The digital marketing debate has been going strong for years: organic search or paid search? Which brings the best results? Which makes the most financial sense? In truth, the best approach is not to prioritize one over the other, but to combine both for a stellar digital marketing strategy. Join us as we delve into the benefits of both below.
What is Organic Search?
Organic search is the action of looking up information in a search engine, and the organic search results are the unpaid web page results that appear on the search engine’s results page (SERP). They are calculated purely by the search engine’s algorithm and not by any form of advertiser payment. The algorithms determine the listings according to various factors. Some examples include the relevance of the page’s content – such as images, titles, and metadata – to the searched term, the links referring to the page and the page speed.
The work of turning your site’s pages into the most relevant result is called SEO: search engine optimization.
The unpaid listings without “ad” next to them are the organic search results:
What is Paid Search?
Paid search is the digital marketing strategy of using paid ads to promote your business. Paid search ads appear at the top or bottom of the SERP in response to a query. They are popularly known as pay-per-click ads (PPC ads) as they are most commonly paid for by advertisers for a set price per click.
Advertisers bid for ad placement in the SERPs by establishing a maximum amount they will spend per click and a maximum amount they will spend on the whole campaign. Once this process has been completed and the ad submitted, search engines will work out a Quality Score that will decide the positioning of the ad in the SERPs.
Generally, search engines display three paid ads at the top of the SERPs and three at the bottom. The listings in between will be the organic search listings.
Benefits of Organic Search
Organic search traffic is a vital part of any business’s marketing strategy, so let’s break down the benefits below.
Over time, organic search traffic is much cheaper than paid search traffic, which can be super expensive as the bill can rack up – it costs to launch the ads (often, advertisers pay per click) and for the experts working on the ads.
Over time, SEO traffic, conversions, and leads can be much cheaper. The key term being “over time”. The effects of SEO still continue even after you stop specifically working on your SEO efforts or with an SEO agency, whereas paid campaigns stop exactly when you stop the payments.
What’s more, SEO can actually reduce the cost of PPC. That’s because on Google, you also pay by page relevance to the search query. For example, Adidas would pay more to appear on the search query “Nike” than Nike itself. SEO improves a page’s relevance, quality, and connection to the query – and therefore reduces the cost-per-click for a paid search.
If your web page or blog post ranks well organically, it can bring in consistent or growing organic traffic for years. The more you work on your organic search engine optimization, by updating pages, keywords, images, and keeping on top of evolving guidelines, the better your business will continue to perform organically. It can turn into a self-fulfilling cycle which can bring in wonderful long-term benefits, whereas paid ads are only relevant for as long as you’re running the campaign.
An organic search strategy isn’t going to bring you overnight success. It takes time to see results and meet KPIs, but sometimes you need to set your sights on long-term value and be patient.
Credibility & Authority
Organic traffic gives your site high levels of credibility and authority. If your business is solely using paid advertising, you’ll be left behind. Your site will not only be less credible, but less visible too. Appearing on the first page of the organic search results means people are more likely to trust your credibility, whereas it’s obvious that paid ads that appear at the top of the search results are there because there’s money behind them. Some users prefer to look straight for the organic search results and skip the paid ones altogether.
Using SEO tactics to appear in the organic search results means you will be creating high-quality content that focus on topics tailored to your target audience. As such, you’re helping to build your brand’s reputation as an expert in this field. This also adds to your brand authority – because the better your reputation, the more your audience will trust your business.
With this high-quality content, you are showcasing how your business brings value to current or potential customers. By providing solutions to any of their queries and demonstrating industry expertise, you are giving them more reason to believe that your business can help them too.
With the lower cost of organic search traffic, it’s much more accessible for businesses across the size spectrum. Some budgets may be tighter than others, meaning organic search might be better suited there. Some elements of SEO, such as basic content writing and web page optimization, can even be done by the site owner without prior professional knowledge. However, in many cases it won’t perform as well as when done by an SEO professional.
Running a PPC campaign alone can lead to greater losses than doing basic SEO alone, because PPC will always require payment for showing ads in the SERP whereas SEO mostly requires the investment of time to make a web page appear in the SERP.
Focusing on organic search helps your business connect and nurture the relationship with your target audience by providing them with high-value and engaging content. Giving them exactly what they need, what they’re quite literally searching for, does wonders for your brand.
Benefits of Paid Search
Organic search traffic should not be prioritized in isolation, but instead in combination with a paid search strategy for the most holistic approach to your business’s marketing.
Almost as soon as your paid ads go live, you can start to see results. It’s an extremely quick process to get your ads approved by the likes of Google in most cases (we’re talking minutes here), although the longest it could officially take is 72 hours. Beyond that, the immediate presence of your ads means that you’ll be able to see the results in no time.
Visibility & Traffic
Paid search ads appear before any organic search results in the SERPs, meaning people often see them first. The paid search results at the top of the SERP don’t require any scrolling. This increased visibility can help your brand stand out from a competitive crowd.
With this increased visibility comes increased traffic, because the more people exposed to your ad, the more clicks it should receive, and therefore more traffic will reach your landing page.
With paid ads, you have advanced targeting options. You are able to target specific characteristics of your audience, such as location, age, and gender. You can utilize personalized marketing strategies and create ads that are specific to different audience types so they will have a higher chance of converting. This means your target audiences will be exposed to ads that make sense for them.
In the ancient “organic vs. paid” debate, the best option is to take a combined approach to organic search and paid search. We’re not advocating for you to throw paid advertising out of the water here. It’s still a vital part of a broader marketing strategy for the best chances of success. However, a combined approach is key. Organic search traffic should never be overlooked in favor of paid search traffic. In fact, the two work hand in hand to create the best holistic marketing for your business.
If you’re interested in organic SEO services, Moburst’s team of SEO experts is here to help.
The main difference is that organic search results are not paid for and are ranked by a search engine’s algorithm, whereas paid search results are (as the name suggests) paid for by advertisers to appear at the top or bottom of the search engine results page. Organic search takes longer to see results whereas paid search provides more instant results.
Truthfully, businesses need to fit both organic search and paid search into their digital marketing strategy as they both do different jobs and have benefits in different areas.