Facebook Ads or SEO?

Facebook Ads or SEO for driving traffic to your website: Which should you use?

posted in: How Tos, Other Tools, SEO | 4

I recently saw a free webinar for Facebook Ads that claimed “The SHOCKING truth about SEO (Hint: It’s a waste of time!)”. “WHAT???” Was my first reaction. Being that I teach SEO and have had landed huge clients from across the continent using it, I thought that was a pretty bold statement. But then I started thinking…

Facebook Ads or SEO? Which one is a better source of website traffic? Could Facebook Ads really be the more effective way to bring your ideal customer to your website? Have I been wrong all of these years? (See – I’m very introspective like that. ;-))

The Cold, Hard Truth

Let’s say you’re in your kitchen and you decide to have a little snacky. You just happen to have a beautiful green Granny Smith Apple on the counter. You decide to slice it up for easier consumption. Do you run to the garage and grab the long wooden handled axe? No, you reach in the drawer and grab a nice knife, or even that cool apple slicer that looks like a wagon wheel with handles.

WHY don’t you use the axe? It’s got a sharp blade. It’s a cutting implement? Why not? (Please don’t try this at home – seriously.)

Because it’s the wrong tool for the job.

A long wooden handled axe is just as likely to smash your apple to smithereens while it cuts. And you might lose an appendage in the process.

It’s kind of like that when you’re looking at SEO vs Facebook ads.

Before I get into when you should use each one, take a look at this comparison chart so that you can understand how both SEO and Facebook Ads work:


Facebook Ads

What is it? Helps your website rank higher in search engine results. Puts an advertisement in front of a specific audience on Facebook
How much does it cost? Free if you do it yourself. Between $200 – thousands a month for a professional Free to create, $100 per ad for a professional. Then you pay per impression or per click. Completely unpredictable, but most small businesses spend between $25 – $300 a day.
Who sees it? People who perform a search for information on the specific topics you address on your website. Can be a different topic (keyword) for every page of your website. People who are using Facebook and belong to the audience you specify in your ad.
How much control do you have over the content? It usually appears how you specify, but you can’t always control exactly how your links will display and what copy appears. You control exactly what image and text appears, as long as you stay within the written guidelines.
How do you measure your return on investment? Connect the free Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools services to see how you are appearing in searches and what the click-through rate is. (Can require code setup.) Use your Facebook Ad manager to see how often you appear in the newsfeed and how many click or conversions you are getting. (Can require code setup for conversion pixels.)
What type of traffic does it drive? People who are actively looking for information or products/services relating to the topic they searched. People who are surfing Facebook and have an impulse to click on your ad.
Timeframes SEO works for you 24/7. If you stop doing it, the SEO you did previously continues to work. Facebook ads run at a specified time frame. When you stop the ad, the traffic stops.


Now that you get how each of them work, let’s look at how they drive traffic differently.

The difference between SEO and Facebook Ads? It comes down to the type of traffic.

SEO gets your website in front of people who are actively searching for information on your topic or for products and services you are selling. This means that 24/7, you’re putting yourself right smack in front of someone who is thinking of buying or who is ready to buy what you’re offering. These are the warmest kinds of leads and often the easiest to sell. Some of my highest paying clients found me on Google. They were looking for someone with my skills and literally submitted a contact form on my website. Even if they are just information seeking, getting them to your blog is pulling them into a relationship with you and positioning you as the expert.

I think of Facebook Ads like the impulse buy items near the checkout in the grocery store. Am I looking for that candy bar? No. Do I like candy? Yes. Even though I didn’t come to the store intending to buy it, would I buy it if it’s put in front of my face and caches my attention? Sometimes, yes. So if I see your ad for that awesome freebie download – I probably will click on it and check it out. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to buy. It just means I’m interested enough in your topic to click when it’s presented to me. This is why all of the experts tell you to send your Facebook Ad traffic to a freebie rather than a sales page for a product. It’s cold traffic and you need to do the work of warming them up to a sale.

SEO is a more passive way to attract the people who are already looking for what you have to offer – many of them ready to buy. It can put you just where you’re needed, when you’re needed.

Facebook Ads are a more active way to grab people who don’t know they need you and (metaphorically speaking) wave the candy bar right in front of their face until they grab it. There is a likelihood that they are interested in what you offer – but no indicator that they are ready to buy.

So which should you use – SEO or Facebook Ads?

Well, it depends on which type of traffic you need. If you are looking to build a consistent stream of traffic with people who are looking for information or are ready to buy in your key areas, then SEO is going to work for you . Done right, it will provide a constant stream of new visitors, and bring old visitors back as you target new topics on your website or blog. Instead of spending hours on social media driving traffic to your website, SEO will consistently drive them for you. SEO isn’t a sometime thing. It’s about small tasks into your posting habits that tells the search engines when to display your content.

If you are launching a shiny new product or service and you want a fast influx of customers, Facebook Ads will get the job done. If you target the audiences that are open to purchasing what you’re selling, Facebook Ads will waft that sweet candy scent right under their little noses for you and get them to click!

I need to say that it’s not entirely as black and white of a picture as I’ve painted it. You can use Facebook ads to drive traffic to a blog post. And SEO can be successful at drawing customers to a product launch. But you could also use that wooden handled axe to cut your apple. Just watch you don’t lose those fingers!

SEO will drive traffic to your website for FREE while you sleep. Want to learn more about how to use SEO on your website? Registration is open for the Do It Yourself SEO for Small Business course! I’ll walk you through how to implement SEO on your WordPress or Squarespace website. Grab your seat now!

4 Responses

  1. Kelita

    I totally agree with you blog. I actually have a draft sitting in Evernote similar to this. I personally love SEO, fb ads do have their place but if you aren’t willing to constantly she’ll out the cash well….

    Thanks loved loved your post 🙂

    • Kelly Phillips

      Glad you liked it Kelita! You’ve hit it exactly. Once you figure out FB Ads, they do a great job of driving traffic. But it’s not always worth ponying up the $$. Sometimes a nice steady flow from Google does nicely. I’d love to read your article when you post it.

  2. Anne

    Great article! Really helps clarify where I should put my efforts and dollars. I feel better about the money I’m spending on making my website more visible on both platforms.
    Thank you for the useful information!

    • Kelly Phillips

      You are very welcome Anne! I’m glad it helped.