The main difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) is that traffic coming from SEO (organic) is free while traffic generated from PPC is not free (as the name implies you have to pay a cost per click).
This is also the reason why you may sometimes see the terms organic search engine listings and paid search engine listings (or Paid Search Advertising – PSA).
Both SEO and PPC are part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) which is one of the tools you can use as part of your overall Internet Marketing campaign.
I will try to explain the other major differences between the two by using the following parameters: position in search results, cost, traffic potential, conversion and ease of use.
Organic Traffic vs. Paid Search Advertising
Position in Search Results
As you can see from the screenshot above you can expect to find PPC Ads above the organic results and on the bottom.
Where exactly your ad will appear depends on a number of factors (i.e. the keywords you are targeting, keywords in your ad copy, keywords in your landing page and many more) but it’s either on top or below the organic results.
Organic results can only appear in the middle of the page. Whether your listing will appear in the top positions or first pages this depends on how optimized your web site is both in terms of on-site and off-site SEO.
I have mentioned above that SEO traffic is free and PPC is paid and while this is absolutely true, you should understand that it needs a lot of effort and hard work to get free traffic from search engines.
The competition is high for almost every keyword you can search and you really need to have a high quality web site and a great SEO plan to get one of the top 5 positions.
There are no shortcuts despite what some “SEO” companies are trying to sell you. If you are not familiar how search engines work or don’t know anything about SEO then the best way to get search engine traffic is to hire an SEO expert to do the work you.
On the other hand, Pay Per Click cost depends on a number of other factors.
If we take for example the cost per click of advertising with the most popular PPC system, Google Adwords, then it depends on the popularity of the keyword, on the number of advertisers who want to use the particular keyword, the number of related web sites that have ad positions for the particular keyword and many more.
If it sounds a bit complicated then it probably is, despite the efforts made by Google to make the whole system easier to use.
The good news with PPC is that you only pay for the clicks your ad receives and not for the views.
In addition, you can determine in advance your daily budget and pay no more than that and you can calculate an estimate of what is the average cost per click for the keywords you want to target.
As you can see from the screenshot below the Google Keyword tool (which is part of Google Adwords) gives you an estimate for the CPC (cost per click) for each keyword.