Categories - Digital Marketing, SEO Tips>Ad Management, SEO Tips>Content Marketing

When to Adapt Your Marketing Strategy to Focus On One, The Other, or Both

Trying to figure out where to focus your marketing efforts? Deciding between pay-per-click (PPC) ad management and content marketing can be a challenge. Both offer impressive results, and both take unique approaches to get there. If you’re focused on which one is more likely to increase your brand awareness, reach, and bottom line, then it’s time to rethink your approach. These strategies aren’t mutually exclusive, nor do they exist in an “either/or” vacuum. Content marketing is known for boosting conversions and playing a significant role in SEO efforts. But PPC ads can get you to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) instantly. Depending on your situation, one might be a better choice than the other – and at some point, further down the road, you might want to switch from one approach to another. But as we said, these two marketing strategies don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Each has their own costs and benefits. And when used together, they can be stronger. We’ve put together a handy a comparison of PPC ad management and content marketing, and how each can support your business’s marketing efforts.

A stressed office worker holds his head in has hands as he leans over a report and cup of coffee.
Choosing between marketing strategies shouldn’t cause you undue stress. Set goals and act accordingly – you can always shift strategies later.

Short-Term and Long-Term ROI

PPC Ads – Immediate Visibility & Fast Results

PPC advertisements give you a coveted top spot on SERPs, which can boost traffic to your site and provide a short-term ROI.

Pro: PPC Ads Get You to the Top of SERPs Immediately

After bidding relevant target keywords with Google AdWords, you will end up at the top of Google search results pages. This gives you instant reach and visibility to users who are often looking to make a purchase. And because of the bidding process, combined with effective negative keyword usage (i.e., terms you don’t want to trigger your ads showing up in a SERP), you can effectively target your intended audience.

Con: You Lose Visibility When You Stop Paying

Unlike content marketing that keeps ranking and giving you visibility over time, PPC ads disappear when you stop paying for them. While there’s a cost associated with both options, when you pause content marketing efforts, its continues to work for you passively.

Pro: PPC Ads Can Be Affordable

Depending on your industry and search terms, you may be surprised with how affordable PPC ads are. While the average cost-per-click (CPC) across industries is around $3.00 CAD, the CPC for certain industries can be as low as $0.23. Additionally, by effectively managing your budget and specifically tailoring your search terms and negative keywords, you can create truly efficient campaigns that stretch your dollar.

Con: Greater Cost in the Long Run

It’s called Pay-Per-Click for a reason, after all. Every time a user clicks on your ad, it takes a slice out of your allocated budget. Those costs can add up over time, especially if you want to maintain a campaign in the long term. This is especially troubling if your page isn’t converting – but thankfully, you can always make changes based on the data you’re seeing. All the same, there’s no guarantee that your efforts will generate the conversions and business you need to sustain the cycle.

A calendar sits in the middle of a desk, surrounded by a dossier, newspaper, notebook, agenda, laptop, smartphone, and other business items.
Planning is important for both options, but content marketing in particular requires careful planning and monitoring for true success.

Content Marketing – The Gift that Keeps on Giving… Eventually

The goal of content marketing is to build trust and loyalty with a target audience, which will provide a long-term ROI. But, as with all SEO efforts, you need to get a running start. There’s a common misconception that content marketing is something you just “do,” that somehow it generates results instantly. While that instant success isn’t unheard of, content marketing takes significant effort over time to generate truly meaningful results.

Pro: Higher-Quality Leads & Better Conversions

As your content starts ranking, the leads you attract from organic search will be higher-quality than those from PPC. This may sound counter-intuitive, but think about it: with content marketing, you don’t find leads – they find you. Content marketing can generate the largest amount of leads and provide a higher conversion rate, but you’ve got some work to do before you can get to that point.

Con: Content Marketing Takes Time

It takes time and dedication to see any ROI from your content marketing efforts. You likely won’t see results until a few months after publishing your content. Typically, true results won’t be visible until the three-month mark, if that.

Pro: Cost-Effective Marketing

You’re not paying for each click in this case. Your costs are production-centric with content marketing. And when you “stop” or pause your content marketing efforts, the work you’ve done to get to a certain point continues to provide value. Because it’s been indexed and continues to exist online, accruing backlinks, authority, and references, in theory, each piece of content can continue to stand on its own. In practice, though, you’ll find that other content marketers’ efforts might top your own after a time. Ongoing maintenance and management are a must, but even that cost is typically lower than a PPC campaign.

Con: You Need Good Content

For content marketing to work, you need to create authoritative and informative content that attracts and engages your audience. If you don’t have any skilled content creators on your team, it’s time to get cracking.

Pro: Digital Marketing Agencies Exist to Provide Quality Content

Luckily for you, there are digital marketing agencies that have qualified writers and content creators on staff. They will create quality content for your content marketing strategy, match your brand voice, and use SEO best practices. As you can see, there are pros and cons to both approach. Choosing between them can be a serious challenge! So why not choose both?

Why Not Choose Both?

Budget considerations and concerns are likely top-of-mind when you’re examining your marketing approach. After all, you don’t want to put all your budget behind the “wrong” option – but the “wrong” option largely depends on your goals. Setting clear, attainable goals for your marketing efforts is a vital first step. When you know what you’re trying to do, then you can determine the steps you need to take to make it happen: When you want immediate and targeted visibility to drive traffic to existing or tailored content, such as that of a unique landing page, then PPC is your go-to approach. But you won’t have successful PPC without quality content. If users click on your ads to find poorly-written content that isn’t relevant or useful, they will leave. You won’t get anywhere with the ads you’re constantly paying for if they don’t retain and convert visitors.

A woman in a black dress holding a mug with "Like a Boss" written on it.
Take the best of both worlds and put them to work for you – like a boss.

Developing Ongoing Strategies For PPC & Content Marketing

Audit Content

Figure out what content you have that could be used in your PPC ad campaigns. This audit will leave you with a list of all content you can use for PPC content marketing, known as a bill of materials (BOM).

  • Identify content marketing goals;
  • List all available content;
  • Include whether the content is evergreen or time-sensitive; and
  • Include the content format.

Research Target Audiences

Audience research will help you choose the most effective content and PPC channels to use to reach your target audiences. Make sure to segment groups of audiences by creating personas for each. The PPC channels you will likely use include:

  • Google Search
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Map Content to the Buyer Journey

All the content you listed in your content audit can suit a stage in the buyer journey. The buyer journey consists of stages potential buyers go through on their way to making final purchase decisions. Mapping your content audit to the buyer journey helps you find the best channels for the content and create effective ad copy. While there may be smaller steps in between, map your content to the main stages of the buyer journey:

  • Awareness—i.e. blog posts and overview videos;
  • Consideration—i.e. e-books, white papers, and solution briefs;
  • Evaluation—i.e. reviews, guides, and case studies; and
  • Decision/Purchase—i.e. product trials and demos.

Track & Measure Content Results

Track the results and performance of all your content across PPC and other marketing campaigns. Track the content ID, the type of content, and the buyer journey phase. This data will help you learn which content performs best. You can then use this information to create new content and optimize your PPC content marketing campaigns. Content marketing improves conversions and is a stable, cost-effective approach for long-term ROI. When combined with PPC ad management, you’ll increase and retain incoming traffic by giving them something useful and engaging to read. Boost visibility, brand awareness, reach, traffic, conversions, and your bottom line. With PPC content marketing strategies, you can have the best of both worlds.


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