How To Tell the Difference Between Google Ads & SEO


In the almost 10 years that I have been working with various sized businesses to help them grow their bottom line, I often needed to clearly explain the difference between the Google Ads listing and the SEO (also referred to as Organic) listing, as most people do not know the difference. Many of them also confessed that they skipped the Ads completely because they do not want to be ‘sold to’, assuming the Ads were not relevant to their search.


The obvious difference between the two is that Google Ads  are paid listings (PPC – Pay Per Click) whereas the SEO result is the organic result, and does not have to pay for the result to appear on the page. 

Over the years Google has changed the layout and structure of the SERP (search results page) and made it easier for advertisers to get better results by blending in the ads and organic results.

First, let us make four clear distinctions.


1. What is a Google Ad listing?


A Google Ad listing, in this case we are referring to Search Ads, served in text format, is a paid for listing or advert that appears within the Google Ad space on your Search Results Page (SERP), after you had performed a search on Google.


To run Google Ads, you require an advertising budget that is based on your cost per click, hence the term PPC (pay per click). Your Ad listing will appear on the Search Results Page for as long as your budget allows.


2. What is a SEO (Organic) listing?


These results appear on Google according to their Google rank which is based on numerous factors including your websites domain authority, your website content, and other important ranking factors.


These listings appear on merit and are not limited by an advertising budget. However, many companies spend a lot of money with an SEO expert to optimize their websites for better ranking position on Google, hence the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

If you would like to learn more about SEO , here is comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide to Boost Your SEO Traffic

What does a Google Ad look like?


3. How to spot the Google Ad result:


Open your Google search browser and type in your search term or keywords; hit that Search button.


Google will serve the paid for Ad results on the top of the page as well as the bottom of the page. You may also see an Ad or two in the map’s listings. If you look closely you will see “Ad” to the left of the listing, making it clear that this result you are seeing is a paid for listing.


Now, you may be thinking; “I do not want to see Ads, how do I know they are not just trying to sell me something?


Unlike many other types of adverts that you are used to seeing, Google does their best to make sure that you are served with the most relevant Ad pertaining to your search.

This means the Ads you are seeing are exactly what you are looking for (let us assume the marketing agencies running the Ads for them are doing an excellent job of matching the correct Ads to the correct keywords – but that is a whole tougher discussion).


If the Ads were not relevant to your search, Google would be out of business.


4. How to spot the SEO / Organic result


The SEO result is the listing that appears between the top of page Ad space and the bottom of page Ad space. So, somewhere in the middle. These listings appear here based on their Google ranking and are not paid for listings. Most good SEO experts will also include the optimization of your Google Business Profile and maps listing in their SEO work.


Many believe that to be the no.1 listing on the SEO result is first prize for any business.

However, I would argue that first prize would be showing no.1 on the Google Ads listing as well as the no.1 spot on the map’s listings, and no.1 on the SEO listing, all on the same search results page. It doesn’t get better than that.

What does Google Business listing look like?


Article by Jason Rinquest, Google Specialist & Director at Deep Thought Media