If you have a real brand or something worth advertising, you should probably do both. But from my perspective, I’ll take SEO over PPC anyday. Why?
In many categories a good CTR for paid ads is 5% (this is assuming you have a good quality score and are bidding for good placement). That means that if you’re spending enough money, you will only get 5 visitors per 100 to go to your site. Compare that with about 50%, which is about what you should expect from being in the top organic spot.
10 times the traffic? That sounds a lot better. And you’re not paying for it! That means you’re immune to bidding wars, click fraud, etc. Plus if you have the content and the authority, you’re pulling in long tail traffic that you could never really even bid on in PPC.
Yes, SEO is a lot more work up front. But PPC has gotten a lot more complicated over the past few years – in some ways there’s just as much to know about it as there is in SEO. Most good marketers agree that you should do both, but if I had to choose I’d pick SEO.
P.S. Oh, one another HUGE advantage of SEO over PPC: branded terms. Lots of affiliate programs won’t allow you to bid on branded terms and trademarks in PPC, and those are often the highest converting keywords out there.
P.P.S. If you don’t believe me, ask the SEO dream team.