First of all, know that neither avenue should be ruled out. Each one relates to a different area of the search results page (SERP).
Consider the following information and decide which suits your industry, website and budget.
ROI - Return on Investment
Considering some of our clients pay as little as $50 a month for their ads, AdWords seems affordable. But others have to pay right up to $1500 a month just to push a few sales through. This depends on the competing bids from other advertisers.
Could you justify spending so much on advertising? Yes, because it is accountable advertising (you know instantly whether or not it was AdWords that brought you the visitors and the sales) and is fully reported to you by Pioneer Websites. So it's a cost-per-click bid that you are risking in your cost-per-sale calculation and doesn't take long to suss out as viable or not.
AdWords are in the red area, SEO is for the green area .
SEO has a more complex ROI calculation, as the promotional work we put in now may not bring visitors for another week, month, or maybe longer. The good thing is, it will continue to bring visitors for years to come, so your ROI is a curve that gets incredibly viable after a few short months of investment. In our experience, six months of SEO is usually enough to break through the investment barrier and into the profit zone, with the curve continuing to steepen after that. Some industries are extremely competitive and offer little variation in keywords, so more could be required, but many websites are seeing an immediate increase in sales the first month after our campaign begins. See the how long should I pay for SEO? page for more insight.
AdWords reports are sent to you monthly by Pioneer Websites, along with a graph and interpretation of your results.
However to determine which campaign is performing best in actual sales or acquisitions, you will need our monthly SEO report. This is based on data from several sources but primarily a a Google Analytics installation which we interpret for you.
This allows us to tell you which sort of visitors actually bought products from your site - those from AdWords or those from your SEO campaign, instantly giving you the knowledge you need to spend your marketing budget wisely.
Who Clicks What?
Many of our longterm clients have found they actually make more sales through visitors from natural (organic) search listings, not AdWords. That has led them to cut back on AdWords expenditure, swap it over to SEO, and double their profit! There are two common reasons:
AdWords has an advantage in some markets however, and so a couple of our clients do not pay for SEO at all - only buying AdWords advertising. This is sometimes the case where the searcher is in a hurry (like critical repair service industries) or are the CEO type that doesn't stop to look around.
Long Term Benefits
The scenario where no SEO is done and only AdWords are bought is admittedly rare but has served some of our clients well - they just acknowledge that when they stop paying for ads, their visitors stop coming.
By way of comparison, SEO builds your websites reputation and referral links in a permanent manner, so if you stop paying for SEO, visitors still come. This is the beautiful curve in ROI that comes from choosing a professional SEO service.