Facebook Ads or SEO: What’s Right For Your Business?

The ultimate showdown – Facebook ads or SEO. What helps you fill more of your calendar with your ideal client? That’s really the question you’re wondering about… right?

One educator might say to run Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Google ads, or some other form of paid advertising… and then you realize they have their own course on that very same subject.

Biased much?

Well, I have my own programs centered around SEO, so does that mean I am biased too?

Of course.

And both educators in this scenario are completely fine in being biased… because both methods work. But both methods have their pros and cons, and that’s what I want to bring to your attention here within this article to help you decide for yourself which is the right path for you.


The pros and cons to paid ads VERSUS organic SEO


1. First up, cost.


Sky is the limit with ad spend. (How much visibility do you want/need to pay for to achieve your own very unique goals?) And your entire goal is to achieve the highest ROAS (return on ad spend) as possible.

Obviously, paid ads are going to cost money. And if you’re wealthy, that’s no big deal. If you’re broke or living paycheck-to-paycheck, spending any money you have is a very high-risk sort of situation where they HAVE TO work or you’re in a very tough position.

Of course, there’s always a high-reward takeaway with ads as well because you’re then able to turn your money into more money if everything is done correctly (your targeting, graphic(s), headlines, ad copy, landing page, quality of content, type of ad, etc).

With ads, there’s usually a “testing” phase when starting out an ad campaign.

You push out what you feel is the best ad you can create, then you put some money to it in order to see if it actually works. And really, that’s where you sit back and cross your fingers and hope that everything about that ad was done properly.

Some educators will say to test that ad at $10.00/day, others will say to test at $20.00-50.00/day depending on your goals of the particular ad set and your real-world budget.

That said, it all really comes down to data when it comes to running ads.

Basic math.

Plain and simple, you need to put out enough ad spend to collect enough data to determine if that ad is performing properly or not. And most often, $10.00 is not enough in ad spend to collect enough data – in my opinion (but of course, there’s always exceptions to every so-called rule).

So, you may need to spend more money before you even know if they work or not.

And if they don’t work…

You need to run more tests, spend more money, cross your fingers, analyze, and repeat.


((SIDE NOTE: BTW, I say all of this based on spending more than $100,000 USD in ads in 2019 alone. Yep. Big number. And in 2020, I haven’t run a single dime in paid ads because I wanted a complete focus on organic for my consulting business. I have NEVER used a single dime in paid ads for my photography/wedding businesses.))



Now for SEO – it’s pretty much free.

I say pretty much free because there are some advanced-level plugins for your website that you might want and you might want to outsource some of your link-building campaigns. But that said, you don’t NEED these paid tools or services to have success with SEO.

As an example, some of my private clients have made six figures without spending a single dime in ads or even a single dime in SEO services.

So, it doesn’t NEED to cost you a dime.


SUMMARY OF COST: SEO wins this in my opinion since it doesn’t cost you anything to get the results you want. SEO doesn’t HAVE to cost a single penny, whereas when you stop putting money into your ads, your leads also completely stop coming from that source. And in my opinion, you shouldn’t run ads until you at least know how to drive in leads organically. I consider organic as the foundation, and ads can fuel the fire.



2. Time to see results.


With ads, you can hypothetically see results as soon as the ad is live – but that’s entirely dependent on if that ad is optimized in every way possible.

That said, most ads don’t perform super well straight out of the gate. They need testing (money). They need further optimization. And then more testing (more money).

But yes, technically – you can see results faster with ads… but that’s if you have ALL of the puzzle pieces aligned.

Ads by themselves don’t have success in a vacuum.



With SEO, there’s a myth that it takes 6+ months to rank content.


In fact, both myself and my students have ranked certain content on Page 1 of Google within 30 days. Sure, it’s not overnight, but that content is also evergreen (always out there without cost, always being visible to that unique audience searching for that search term, and always driving in targeted traffic).

Yes, high-competition keywords can take longer to rank (primarily because you need time to build more backlinks and get a higher domain authority)… but that’s not ALWAYS the case.

There are lots of variables.

The biggest variable being your own website and the trustworthiness of your website in the eyes of Google.

As an plain English example – if Google sees your website with more trust and more value compared to your competitors, it ranks you ahead of them.

And if your competitors are nowhere to be found (low competition keywords), your content can rank quite easily.

(It’s this area where I have personally made $$$,$$$ – and it’s where a lot of my private clients make their money, too).


SUMMARY OF TIME IT TAKES TO SEE RESULTS: Ads wins this one. Ads are faster to see results if the ad(s) are optimized AND your website is optimized AND you have fantastic content… but it’s a myth that SEO takes a long time to rank, especially if it’s a lower competition keyword.



3. Length of results.


When you’re running ads of any kind, the results are only there as long as the ad is being run. So, the moment you stop running that ad is the moment there’s no more leads, no more bookings, and no more money rolling in.



With SEO, you can have your content rank organically in an evergreen way (where it’s always visible 24/7) and that targeted traffic is always finding you, coming to your website, and making a decision to contact you/book you. And hypothetically, this content can last forever as long as your competitors don’t outsmart you with their own SEO.

As an example with this, I created a very simple and short blog post about a destination wedding in Cancun all the way back in 2014… and I am STILL getting leads for that particular location. And I am STILL on Page 1 on Google for that search term.


SUMMARY OF LENGTH OF RESULTS: SEO wins by far – hands down, no question.



4. Do the math over your cost per lead, and multiply that by the number of leads you need to fill your calendar.

Before we dig deep into ads vs SEO on this one, do you know how many leads you need to fill your calendar? (HINT: Most people don’t know and have never done this math exercise before).

First, do some thinking about how many leads you get compared to the average number of bookings you get from those leads. And for this, you might need to use some hypothetical numbers.


Let’s say that you got 10 leads.

How many of those leads do you typically convert into a sale/booking?

2? 3? 4? More?

Let’s assume 3 out of 10 for the sake of this conversation and math scenario, but really figure out what your conversion rate is to do this accurately.

So, if you are booking 3 out of every 10 leads (on average), your conversion rate is 30% (0.3).

Now, let’s assume you want to book 30 weddings in order to hit your financial goal.

At this point, it’s just basic math.

30 bookings is 30% of what number?

The answer… 100.

So, you need 100 leads to book your calendar and hit your goals… IF your conversion rate is 30%.

If your conversion rate is only 20%, then you will need 150 leads.

If your conversion rate is only 10%, then you will need 300 leads.

(See the importance of improving your conversion rate?)

So, if you are running ads (or plan to at some point), make sure you are tracking your cost per lead to determine the total dollar number of leads that you are spending to achieve your goal.

Let’s say you are getting leads at $8.00 each.

Would you be willing to spend $800 to get 100 leads?

Probably – but only if they are QUALITY leads. If they aren’t quality leads, are they really leads to begin with? (More on this below in comparison NUMBER 5.)



When you’re running ads, you can very accurately measure your CPL (cost per lead). So, simply go into your ads manager account and check it out.



Much of your time spent with SEO is exactly that – time. So, a true CPL is more difficult to determine, but as the content remains on Google longer… that cost diminishes over time. As far as true money cost… it’s $0.00.


COST PER LEAD SUMMARY: SEO wins this one since the cost per lead is $0.00. Ads – measurable, but no determining factor on quality. SEO, free leads.



5. Quality of leads.


In my experience working with my private clients, having run more than $100,000 in ads to my consulting business in 2019 alone… and having simply spoken with thousands of pros over the years… I’ve come to a conclusion/very strong opinion.

I don’t feel that ad “leads” can truly be called leads.


Because many of these so-called leads are simply lookie-loos, price shoppers, and spur-of-the-moment inquirers that succumb to their curiosities after seeing the ad.

I don’t think these people who fill out your lead form or send you a message through a messenger campaign can truly be called a lead unless they are “ready, willing, and able” to buy.



With SEO, it’s all about attraction marketing.

  1. You do your SEO research.
  2. You create content that you KNOW they are looking for.
  3. They find that content and click on it.
  4. Your website converts them.
  5. They inquire.
  6. You sell them.

These leads are finding you when THEY are ready with search terms THEY are using.

THEY are prequalifying themselves throughout the entire process.

These types of leads are VERY strong.

And they cost you absolutely nothing.


SUMMARY ABOUT QUALITY OF LEADS:  SEO wins this one. SEO leads are much stronger than ad leads, in my opinion.



In summary, SEO sets the foundation (and in my opinion), is the overall winner.

When putting together your gameplan for your business, my advice to you would be this:

  1. Build a gorgeous AND high-converting website. (Many websites focus on what’s pretty and forget what actually converts)
  2. Build your SEO foundation so that you are getting high-quality, targeted leads coming to you on autopilot
  3. Once your SEO foundation is set and you are keeping consistent with the tasks necessary to build that stream of leads, THEN get your ad strategy implemented to simply fuel the fire. (Use your money from your organic bookings to pay for the ads so there isn’t so much pressure on the ads having huge success right away).


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I help photographers (of all types) as well as educators (course creators, consultants & coaches) make more money, work fewer hours per week, and improve their work-life balance. All without ads.

If that sounds like something you're wanting for yourself and your business, check out how I can help.  What I offer is a blend between coursework, coaching, and done-for-you services.  I have all the options you could need. And, of course, if you ever want to see which is the right path for you or if you have any questions - just reach out to me using my Contact form on my website or simply schedule a free call with me.

I really am here to help.

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