While these three practices are different from one another and function in separate ways, SEO, PPC, and PR each work best in tandem with each other. The Differences Between Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, and Public Relations

The Differences Between Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, and Public Relations

By Pollotta Digital Marketing | May 4, 2017
The Differences Between Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, and Public Relations

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a vital strategy to earn your website higher rankings on search engine results naturally. From incorporating keywords into the copy to streamlining a website's desktop and mobile interface to obtaining links from other, trusted web-users, SEO can help a company's website organically achieve maximum visibility. Pay-per-click, or PPC, is a form of advertising, and often used to boost traffic to a website quickly. An advertiser only pays for the ad when it is clicked, but the likelihood of clicks is substantially increased because ads are placed at the top of search engine results with the word “ad” next to it. Public Relations, or PR, is a strategic form of communication between a company and the public. Whether a company offers a new product or service, wants an aspect of its business emphasized, or endures a crisis, PR works to build and maintain positive relationships with clients and customers.

While these three practices are different from one another and function in separate ways, SEO, PPC, and PR each work best in tandem with each other. In order to achieve the best results, these three practices together are necessary for a complete marketing plan.

Working Toward a Complete Marketing Plan

There is a common misconception that search engine optimization is nothing more than keyword targeting. While careful keyword placement is certainly a key component to this strategy, there is more to SEO than increasing a website’s ranking via keywords. Long-term SEO strategy considers a user-friendly website layout. A website which requires a user to perform fewer clicks in order to navigate, the better the chances of that site ranking higher. Since a website should constantly be updated in order to maximize relevance and visibility on search engine rankings, a website will occasionally need its layout redesigned in order to ensure a seamless transition between different web pages. This means that SEO should be routinely considered. Furthermore, SEO benefits from other web pages linking to your company’s website. The more links from other websites and social media postings, the chances increase for your site to list higher on search engines.

SEO also considers how a website functions on mobile devices. Text, plug-ins, and pop-up ads are all points to consider when designing a website’s layout during the implementation of a marketing plan. Pop-up ads are more likely to cause a mobile user to leave the website, and plug-ins typically won't work on mobile devices. All of these points affect how a website ranks in search engine results.

In practice, SEO causes a company and its website to continually strive for peak performance in order to reach maximum visibility. As keyword popularity changes and various competitors practice optimization, the SEO landscape often changes. Thankfully, analytical tools can help a company check what is working and what isn't so that an SEO strategy can be refined. Marketers use these tools to strive for the best results.

While SEO should be practiced throughout any marketing strategy, pay-per-click is an often used short-term tactic. PPC ads utilize a user’s keyword search in order to display an ad to relevant potential customers. There is no ranking – because you pay for it, your company’s ad is guaranteed to appear on top of search engine results, and only to the desired market. Like SEO, PPC provides measurable results, because a marketer can view the keywords and phrases that are getting its website the most hits. Furthermore, a marketer can choose exactly what to measure, whether it be a purchase, or simply arriving on a website’s homepage. PPC campaigns get results immediately, which means an increase in traffic, and an increase in data to analyze.

Analytics are invaluable, and PPC can quickly tell you what words and phrases work best for your website. You can then use these results to target words and phrases and naturally incorporate them into your website’s copy – an SEO practice. As one PPC campaign ends, you can begin another, and both SEO and PPC can benefit from each other. Short PPC campaigns help your SEO practices to determine what works best for your website, so these two methods work perfectly together.       

While SEO and PPC work behind the scenes in order to direct traffic to your site, public relations is about open communication with customers. PR seeks to engage the public in dialogue in order to build and maintain relationships. Public relations keeps current and potential clients abreast of what a company is doing by blogging, sharing posts, starting conversations, managing crises, and targeting key influencers. PR works to bolster online presence and communicate favorable information with the public because of the more positive impressions of a company, the greater the customer base.

Although no one likes to discuss it, crises do occur, and mistakes happen. As a business looking to serve your community while also generating a profit, PR is a strategic form of communication which can respond to unfortunate incidents in the best and most professional manner possible. This is something that neither SEO nor PPC can do. However, it is clear that these three practices work best when used together.


High search engine rankings and links to your website establish credibility and authority, which lead to lasting mental real estate for customers. Considering the enormous amount of competition, SEO is a constant practice to gain and maintain maximum exposure. You need a strong online presence in order attract customers. Consider these facts:

  • 93% of internet visits start with a search engine
  • Google processes over 3.5 billion searches every day
  • The top Google listing gets 33% of all clicks
  • 75% of people never scroll past the first page of results
  • Google results from the 5th position and lower receive only 4% of clicks

Furthermore, since SEO works to streamline the mobile version of your website effectively, you are more likely to get traffic from mobile devices.  

  • According to Google, more searches are conducted on mobile devices than on desktops
  • Over 80% of local searches on mobile phones convert
  • Approximately 3/4 of consumers want mobile-friendly websites
  • Approximately 3/4 of mobile searches result in follow-up actions

A company gains the greatest visibility at the top of search engine results, so the benefits of SEO are clear. Since SEO facilitates promotions and links from other web users, search engine optimization effectively strengthens branding, which generates a lasting, loyal customer base. SEO encourages a brand to position itself relative to the competition uniquely, and that is a vital component of a marketing plan.

PPC guarantees immediate traffic, which means immediate exposure and brand awareness. Since ads are customizable, you can choose which layout works best with your brand’s identity. Digital marketing results are trackable and instant, so PPC tactics can be refined to optimize results. Choosing the right keywords and phrases to incorporate into your ads will not only guarantee the top position on a search engine results page, but your ad will be in front of the exact audience you select. With PPC, you choose who will see your ad. That sort of effective market targeting gets your brand exposed to the right customers.   

  • Search ads can increase brand awareness by 80%.
  • Businesses make on average $3 in revenue for every $1.60 they spend on the AdWords PPC feature
  • At least 95% of Google’s total revenue comes from advertising
  • Digital advertising is surpassing television advertising, and there are no signs of a reversal

This means that not only does PPC work, but competitors know that it works; this means PPC is a must for an effective marketing plan. Furthermore, companies have found that when using both SEO and PPC together, there was a 25% increase in traffic.

Public relations is a powerfully influential practice in a marketing plan – practitioners are communications experts working for you. PR functions to both acquire and retain customers by regularly communicating with the public via creative and engaging means. PR is not a practice based on search engine algorithms or keyword targeting – you need reliable practitioners to update and release content, manage social media posts and discussions, contact influencers, and have exchanges with your customer base. PR is the voice of your brand, and the best practitioners shape public opinion about your company.

  • More than 80% of Fortune 500 companies engage their customers on social media. This means that even corporate giants utilize PR on the internet
  • The average customer base declines by 14% every year, so you need to regularly update and disperse information which generates incentives for your audience to take an interest
  • More than 2/3 of the US population uses social networking sites
  • 92% of people trust what key social media influencers in an industry say about a brand

Since one function of public relations is to earn links to your site, PR functions to supplement SEO practices. Remember, the more links to your site from reliable sources and the more traffic your site receives, the better chance your site has to rank higher in search engine results.

You Need a Comprehensive Marketing Program

Each of these strategies is imperative to a successful marketing plan, but only when the three work simultaneously can a marketing plan achieve its maximum potential. Utilizing all three means that a company is prepared for both long-term and short-term strategies. SEO, PPC, and PR represent owned, paid, and shared media, respectively, which are three vital components to digital marketing. As a company, you want to guarantee results, and only the most comprehensive marketing plans include SEO, PPC, and PR in order to succeed.