SEO vs PPC: What’s the Difference?

You want your hotel’s website to rank on the first page of Google. Well, it can happen and probably sooner than you expect. Thanks to search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, your hotel can compete against online travel agencies and local competitors for prime search engine real estate. These two digital marketing strategies work to attract guests to your hotel’s website; however, it is a bit like comparing the Chicago Marathon to an Olympic 100-yard dash. SEO is notoriously time-consuming whereas PPC yields immediate results (but for a price). Before deciding which is best for your hotel’s needs, it is important to understand the difference between these strategies and their benefits. Slow and steady wins the race…but so can fast and efficient.

A Race to the Top

SEO and PPC are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both are search engine marketing techniques designed to drive traffic to your hotel’s website; they just happen to take different paths to the same finish line.

Say a person searches “hotels in chicago” on Google. Google finds websites that incorporate that phrase and then lists those web pages in the search engine results. The websites that rank well for this phrase are listed on this search engine results page (SERP) beneath the Google Local 3-Pack, which is also considered organic search results.


On the same page, there are advertisements on the top and side of the search results that appear based on related keywords. When users click on a hotel’s paid advertisement, the hotel pays per each click (ah ha, get it?). The more competitive the phrase, the higher the cost per click. While PPC has monetary fees for immediate results, SEO pays off with patience. So which is the true traffic-driving champion?

Top 3 Benefits of SEO

Search engine optimization is an important online marketing strategy for both brand and independent hotel websites. It is the foundation for building relevant organic listings that rank highly in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Here’s why:

  • Authority – By providing quality content and effective link strategies, your site will earn the trust of search engines. These search engines then reward you by increasing your website’s ranking. Over time, your website gains authority and becomes a valuable resource for guests searching for hotels in your area.
  • Consistency – As your hotel’s website steadily makes its way to the top of SERPs, high quality traffic becomes more sustained. Seasonality and changes in search engine algorithms will affect month-to-month traffic; however, huge year-to-year fluctuations in organic traffic are rare.
  • Long-Term Results – Improving your website’s search engine rank takes time, especially to reach the first page. It can take up to 90 days for search engines to even recognize a new website. However, patience you must have, young padawan. As you continue to optimize your site and maintain authority, your website can receive a reliable flow of online bookings.

Top 3 Benefits of PPC

A pay-per-click strategy is one of the quickest ways to attract potential guests to your website. Major hotel brands typically run generic ad campaigns; however, utilizing custom PPC ads for your specific property can drive more conversions and revenue for your hotel. Here’s how:

    • Quick Results – After creating a PPC campaign, Google’s ad approval process usually takes 24 hours or less, and you can immediately track the campaign activity. Since ads tend to show up higher on a SERP than organic results, they take less time to gain strong placement and visibility.
    • More Control – Google AdWords allows you to pinpoint your target market. You can target local visitors or out-of-state travelers, or even include other languages to attract international guests. The ads themselves are very customizable – ad copy, headlines, imagery, and extensions can all be optimized – whereas with SEO, you can only do so much with meta titles and descriptions. Also, bids can be adjusted at any time to out-rank OTAs or local competitors that might typically out-rank your hotel’s organic listing.
    • Wide Reach – PPC ads are not limited to Ads can be displayed on any of the Google Network sites, including the Display Network (which is a whole other topic for a different day!). Google’s Search Network includes regular ol’ plus YouTube, Google Maps, and other Google websites. Additionally, Google’s Search Partners are other search websites like that show Google’s ads on relevant SERPs. While SEO targets major search engine results pages, PPC can provide a wider variety of online exposure.

Example: SERP for “romantic georgia resort getaway” on, a Google Search Partner. The first five web pages are PPC ads.

The Ultimate Relay Team

SEO and PPC can team up to drive impressive results for your hotel’s website. PPC ads that are directed to a shipshape, user-friendly website will likely drive more bookings than ads sent to a site with irrelevant content, questionable links, and funky functionality. Optimizing your hotel’s website for search engines lays the foundation for a strong PPC strategy. Utilizing customized PPC ads will not only support, but also enhance a website’s SEO efforts. While PPC is quick and customizable, SEO is in it for the long haul. In the end, they both come out winners.

Ready to gain more traffic? Learn more about Blue Magnet Interactive’s SEO services and PPC for hotels. If you have any questions, contact our SEO Strategist, Sean Francis, or our Paid Media Strategist. They are pretty awesome.