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April 2, 2021

What’s the Difference Between SEO & AdWords?

Author: Kristen Bachmeier

Digital marketing encompasses a lot of activities that have a common goal: to help a company get more traffic and leads online.

Two of the most well-known online marketing terms, even by those who are not in the industry, are SEO and Google AdWords. To those in this industry, the difference between the two is clear. However, we get a lot of questions about how SEO and Google AdWords are different. This post is here to help answer that question.

To give a simple answer, the major difference between SEO and Google AdWords is that SEO is UNPAID or organic traffic. Google AdWords is considered paid traffic. Keep reading to find out more.

SEO = Search Engine Optimization

SEO is a commonly used term in the digital marketing industry that defines a series of activities to help your website rank organically for your most important keywords.

Screenshot of organic or unpaid search listings in Google

SEO campaigns are usually long-term investments that result in qualified “free” traffic. When we call this traffic free or unpaid, what we are referring to is that if someone sees your website listed organically and clicks on it, there is no payment required from your end for that. However, if you are hiring a full-service SEO agency, you can certainly expect to invest some funds in order to get you to this place.

What do SEO services include?

Each internet marketing agency that offers SEO might approach their strategy a little differently. For us, it first begins with an in-depth discovery phase. We need to learn and understand your services, your target market, and your overall business.

We then do research to identify which keywords make the most sense for your business, which leads to the creation of an SEO strategy. This strategy will most likely include a mix of recurring blog posts, guest blogs, audits, and more.

How long does it take for SEO to work?

This is another commonly asked question. SEO helps make your website visible on the first pages of Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but there is no guarantee it will happen. As an agency, we would never promise we can get your website listed on page 1 – it simply isn’t predictable.

However, we understand the factors that it takes to get you there, including marketing plans that will enhance your local SEO presence and others.

We usually tell clients to expect to wait 6 to 9 months to begin seeing results. The nice thing about SEO is that it tends to have a snowball effect – once the traffic starts to come in and you keep adding more content, it just continues to grow. Again, SEO is a long-term investment and requires recurring attention.

Google AdWords = Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (or SEM) sounds similar to SEO, however, it’s a bit more straightforward.

Google AdWords falls into this search engine marketing category and it includes creating campaigns around specific keywords or demographics. You then launch those campaigns and will pay for any clicks or impressions you receive.

Screenshot of Google Ads search advertisements

Social media falls into search engine marketing a little bit, but I often put social media advertising into its own category.

The main takeaway here is that SEO = unpaid or organic traffic. Google AdWords = paid traffic and campaigns.

If you are looking for the key differences between these 2, I hope this post helped!

Looking for assistance with SEO or Google AdWords? We’re a Florida SEO company that offers an array of digital marketing: SEO, Google AdWords, Facebook Marketing, and more. Give us a call at (239) 362-1271 for more information.

Kristen Bachmeier

Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Kristen also has a background in digital marketing, and has been working in the digital marketing space since 2012.

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