The difference between SEO and SEA (and why both are important)

In the online world (and cities), you come across a lot of terms that are important for improving your findability. Two key terms you’ll come across a lot are SEO and SEA . There are differences and similarities (one of which is that both will get you high in Google). In this article, we discuss it.

Not insignificantly, the designation in Dutch. SEO stands for search engine optimization and SEA stands for search engine advertising. The combination (SEO and SEA) is referred to as SEM; search engine marketing.

In short, with SEO you optimize websites which improves organic rankings. With SEA, you optimize campaigns that put you directly (with an ad) high in Google. In this article, I will take you through the advantages, disadvantages and possibilities of both SEO and SEA. Written by an SEO specialist. 🙂

Table of contents show

What is SEO and SEA?

SEO and SEA are two important terms in the world of online marketing. They both provide improvements to your presentation within Google, Bing and Yahoo and offer the opportunity for growth. Yet SEO(search engine optimization) and SEA (advertising in Google) are important for other things. Here you will find a definition and explanation of both terms plus their main pillars.

Working with a specialist in SEO and SEA?

Fill out the form on my contact page and I’ll get back to you.

Working with an SEO specialist

Ralf van Veen

Specialist for SEO and SEA

With 8 years of experience as an SEO specialist, I improve the organic findability of your business in a transparent and sustainable way.

What is the difference between SEO and SEA?

In short, the difference between SEO and SEA is that SEA is short-term and SEO is long-term. With SEA you buy ads within Google, with SEO you optimize your website to get it higher up in Google organically. The difference between SEO and SEA in Google is as follows:

Difference between SEO and SEA

SEO and SEA at a glance

No time for a long article on SEO and SEA? No problem. Watch the video below for a summary of this article.

Improving SEO (video).

In what ways are SEO and SEA complementary to each other

SEO and SEA have their own differences, but compliment each other nicely in a holistic marketing strategy, such as when you work with an agency. There are a number of ways in which SEO and SEA clearly reinforce each other:

  1. With SEA, keywords can be tested in terms of conversion, CTR and CPC. Test the waters with SEA, capture positions with good SEO. It would be a shame if you spend months working on the SEO position and the keyword does not generate any conversions.
  2. Increase the CTR of the SEO position with a supporting ad. With an SEA ad, you can increase the CTR of the SEO snippet.
  3. Increase the quality score of your campaigns with SEO. This lowers the CPC and improves the visitor’s final experience (including conversion).
  4. Capture searchers in Google with an ad who previously came to the website via an SEO snippet.
  5. Support the entire customer journey, from the beginning of the funnel to high intent keywords, with a CTR-focused SEA and SEO campaign.

Leveraging the data from SEA for an SEO campaign

For an SEO campaign, I like to leverage the data from SEA. For example, conversion data that gives you a good idea of what search terms are interesting for a campaign.

Use of SEA resultsExplanation
Keyword ResearchUse data from your SEA campaign to see which keywords led the most traffic to your site. These keywords can then be used to improve your SEO strategy.
Advertising text optimizationLook at which ads have the highest click-through rates (CTR) in your SEA campaign. This can give you insight into what titles and meta descriptions you should be using for your SEO.
Landing page optimizationAnalyze the performance of landing pages in your SEA campaign. The pages with the highest conversion rates give you insight into what type of content performs well and can help you develop SEO-friendly content.
Geographical informationIf you notice that certain regions are performing better in your SEA campaign, consider focusing your SEO efforts on these areas.
Device optimizationIf you notice that certain devices (such as mobile or desktop) perform better in your SEA campaign, consider adjusting your SEO strategy accordingly.
Leveraging SEA data for SEO campaigns.

Continue reading about SEO and SEA?

The articles below may be of interest to you.

Rank higher in Google organicallywith SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization: this involves optimizing a website to rank as high as possible in Google’s search results. This channel allows you to make your website more findable to your target audience. There are many ways you apply SEO, the three major components are discussed below.

SEO and SEA | SEO traffic

The benefits of SEO

All the benefits of SEO mapped out along with the reason and for whom it is mainly a benefit. The benefits of SEO are mainly in the area of obtaining sustainable success for an organization and ensuring its continuity.

AdvantageReasonFor whom is this an advantage?
Increased trafficBy achieving the highest positions on the search engine results pages, your website receives a significant amount of impressions and clicks, leading to more traffic.All types of companies, but especially smaller companies and startups looking for sustainable growth.
Cost efficiencySEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies because it targets users who are actively searching for your products and services online.Companies with limited marketing budgets, such as smaller companies and startups.
Increased site usabilityTo make your website easier for search engines to navigate, SEO also helps make your website easier for users to navigate.Companies with complex Web sites, such as e-commerce sites or sites with a large number of products or services.
Brand awarenessBy achieving higher positions on the SERPs, your website gets more exposure, leading to more awareness of your brand among users.All businesses, but especially startups and companies looking to increase their brand awareness.
Competitive AdvantageWith SEO, you can stand out from your competitors in search results and attract more traffic to your site.All companies, but especially companies in highly competitive markets.
The benefits of SEO with the reason and for whom it is a benefit.

Component #1: technical SEO

So you can improve the technical side of the website to be more attractive to Google, as well as to visitors. By this I mean the following components, among others:

  1. The (visual) display of the website in search results: is this optimized for both Google and the visitor? Or does this leave something to be desired?
  2. The on-page SEO: I optimize this at the landing page level. Per page opportunities are analyzed and implemented.
  3. How can Google read the website? Is this the same as the visitor or is Googlebot’s life made significantly more difficult? Consider page status codes, XML or HTML sitemaps, internal links and optimizing the Robots.txt.
  4. Is there internal competition? Or do the website landing pages perform optimally side by side (in harmony you might say).
  5. Is the website secured from outside attacks?
  6. Is the website fast on every platform? Not only with an Internet cable on your Mac, but also on an iPhone 5 on the train.

I could go on and on like this. In short, technical optimizations play a huge role in both organic findability (SEO) and website usability.

Component #2: SEO content (write for the visitor, optimize for Google)

Content should be of high quality. Also, the content must closely match the needs of the visitor. Through content, both the visitor and Google understand what a website is about. The better your content, the longer a visitor will stick around.

How do you make sure you write relevant, quality content for visitors on a consistent basis? The first steps: do proper keyword research, analyze searcher intent and write regularly.

You don’t just do the latter to consistently publish articles for Google, when you do something regularly you also notice that you get better at it. The content becomes more readable, more relevant and thus ultimately delivers more value.

SEO and SEA | Supplementing keywords

Component #3: link building

Passing SEO value through backlinks is also called link building. The process, called link building, describes the structural and active acquisition of (DoFollow) hyperlinks from other Web sites.

A good link building campaign improves your positions in Google, a bad link building campaign worsens them.

Backlinks are one of Google’s most important ranking factors. The higher the quality of links pointing to a website, the more Google values it. The value of a link is determined by several factors:

  1. Relevance of the topic (how relevant is the website from which you get a link)
  2. The authority of a page or website
  3. The presence of ”DoFollow” or “DoFollow” attribute in the hyperlink
  4. Location of the link: the lower the link is on the page, the less value the link has.
  5. The number of links on the page: rather a link from a page that has no other links on it, than a link from a page that has 10 other links on it.
SEO and SEA | Google Search Console

Actually getting the links: hire an SEO specialist

How do you obtain these links? There are a number of methods for that. Become an expert in your field. Write regular blogs on topics within your industry. In this way, you profile yourself as a source of information in the field. Once the website grows in traffic, other websites may use your website as a source (including a link).

In this way, you obtain backlinks naturally. As this process progresses, Google notices. This ultimately increases a website’s authority.

What I notice with clients where I only advise in the link building part: it’s tricky. In practice, “organic” link building methods don’t work very well, if at all, for commercial businesses. This is not just a case of “We of WC duck,” but outsourcing link building to an SEO specialist like me is the only solution in these cases to structurally gain organic visitors.

Working with a specialist in SEO and SEA?

Fill out the form on my contact page and I’ll get back to you.

Working with an SEO specialist

Ralf van Veen

Specialist for SEO and SEA

With 8 years of experience as an SEO specialist, I improve the organic findability of your business in a transparent and sustainable way.

SEA: search engine advertising for immediate results

SEA stands for search engine advertising: it involves advertising in search engines such as Google. Do you search Google for a topic? Then you get to see ads first. These are paid ads (also known as SEA ads).

For example, SEA can be ideally used by start-up companies looking to increase brand awareness. Advertising ensures that the that there are direct clicks to the website. The effect of SEA depends on a company’s available budget and the volume of keywords. The higher your set budget, the more clicks you get.

How does SEA work?

The toners of the ads purchased this piece of real estate on the search results to receive visitors looking for certain products and services. The providers of these products and services pay a certain amount per click for this (CPC).

You pay more for keywords with a lot of competition than for keywords with less competition. Google Ads (the program you use to manage the ads from SEA) uses a certain market operation in this. Because of this, the keywords that more competitors want to advertise on are often more expensive.

Note that when a keyword has a lot of competition in terms of SEO, it does not necessarily mean that this keyword also has a high CPC with SEA. A keyword with a lot of

SEO and SEA | Google Ads

The benefits of SEA

The advantage of SEA is that your website will quickly show up high in Google. You are more visible and more likely to be clicked on your website. The disadvantage of SEA is that the revenue dries up immediately once you stop investing.

In addition, predictability is a major advantage of SEA over SEO. Prior to a course, an SEA specialist can predict exactly what the cost per conversion will be. This allows the customer to calculate whether the investment is profitable (in the long run).

A third, and this one is in line with the previous benefit, is the measurability of SEA. For SEA, there are slightly more options regarding correctly measuring visitors and their actions on the website than for SEO. One reason is that adding UTM trackers to the receiving URLs is easier with an SEA campaign, than with an SEO campaign.

The benefits of SEA in a table

AdvantageReasonWho benefits from this?
Direct trafficWith SEA, you can instantly appear on the first page of search results. You don’t have to wait for the results of long-term SEO campaigns.Companies that want to see quick results, such as startups entering a new market or companies launching a new product.
Targeted advertisingSEA allows you to target your ads to specific keywords, geographic locations, language, time and date, etc. This means that your ads are displayed only to people who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer.All companies, but especially those in niche markets or those targeting specific demographics.
Measurable resultsUnlike some traditional advertising methods, SEA allows you to see exactly how many people saw your ad, clicked on it and took an action on your website.Companies that are data-driven and value measuring ROI.
Flexibility and controlWith SEA, you can make changes to your campaigns at any time, such as adjusting your bids, changing your ad copy, or stopping or starting campaigns.All companies, but especially those that want to respond quickly to changes in the market.
Brand awarenessLike SEO, SEA increases awareness of your brand because your ads appear at the top of search results.All businesses, but especially startups and companies looking to increase their brand awareness.
The benefits of SEA.

The cost models of SEA

There are different cost models regarding SEA. These are CPC, CPM and CPA.

Cost Per Click (CPC) means that you pay for each time a searcher clicks on your search result. Costs get higher the more traffic a website generates.

With Cost Per Mille (CPM), you pay a fixed price per 1,000 impressions. A display occurs when Google shows your search result on the search results page.

Cost Per Action (CPA) is also called cost per conversion. The visitor arrives at a website through the advertisement. You pay per action a visitor takes on the website. Examples include signing up for a newsletter, requesting a quote or purchasing a product.

SEO and SEA | Traffic in Google Analytics

The quality of the landing page in both SEO and SEA

The quality of the landing page weighs just as heavily as SEO. Relevance and quality are keywords for creating a performing landing page. Google values showing searchers the best matching search results. Capitalize on this by being aware of Google’s ranking factors.

With SEA, this weighs into the quality score; with SEO, it weighs into the position in Google (direct and indirect).

It is important in SEO to pay extra attention to the quality of landing pages. It requires a continuous investment in terms of time and money. All the more reason to get even more out of online ads.

The differences between SEO and SEA

The main difference between SEO and SEA is that SEO is about website optimization and SEA is about placing ads. You can think of SEO as a long-term strategy, while SEA often offers only temporary success.

Another difference between the two terms is that the result of SEO is more difficult to measure. While it may seem attractive to invest heavily in SEA, it may be more important to pay attention to SEO. A higher position in unpaid search results is often permanent: this is not the case with SEA.

Briefly recap the different between SEO and SEA:

  • SEO is of the long haul; with SEA, you’re right at the top of Google.
  • SEO increases the quality of your website, SEA does not.
  • For SEO you pay your marketing agency, with SEA you pay Google.
  • With SEO the results stay after your efforts, with SEA the ads disappear when you stop paying.
  • SEO increases the value of your business in a direct and intrinsic way, SEA increases the revenue of your business (especially in the short term).

Working with a specialist in SEO and SEA?

Fill out the form on my contact page and I’ll get back to you.

Working with an SEO specialist

Ralf van Veen

Specialist for SEO and SEA

With 8 years of experience as an SEO specialist, I improve the organic findability of your business in a transparent and sustainable way.

How do you deploy SEO and SEA together?

SEO and SEA, when used correctly, can compliment each other. There are ways to enhance this effect, namely:

  1. Turn on both SEO and SEA to increase the CTR to your organic positions. When a searcher in Google has already seen your ad, the same searcher is also more likely to click on your organic search result. This increases the CTR of your SEO results, which in turn has an indirect impact on your organic findability.
  2. Support the initial period of your SEO journey by launching a SEA campaign. SEO takes time before the full effect is noticeable. With SEA, it is possible to accommodate this period by launching campaigns at a desired level.
  3. Use data from an SEA campaign as input for SEO. You can use the data from the SEA campaign, such as measuring conversions, as input for determining keywords for SEO optimizations. SEA, as discussed above, is easier to measure than SEO. Use this to your advantage.
  4. Launch an SEA campaign to measure how profitable a keyword is. It would be a shame if you spend months (or even years) optimizing for SEO and the keywords you are ranked #1 for don’t yield anything.

The tools for SEO and SEA

The tools you use to perform SEO and SEA differ on a few universal tools. In both cases, to get good data and good search terms, use Google Analytics and Google Search Console. SEO tools such as Moz or Ahrefs are also useful for both SEO and SEA.

The tools for SEO and SEA

I recommend taking SEO as the basis for your marketing plan and supplementing it with SEA where necessary (for example, the launch of a new product or service). Do you want to get started on improving the quality of your website in a sustainable way? Then SEO is the solution.

SEO and SEA are both important to employ in order to make your website more findable and get more visitors to your website. Do you use ads or opt for the overall optimization of your website?

Using Google Ads to determine relevance

It is common to use Google Ads in SEO projects as well. This is done to test the water and determine the level of relevance of certain searches. There are searches for which you are not yet sure that they will convert AND at the same time where it is certain that there is a high level of competition. In short, that is investing time and energy in an uncertainty.

With Google Ads, you are immediately at the top of the SERP, provided you pay enough, of course. The advantage of this is that it removes the uncertainty of the investment. After all, you already know after a few days how it goes.

By combining Google Ads with an SEO course, you can determine in advance the return on investment for certain search terms (and the various nuances in them). You can also see from the CPC what the competition is in the SERP. This is slightly different from SEO, but I still use this as input whenever possible.

With Google Ads, you test the waters. With SEO, you dive in at the desired spot and establish your position for the long term. Is your position profitable enough? Then make sure you have a presence in the ads as well as organically.

Frequently Asked Questions

I get questions daily regarding working with an SEO specialist and the advantages/disadvantages of this possible collaboration. I have written out the questions asked and answers given below from my own experience in this area.

What is the significance of SEO and SEA?

SEO stands for: Search Engine Optimization, or search engine optimization. This is a collective term for all the activities in search engine marketing that make sure your website ranks high in a search engine’s organic search results.

SEA stands for: Search Engine Advertising, or: advertising in search engines. This is a collective term for all advertising opportunities in the search engines. In the Netherlands, Google Ads and Bings Ads are the two biggest players in search engine advertising. There are many different ways you can advertise your business or website.

What is SEO and SEA?

SEO stands for: Search Engine Optimization, or search engine optimization. This is the form of optimization done specifically for the search engine. SEO is only about the organic results in Google. These are the results you see under the “adv. You don’t have to pay for this. So they are also called the free search results in Google.

The focus in SEO is on properly optimizing the website and its various pages. The goal is to find answers to the keyword or search question. Google maintains a certain algorithm. This algorithm is tuned for a lot of factors. These are: technology (speed), content (relevant to the visitor) and popularity (links pointing to your website). So these factors together determine your position in Google.

SEA stands for: Search Engine Advertising, or: advertising in search engines. This is a broad term for all advertising opportunities in search engines. A major player in the field of SEA is Google Ads. SEA is characterized as the ads you see at the top of Google. You can recognize these by: ‘Adv’. The advantage to SEA is that, for a fee, you will appear directly at the top of Google. So you also see results almost immediately. You pay Google for every click on your ad.

In addition to the search results you get in Google, SEA can occur in other ways. For example, the banners you sometimes see on websites. You can then target a website where you want your banner to be displayed. Another way is a shopping campaign. It is displayed when you are looking for products. In such a case, your product can be shown. Finally, a remarketing campaign also falls under SEA. This involves showing a banner of your website to people who have already visited your website or web shop. For example, when you search for ski socks, you suddenly see this type of ski socks popping up everywhere in the form of an advertisement.

What are the biggest differences between SEO and SEA?

The difference between SEO and SEA is vast. For starters, what do the abbreviations actually stand for? SEO stands for: Search Engine Optimization, or search engine optimization. This is basically free. SEA stands for: Search Engine Advertising, or: advertising in search engines. This costs money. Aside from the many differences, these two terms do have something in common: They both have to do with online marketing. In addition, both techniques ensure a high ranking in the search results of Google, or any other search engine.

From the translations of these two terms, SEO, in short, refers to the organic, unpaid search results. SEA, on the other hand, refers to paid search results. The ads.

Other differences between SEO and SEA are:

  • SEO is a long-term strategy in terms of what to implement for your website. SEO is an ongoing process. You also won’t see the results of your work in terms of SEO for weeks or even months. This is in contrast to SEA: you pay for the ad and this ad is immediately visible.
  • With SEO, less information is insightful. For example, you don’t know what search terms your visitors are using to then land on your website. With SEA in search engines, this data is available. Advertising fees for SEA, by the way, you pay to Google. So you pay Google first and only then receive more information from them.
  • The result of SEO is more difficult to measure than SEA. It is difficult to conclude exactly what SEO has meant for the average position in Google, based on how many hours you spent on SEO. With SEA, you can immediately see how much a campaign cost and how many clicks and conversions a campaign generated.
  • One big visible difference: paid search results (SEA) are largely at the top of the page. The unpaid results (SEO) are not even always visible without scrolling down first.

With what objectives is it interesting to work with both SEO and SEA?

SEO and SEA complement each other perfectly. From SEA, you can learn what people are looking for. In turn, you can use that information for your SEO optimization. This prevents you from spending a lot of time with SEO on keywords that don’t actually yield anything. Advertising like SEA costs money. So when you want to combine SEO and SEA as a business, it is important to have a budget for this. Implementing SEO, on the contrary, does not cost money, but a lot of time. So this is what you must have as a company.

Thus, companies looking to achieve results in both the short and long term are well suited to work with both SEO and SEA. For example, you start with SEA, which puts your website right at the top. Next, invest in SEO so that you generate visitors in the long run. These visitors click on the regular, free search results.

With what objectives is it interesting to get started with SEO?

For companies that have little budget, but whose goal is to rank high in Google, using SEO is ideal. SEO increases the value of your business and passively brings in customers courtesy of its position in Google. SEO is basically free, unlike SEA. For companies that have lots of time but little budget and don’t have the urge to get short-term results, SEO is guaranteed to work.

SEO ensures a sustainable marketing strategy. This is because it involves the structural optimization of various pages. For this reason, you only see its effect in the long run. Patience is a fine thing.

With what objectives is it interesting to start working with SEA?

For companies that have budget and want to see results quickly, using SEA is very effective. You pay a certain amount to Google and you are almost immediately at the top of Google. Using SEA, you can also focus on your desired target audience. In fact, you can set what kind of visitors will see your ads. This ultimately results in more sales.

When deploying SEA, you can also predict exactly how much you will reach with a given budget. This provides more control over the numbers.

How can SEO and SEA reinforce each other?

You can choose SEO or SEA, or you can choose the combination of the two. In fact, the combination of SEO and SEA actually reinforce each other. In terms of competitiveness in search engines, for example. This is because SEO and SEA each have their own advantages. Using these three tips, combine SEO and SEA in the best way possible:

  • Determine your SEO strategy based on your SEA results. SEO begins with keyword research. It is obviously important to focus on the right keywords. Using an SEA campaign will give you valuable insights you can use for your keyword research. In fact, you can see here which keywords are linked to good quality scores. You can also see immediately what the conversion rate of tested keywords is. Conversely, you can in turn use SEO results as the basis for SEA campaigns.
  • Use as many keywords from your research as possible. In other words, make the most of keyword research. For example, the keyword planner generates new keywords in response to your entered words or shows which keywords are less relevant. The keywords with high search volume are usually the top words. These usually consist of one word and are very broad. These are great for your SEO strategy. Long tail keywords consist of multiple, specific words. These are especially suitable for an SEA campaign.
  • Sell your Unique Selling Points through SEA. SEO is primarily focused on the most important general keywords that lead people to a specific website. SEA operates primarily on very specific keywords. Product names and brands do it in SEA, but not in SEO, for example. When you add those specific names to your ads, you differentiate yourself from other ads. In this way, SEA can complement SEO.

What are the benefits of combining SEO and SEA?

The combination of SEO and SEA is very advantageous in most cases. It prevents a lot of work on a keyword that doesn’t actually produce anything at all. In fact, you can put the results from SEA to good use for SEO optimization.

The benefits of combining include:

  • Keyword research. SEO and SEA thus meet in keyword research. SEO texts focus on the keywords that are searched for the most. This includes related keywords. SEA is mainly focused on the basic keywords, which are usually two words, or the long tail keywords. These are keywords that people generally search for less. By combining these different types of keywords, i.e. SEO and SEA, you are capitalizing on a very broad spectrum of keywords.
  • Good SEO makes SEA cheaper. Google sets the price of SEA ads. The more qualitative and reliable Google finds the text, the lower the price. So the moment your SEO texts are quality and relevant, the more likely Google will make you pay less in cost-per-click.
  • The insights from SEA help SEO. Are the keywords or call-to-actions working? You get these insights from SEA and can incorporate them nicely into the SEO texts. This is how you continue to optimize your SEO courtesy of insights from SEA.
  • The visitor is more confident. SEA ensures that you appear directly at the top of Google. With SEO, this can take a very long time. So the moment you combine SEO and SEA, chances are you will end up high in Google for both. This inspires confidence in the visitor because your website is displayed twice. This, in turn, automatically results in more visitors.

What are the advantages of SEO over SEA?

By implementing SEO for your website, you can rank high in Google. This is very important because when you get a high position in Google, it generates more visitors to your website. This, in turn, can lead to more sales. SEO has several benefits:

  • SEO doesn’t cost money. With SEA, the moment you stop paying, your ad drops, or even disappears. With SEO, this is not the case. You don’t have to pay for SEO and you still achieve organic results.
  • A boost for any search engine. Each search engine has its own advertising platform. Suppose you pay advertising fees to Google, you are on top in Google, but this does not apply to Yahoo and Bing, for example. The advantage of SEO is that it does work for every search engine. If you have the right content and technique and you land at the top with Google, chances are you have secured a high position with the other search engines as well.
  • SEO is a sustainable investment. When you invest in SEO, you will benefit for a long time. This is because you are targeting your audience through your web pages.
  • SEO is easily measurable. Using Google Analytics, for example, you can see exactly what keywords they used or from which pages they were referred. This is very useful information because you can get new ideas from this. A new topic for a web page, for example, or a product innovation.
  • A findable website strengthens your other marketing tools. Do you have a physical store? Even then, it is important to rank high in Google. In fact, many people look up stores in Google before they actually go here.

What are the advantages of SEA over SEO?

SEA costs money, but it guarantees immediate, visible results. Unlike SEO: there you only see increases over time. Using SEA for your business? Here are the benefits:

  • Quick result. Unlike SEO, with SEA you see results almost immediately. You are easily found online for the right audience. Within a few days, you will see all the traffic to your website increase.
  • Understanding the results achieved. Unlike SEO, SEA allows you to see exactly how many visitors to your website the ad has brought in. You can see these results in the form of statistics. This creates overview.
  • Target your audience more closely. SEA allows you to focus on your target audience in a very targeted way. In fact, you can set online what kind of visitors will see your ads. With SEO, this is not possible. That way, not only does it create more traffic to your website, but it also consists of the type of traffic that are interested in your website.

What are the disadvantages of SEO?

Besides the many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to SEO.

  • SEO takes a lot of time. SEO is not something you “just do”; it is a long-term strategy and an ongoing process. The result is visible only after a long period of time. So you will have to invest a lot of time and knowledge in this.
  • Developments are rapid. SEO is constantly evolving. Consider new forms of structured data, voice search or that local SEO is becoming increasingly important. So it is important that you stay well informed about all these changes.
  • SEO requires a lot of specialized knowledge. And this knowledge continues to evolve, see the previous point. Just starting to write SEO copy is not the right way, for example.

What are the disadvantages of SEA?

Of course, there are downsides to using SEA for your business or website. Namely, the following:

  • It costs money. And it’s not cheap. With SEA, you pay for every click to your website. So you must also have a large marketing budget if you want to afford it.
  • When (temporarily) stopped, you lose. Relative to SEO, SEA is a short-term strategy. So when you stop paying for your ads for a while, you also immediately sink or disappear from the top search results. As a result, you immediately have less traffic to your website.
  • An SEA strategy takes a lot of time. Setting up SEA directly is possible, but not wise. Especially with SEA, it is valuable to know which audience you want to target and what search terms they use. Setting up such a thoughtful strategy takes time.

Is it possible to use SEO alone to get traffic?

Yes, it is possible to use SEO alone to generate traffic to a website. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a collective term for techniques that ensure that a website is found better by search engines, such as Google. If a website is properly optimized for search engines, it can rank higher in search results and therefore attract more visitors to the website.

However, it is important to realize that SEO is only one of many ways to generate traffic to a Web site. There are also other ways to drive traffic to a website, such as using social media, e-mail marketing, advertising on search engines and websites, and exchanging links with other websites. If you use SEO alone to generate traffic to your website, you may generate less traffic than if you use a combination of different traffic sources. It is therefore advisable to use a balanced mix of different traffic sources to achieve maximum results.

Is it possible to use SEA alone to get traffic?

Yes, it is possible to use only SEA (Search Engine Advertising) to generate traffic to a Web site. SEA is a form of online advertising where you pay to have your website appear higher in the search results of search engines, such as Google. When you set up a SEA campaign, you can choose to pay only for certain keywords or search terms that are relevant to your Web site. Then when someone searches for one of those keywords or search terms, your ad may appear in the search results. When someone clicks on your ad, he or she is directed to your website.

SEA is an effective way to generate traffic to your website quickly because you can have ads appear in search results immediately after setting up the campaign. However, it is important to realize that SEA has a cost because you pay for every click on your ad. If you only use SEA to generate traffic to your Web site, you may have higher costs than if you use a combination of different traffic sources. It is therefore advisable to use a balanced mix of different traffic sources to achieve maximum results.

What is better for a start-up website to focus on, SEO or SEA?

It depends on several factors whether a start-up website is better off focusing on SEO or SEA. Here are some considerations that may play into the choice between SEO and SEA:

Website objective: if your website is intended to generate traffic quickly and/or to sell products or services, SEA can be a good option because you can have ads appear in search results immediately after setting up the campaign. If your website is meant to share information and build a longer-term relationship with visitors, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may return to the website.

Budget: if you have a limited budget, SEO can be a good option because you don’t have a direct cost to generate traffic. If you have a larger budget, SEA can be an effective way to generate traffic to your website quickly, but you have to consider the cost you incur for each click on your ad.

Targeting: if you know your target audience is actively searching for products or services you offer, SEA can be a good option because you can then show targeted ads to people searching for relevant keywords or search terms. However, if your target audience is not actively searching for your products or services, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may still be interested in what you have to offer.

Competition: if you operate in a market where competition for certain keywords or search terms is high, SEA can be a good option because it allows you to still appear at the top of search results through advertising. However, if you operate in a market where competition for certain keywords or search terms is low, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may still be interested in what you have to offer.

It is recommended to use a balanced mix of SEO and SEA, depending on your goals, budget and target audience. Search engines, such as Google, display both organic results and paid ads in search results, so it can be useful.

What is better for an older website to focus on, SEO or SEA?

It depends on several factors whether an older website is better off focusing on SEO or SEA. Below give some considerations that may play into the choice between SEO and SEA:

Website objective: if your website is intended to generate traffic quickly and/or to sell products or services, SEA can be a good option because you can have ads appear in search results immediately after setting up the campaign. If your website is meant to share information and build a longer-term relationship with visitors, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may return to the website.

Budget: if you have a limited budget, SEO can be a good option because you don’t have a direct cost to generate traffic. If you have a larger budget, SEA can be an effective way to generate traffic to your website quickly, but you have to consider the cost you incur for each click on your ad.

Targeting: if you know your target audience is actively searching for products or services you offer, SEA can be a good option because you can then show targeted ads to people searching for relevant keywords or search terms. However, if your target audience is not actively searching for your products or services, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may still be interested in what you have to offer.

Website ranking: if your website already has a high ranking in search engine results, SEO can be a good option because this way you can take advantage of the organic visitors coming to your website. However, if your website has a low ranking in search results, SEA can be an effective way to generate traffic to your website quickly, as it allows you to appear at the top of search results through advertising.

It is recommended to use a balanced mix of SEO and SEA, depending on your goals, budget and target audience. Search engines, such as Google, display both organic results and paid ads in search results, so it can be useful.

Will I see results faster with SEO or with SEA?

It depends on several factors whether you see results faster with SEO or with SEA. Below I provide some considerations that may play into the choice between SEO and SEA:

Speed of implementation: if you want to generate traffic to your website quickly, SEA can be a good option because you can have ads appear in search results immediately after setting up the campaign. SEO takes more time to show results because you have to make changes to the website and have it indexed by search engines before you are better found in search results.

Website objective: if your website is intended to generate traffic quickly and/or to sell products or services, SEA can be a good option because you can have ads appear in search results immediately after setting up the campaign. If your website is meant to share information and build a longer-term relationship with visitors, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may return to the website.

Targeting: if you know your target audience is actively searching for products or services you offer, SEA can be a good option because you can then show targeted ads to people searching for relevant keywords or search terms. However, if your target audience is not actively searching for your products or services, SEO may be a better option because this way you attract organic visitors who may still be interested in what you have to offer.

It is recommended to use a balanced mix of SEO and SEA, depending on your goals, budget and target audience. Search engines, such as Google, display both organic results and paid ads in search results, so it can be useful to employ both SEO and SEA to get maximum results.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 28 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 November 2023. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.