Content Marketing vs. PPC – Short and Long Term Benefits

Many businesses limit their online marketing budgets to a few hundred or a few thousand dollars a month. Because of the financial limitations, most of those companies put all of their marketing money into pay per click ads. The hope is that with their monthly investment of a few hundred dollars they’ll be able to get targeted leads that will provide them with an immediate payoff.

But if you have a very limited online marketing budget, pay per click ads only make sense if you need that immediate payoff to survive as a company. For businesses that are hoping to be successful in the long term, that budget would be better spent on content marketing.

Short Term vs. Long Term

Both content marketing and PPC advertising have very different short and long term benefits. Most companies go straight to pay per click advertising because it’s intuitive – each click costs X amount of money and the company knows right away whether it’s converting. But businesses on a strict budget need to carefully consider whether or not that budget would be better spent on some type of content marketing strategy instead, as it may provide the payoff that your company has been looking for.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of both PPC advertising and content marketing in the short and long term, so that it’s easier to understand why content marketing is usually – but not always – the best investment:

PPC in the Short Term

  • Pros

Let’s start with the short term benefits of pay per click advertising, as that’s where PPC really shines. The payoff for PPC is always immediate. If you target your ad and create a great landing page, those that click on your advertisement are looking specifically for your website and services. They may convert, they may not – that’s up to your website and your business – but a company that is on its last legs that needs business right away will be more likely to get that targeted business with pay per click than it will be with any other marketing method.

Pay Per Click can also be fairly cheap in the short term, although the costs do add up. A few clicks a day can cost less than a coffee. although most businesses spend a few hundred a month or more on this type of advertising to maximize their conversion chances.

  • Cons

But while PPC does shine in the short term, it is not without its problems. First, keyword research is an inexact science, and in order to pull in good data you need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars over the course of many months. A company I worked for before starting Great Leap Studios had an enterprise level ($50,000 plus program) survey platform. They paid 2.00 a click for the phrase “online surveys,” set a monthly budget of over $5,000 and used up that budget before the month was over.

They made zero sales.

They didn’t realize that they were spending thousands of dollars on a keyword that also attracts those looking for low budget survey software, and those that want to fill out surveys to make money. By the time I left they were down almost six digits and hadn’t figured out that their keyword choices weren’t working. For that same investment they could have flooded the internet with over 2,500 articles and made their website the largest database of information about surveys on the internet.

In addition, PPC alone isn’t going to keep visitors, and many people click on links by accident or briefly before realizing they want to go somewhere else. The bounce rate is incredibly high for most PPC ads, and unfortunately every bounce is a small investment that you’ll never get back.

Content Marketing in the Short Term

  • Pros

Content marketing is generally considered a long term solution, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its short term benefits. There are some types of content marketing – like guest posting – that can have an immediate payoff if you find relevant sites with good traffic that attract business. You can also share it with your followers on social media, which may provide you with a huge bump depending on your social media campaign.

Also, often Google will give temporary bumps to interesting and relevant content articles they like in search engines. Often when we write about something timely and relevant on Great Leap Studios, we get a rush of hits for a day or two before tapering off to the normal number of hits we would expect on the article.

{{Ed. Note: Within 1 hour of this article’s post time, it showed up on the front page of Google for “Content Writing vs. PPC” and received somewhere between 5 to 10 clicks for a non-competitive keyword. Those clicks would have cost almost $10, and this content has only been online for a few hours. Short term benefits really are possible, they’re just harder to predict.}}

  • Cons

The cons are that content writing is not specifically a short term strategy for garnering immediate business. It can attract business, but that’s not what it’s for, and often there’s no way to truly tell whether or not an SEO article you’ve written for your website is going to have any immediate payoff. Your website is also more likely to have that payoff later – after your company has positioned itself well in search engines – then it is early on.

Often it’s best to have a larger content marketing investment up front as well, to ensure that each and every page on your site is optimized for search engines and conversions. Most content writers also write content in bulk, so you may have to make a larger up front investment there as well unless you choose a monthly service plan. Over the course of the month the two should be fairly equal in total dollars, but some companies find that it’s easier to mentally handle a smaller amount per day than it is to make one large investment.

PPC in the Long Term

  • Pros

None. Zero. Pay per click has no long term benefits. .

  • Cons

The cons are implied by the pros, in that there are no long term benefits of PPC marketing. Each click consists of one visitor. Once that visitor leaves, it’s over. There is a chance that they bookmark your site and come back, or consider your product in the future, but as most businesses know that’s fairly unlikely. In most cases, PPC has zero long term benefit, and the money you spend is never going to pay off in other ways.

Content Marketing in the Long Term

  • Pros

Content marketing, on the other hand, has countless benefits. Every article or piece of content on your site becomes a permanent part of the internet. It can attract an unlimited number of visitors. It can be read by anyone at any time. It can receive incoming links, which are valuable for SEO. It should provide anywhere from a small to large boost for your search engine rank, both for the page itself and for the website.

There is no such thing as wasted content unless that content turns off customers or is deleted. All good content has value to your website (which improves your search engine position), and many of those pages of content can bring in the same number of clicks or more than any PPC strategy and continue to bring in those clicks for days, months and even years.

  • Cons

There is only one weakness of content marketing. That is that there’s often no way to know with certainty that each specific piece of content is going to rank well. There are other factors at play – competition can make ranking for an “easy” keyword more difficult, the search engine bots may simply not like your article enough to put it on the front page, etc.

Content marketing is a science, but it’s not an exact science. You can write countless amazing SEO articles and some of them will succeed in Google and other search engines and some won’t. But the difference is that no content is ever wasted. Every piece of content shows value to search engines, and so in small ways every piece of content is helping your website get free hits. Even if a single article doesn’t appear to get any love from search engines, it’s still helping your website rank well, and that means that it’s helping you get the free visitors that you would otherwise need to pay for with PPC ads.

That’s the clear difference. Content writing may require an investment without (necessarily) an immediate payoff, but the long term payoff is free hits for potentially years, along with a more valuable site for visitors and content that may supply more incoming links that could generate even more business. PPC does none of this. There are pieces of content that receive thousands upon thousands of hits a month, all for a $50 investment or less. With PPC, you’d have to spend thousands of dollars to get the same amount of hits every month, and those hits won’t also improve your search engine rank or the way you interact with customers.

Overall Thoughts

Content marketing has short term benefits, but it cannot compete with PPC. However, content marketing provides considerably more long term benefits, can still attract business in the short term, costs significantly less over the course of a year, and at any time you can stop content marketing and still receive thousands of hits a month in a way that you cannot do with PPC.

On limited online marketing budgets, content writing and marketing is the clear choice.

Anything else I missed? Any questions? Let us know in the comments.


  • Micah Abraham

    Micah Abraham is the owner and lead content writer at Great Leap Studios ( and High Volt Digital (
    Micah has over 15 years of content writing and digital marketing experience, and has owned and operated Great Leap Studios since 2013 and High Volt since 2022.
    He has a degree in Psychology from the University of Washington, and has researched and written content on a wide range of topics in the medical and health fields, home services, tech, and beyond.
    Micah lives with his family in California.

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