SEO vs. Paid Advertising: What is The Best Way to Build Your Business in 2021?

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder

January 27, 2021 | 5 Min Read

Article updated on July 8, 2022

With the recent lockdowns of 2021, businesses are shifting to a renewed focus on online discoverability. Many of our clients wonder how best to navigate this shifting landscape. Should they invest in SEO or Paid advertising? Ultimately it comes down to the goals for your business. Do you want income or to build brand equity? Maybe Both?

It is an age-old question, do you pay for something right now that can give you immediate short term results but may end up costing more in the long term, or invest for the long-term with the potential for more sustainable growth? This article will explore that question from our clients’ perspective and many conversations we have shared with them over the past few months.

Paid Advertising

Think of pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on search engines and social media like renting a home vs buying. Renting can be a great option – you get a place to live that you can afford until it is time to move. You don’t own the house, so circumstances beyond your control can change at any time, and when you move, you leave only with what you came with, as someone else owns the house.

In a best-case scenario, clicks on your ads drives traffic, leads and income to your site. It works like this: You create an ad campaign with savvy ad copy, get your placements and pay a set rate per click for visitors to your site, which is always subject to change. You can set your budget and what you are willing to spend, but many aspects like algorithm updates, market dynamics and new competitors can negatively affect your paid advertising campaign.

PPC advertising can be a useful income source, but once you stop paying for clicks, the traffic dries up. You may make a bit of income, but It is not a sustainable way to grow a business over the long-term. With paid advertising, you haven’t built any equity in your brand. You have only paid to play by renting temporary space on a platform.


Organic SEO is markedly different. While results take a little bit longer, the impact of SEO investment is lasting. Most customers can recognize a paid ad, but SEO boosts credibility by generating more organic traffic to your website. The results take slightly longer to see because you are working to “own the land.” But once you own it, you don’t have to pay per head for the traffic coming to your site. The traffic is free.

Also, the SEO positioning helps improve the value of your brand and your business. SEO requires optimizing your website as well as regular upkeep and maintenance, but when you own the space, it is yours. When investors are looking at determining the value of a business, they look at its ability to scale effectively, efficiently and in a manner that isn’t cost-prohibitive. That almost always involves a strong SEO presence.

When deciding between paid advertising and SEO, there is no right answer. It all depends on the goals of your business and your type of business. It is essential to understand the risks and benefits of both SEO and PPC and to consider: Do you just want to rent, or do you want to own the land to build and grow your business?

Connect to Discuss How to Strike The Right Balance For Your Business


PPC, SEM, SEO, SEO Strategies

Aaron Levenstadt CEO & Founder at Pedestal Search

Aaron Levenstadt

CEO & Founder

Aaron Levenstadt completed his degree in Statistical & Data Science at Stanford University. That focus has given him an unparalleled data-driven approach to search engine digital marketing. Prior to founding Pedestal Search, Aaron worked at Google at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View California. At Google he worked on the Organic Search, Paid Search and Google Analytics products, which equipped him with extensive knowledge of the mechanisms driving Google’s algorithm and other internet search engines.