Organic vs Paid Search: Learn The Difference

Picture of Organic vs Paid Search: Learn the Difference

In this era of globalization, search engines have completely shaped the world of internet, our lifestyle, habits and even the way we do our businesses. The phrase “Go Google it” has become a solution to so many problems. Whether you’re looking at the reviews for the next restaurant you plan to dine at or how to change car tyres, this sentence has certainly became our daily mantra.

Google, in all its tech glory, represents two completely different, yet equally valuable traffic sources to inbound marketers: organic search and paid search. The methods for gaining traffic from these two sources are known as search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) respectively.

So back to our main topic, what’s the difference between organic and paid search results? Telling you their primary differences, benefits, drawbacks and when it is best to use them will be my job today.

Let’s begin!

Organic vs. Paid Search: Understanding the Basics

First and foremost, here is what it looks like on an average search result.

A normal search on Google looks like this.

What is Organic Search?

Organic search results is also known as natural search results. Marketers use various SEO tactics to get higher rankings in search engine result pages (SERPs). Your organic traffic can come from search results for keyword phrases, from your blog visits or from social media posts that drive visitors back to your website or landing page.

Organic Search Example- Christmas Presents

This is a list of organic search.

Your goal is to make your site be on the first page and then move into the top three rankings for specific keywords. These appear purely based on the quality and content of the page. Remember, organic search result comes from the algorithm of the search engine.

What is Paid Search?

Paid search accounts are those that companies have paid to appear on the top of search results. It is also commonly known as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertisement.

Why is it named “pay per click”? Because you have to pay for every user who clicks on the ad you are promoting. Basically, you have to pay a certain amount to display the ads in when searches enter a specific keyword in the search box of the search engine.

Paid Search Examples - Christmas Gifts

These paid ads are usually displayed either on the top or to the right of the organic search results.

These paid ads are usually displayed either on the top or to the right of the organic search results.

The placement of the paid ads is decided by means of bidding and quality score. The fees you pay for such advertisements depend on the number of clicks or views received by your ads. Rather than having to wait patiently for your SEO to build up, you can pay for the chance to get seen on the first page of Google immediately.

Benefits of Organic Search

1. Trust and Authority

When your site shows up in an organic search, you are perceived as having a higher degree of authority, authenticity and credibility.

2. Organic Visibility

Sustainable too. That’s an important SEO advantage, results are slow but steady and it grows over time. When you honor your human audience, wide fluctuations in visibility are rare. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

3. Cost Effective

If a company adopts effective organic SEO strategies over time, the cost is minimal or none and becomes less and less instead of more.

4. Increased Conversion Rate

Picture of Increased Conversion Rate

Increase your conversion rate using SEO today!

Being organically ranked at top positions triggers your website’s conversion rate. This further translates into more sales, widens customer base and gives more exposure to your business in manifold ways.

5. Triggers ROI

Websites which have better click through rate generate more sales and eventually lead to a better Return on Investment (ROI). The cost and benefit analysis of any business is also reflective that organic search results are efficient in minimizing the cost and maximizing the return.

Drawbacks Of Organic Search

1. Long and Difficult Process

Attaining a first page ranking is a long and difficult process. While PPC is an expensive sprint, organic marketing is a patience-testing marathon. While there is no direct financial cost, you must be willing to devote a lot of time and energy to developing a successful organic SEO campaign. And yes, time is money.

2. Results Not Guaranteed

Truth to be told, there can be no guaranteed results as search engines themselves decides the ranking of sites.

3. Changes Required

At times, there are certain changes required to be made on your websites. These changes tend to be invisible to visitors. If you have invested time and money in building an unfriendly website for search engines, then the process can be costly as well as time consuming. Some of the changes required to your website under such circumstances may be – navigation, design and site’s copy.

Benefits of Paid Search

1. Buy Qualified Traffic

Paid search results are immediate and deliver highly targeted, motivated traffic. These visitors are actively looking for the products or service you have to offer.

2. Targeted Website Traffic

All paid search results ad campaigns allow you to target specific subsets of searches, especially ad retargeting, which displays your ad to someone who recently visited your website.

3. Measurable ROI

Measurable ROI in Paid Search

This is one of the major advantages of paid search results. By using PPC analytics, you can easily measure your PPC campaign results for return on investment and immediately determine what is working and not working.

4. Niche Market Strategy

The advantage of niche marketing is that you can target your PPC advertising campaign to reach specific niche markets, days of the week, times of the day, and target specific cities or countries.

5. Full Control

You are always in full control of all aspects of your pay per click advertising management campaign and your PPC costs.

Drawbacks of Paid Search

1. Temporary Listing Results

The main disadvantage of pay per click advertising is that the moment a specified budget runs out, your listing will disappear.

2. Fewer Clicks Than Organic

Studies shows that on average, about 85% of online searches will click on organic listings first and only 10-15% will click on PPC sponsored ad.

3. Increasing PPC Advertising Costs

Picture of Increasing PPC Advertising Costs

Another disadvantage is that PPC advertising bids can become quite expensive especially if you get into a bidding war with a competitor or your are in a competitive industry to start with.

When Is It Best To Use Organic Search?

So, when should you use SEO techniques? Below are some circumstances when SEO would prove highly beneficial for your business.

1. When consistent results are desired

SEO has a relatively long gestation period. Getting to the first page of search engine results won’t happen overnight. Getting to the top of the SERPs takes time. However, once your website gets there via SEO, you will enjoy sustained traffic.

Also, if you keep up with your SEO campaign, working to maintain and improve results, you can stay on top for a long time and reap long-term benefits.

2. When you wish to build a site with authority

Building an authority site

An authority website is an established resource center for a particular niche. It is people’s “go to” website whenever members of that niche need certain information. An authority website, once it gets going, will be able to generate lots of traffic based on URL recall alone.

The best way to establish an authority website is by sustainably generating traffic to your pages. Eventually, build up a reputation until it becomes popular enough to dominate its market. Plan your SEO strategies smartly.

3. When you want to increase the value of your website

Websites are virtual real estates. There are many factors that can contribute to increasing its value. Among them are amount of traffic generated, consistency of traffic generated, page rank, search engine rankings over a period of time, link popularity and the like. All of these fall in the realm of SEO.

When Is It Best To Use Paid Search?

Now that you know when you should use organic search, what about paid search? Let’s see.

1. When immediate results are desired

Yes, PPC deliver results fast. Very fast in fact. You can count the minutes before a rush of visitors come cascading to your pages. This is because the moment your PPC campaign is approved, your ads will immediately be displayed for millions to see. The traffic will almost be instantaneous.

Hence, PPC works amazingly well with product launches, affiliate marketing involving high converting offers, joint venture projects, seasonal promotions, and analogous online business campaigns.

2. When promoting a time-sensitive offer

Marketing products, services or events with an expiration date is always a race against time. Often, the long gestation period of SEO campaigns would produce belated results. For these time sensitive offers, the effectiveness of PPC marketing would be a life-saver.

Promoting an offer that will end in 3 days? No problem! PPC can deliver the traffic you need in a matter of minutes.

3. When highly targeted traffic is sought

Unlike SEO, PPC marketing will allow you to narrow down your prospects based on their demographic data. Many PPC platforms, like social media sites, allow you to promote to the age range, gender, income bracket, education level, and even marital status of the people who will be able to view your ad.

Popular social media sites like Facebook also allow you to target people based on their hobbies. These make PPC a powerful way of reaching the narrow band of people your business needs, and leading them to your web pages.

The Bottom Line: Which Should I Focus On?

Organic vs Paid Search?

The truth is, an effective marketing campaign should include a bit of both strategies.

“Which” is a matter of opinion, of course. The best approach for you depends largely upon the type of business you have, the objectives of your web presence and your budget.

For a short-term, a paid search campaign can give your business a quick boost, helping you gain exposure to customers searching for the relevant keywords in your campaign; however, sometimes consumers don’t trust—or even look at—paid ads. Using organic search methods, which consumers tend to see as trustworthy, will help drive traffic and increase revenue over the long haul, and solidify your position as a leader and authority in your niche.

Learning new marketing techniques isn’t difficult. Unlike teaching an old dog new tricks, which often seems impossible to do, using methods like organic search and paid search takes some getting used to. But once you’ve committed yourself to the process, you’ll see the outcomes, and sing its praises. Before I end my post, I’d like to share another related write up that I found to be interesting: SEO vs PPC: Which Is Better For Your Business.

If you’ve had experiences with either organic vs paid search, do let me know in the comments section below. Let’s keep the conversation going!

Updated: 12/12/17


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