Organic Search vs. Paid Search: Which is Better?
Organic vs Paid Search – This is an ongoing debate in the digital marketing community. Which is better? Which gets more dramatic results? What should brands include as part of their strategy?
The short answer is that it depends. There are many factors to consider, such as how long it takes you to get results, what kind of traffic you want to drive to your website, and what your specific goals are.
The correct answer for most brands is usually both. A combination of organic and paid search marketing is the best recipe for long-term success.
But you may need more details to help you decide, and if so, you’ve come to the right place. In the next sections, we’ll dive into organic versus paid search, the benefits of both (and what they share), and how you can decide how they fit into your brand’s current marketing strategy.
- While organic search does not require an upfront investment, paid search does require a start-up cost.
- Paid search leads to more immediate results and attracts buyers with high purchase intent, while organic search builds an engaged audience over time.
- Both organic and paid searches provide important data insights.
- The best approach to search marketing is a larger organic search strategy complemented by a paid search program.
What is a search marketing and why do you need it?
Search marketing is a digital marketing strategy used to increase a company’s presence on the search engine results pages (SERPs) of sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It drives organic and paid traffic to websites and helps companies attract and convert new customers who visit their websites.
Today, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
93% of online experiences start with a search engine.
People use search engines for almost everything—asking questions, finding contact information, learning about new topics, researching brands, and more. They have become part of the way people navigate the world.
As a result, brands that do not rank on the SERPs risk being invisible to their target audience online.
What is the difference between organic search and paid search?
The main difference between organic and paid searches is their cost. As you can tell from their names, organic search gets organic results for free, while paid search pays directly for prominent SERP positions.
Here’s how organic search works: Companies use content marketing and SEO strategies to get SERP rankings for keywords, phrases, and topics relevant to their brand.
Users will then see that content on their own results pages when making relevant search queries, making them more likely to click through and visit the site.
Paid search can skip organic results and appear at the top of the SERPs so users see it first. It’s typically performed on a pay-per-click (PPC) model, where companies pay search engines every time someone clicks on an ad.
Here you can see how they appear on Google’s SERPs:
Target paid and organic search results on the Google SERPs.
Both organic and paid search have their unique advantages, and both offer some advantages. Let’s take a deeper look.
Organic vs Paid Search: The Benefits of Each
Organic search marketing does not require any upfront investment other than time. That’s because organic search rankings are driven by consistent, high-quality, high-value content — think blog posts, ebooks, videos, infographics, and more.
When you create and publish content regularly and use an SEO strategy, you build a library of content that gets noticed by search engines and shows up on your audience’s SERPs.
Companies can choose to invest in fees such as freelance writers or agencies that handle content creation, SEO tools like SEMRush, or social media tools like Hootsuite that automate content sharing.
But these fees are optional and not required to get started. To start your organic search efforts, start with the following steps:
- Set up your company blog
- Do keyword research
- Create a content calendar with a list of titles and due dates
- Write your content and publish it regularly
- Get compound interest results
Content posted as part of an organic search strategy will continue to get results long after your first post. Over time, great content will climb the rankings and get more views. It may also be shared by your brand and others on social media and linked to other websites.
This is especially true for evergreen content, which covers topics that are more important to your brand and have a longer shelf life than time-bound content such as news reviews or announcements.
So, what kind of organic search marketing can require a significant time investment, and you can expect it to pay off over time.
Build brand authority
When you create high-value content covering relevant topics for your audience, it builds your reputation as an industry expert.
In other words, it builds brand authority, which happens when a brand has a high level of trust in its audience, customers, and peers. The brand authority has many benefits:
- Other brands share and link your content
- Consumers actively seek out your brand
- Search engines understand your content and rank it
- Show value
Organic search marketing content plays an important role in showing how your brand adds value to your target audience.
When you create content that helps people solve problems, learn new things, or complete important tasks, you are reinforcing their belief that your products and services can do the same for them.
Attract the right web visitors
Organic search attracts visitors who are naturally interested in the content you create and the products and services you offer. They click through to your site because your content resonates with them for a reason—not because you paid to have it at the top of the SERPs.
In other words, organic search marketing connects with your audience, and over time, they become loyal customers.
Get immediate results
Unlike organic search, which requires you to start creating content and then patiently wait months for the results to appear, paid search delivers results immediately.
You can expect platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads to approve your campaign request in just a few days and get a boost soon after your ad goes live.
Attract users with high purchase intent
While both organic and paid search attracts relevant audiences, paid search attracts more users with higher purchase intent.
Think of it this way: If you’re doing some preliminary research on a topic or potential purchase, you might scroll through the SERP results to learn more. If you’re ready to buy, you’re more likely to click on an ad at the top of the SERPs to show you the product you want.
That’s why paid search is a great option when you’re looking for a quick boost in a specific area, such as the sale of a specific product.
Options for every budget
While paid search does require an upfront investment, there are options available for every size budget. You can create custom budgets and set monthly ad spending for the paid search channels you use.
But keep in mind that some industries are more competitive than others when it comes to paid search, and underinvesting in paid advertising can leave your money empty. Take the time to research your industry and develop a budget that will allow you to stay competitive while staying within your budget.
Get a high ROI
Remember: 93% of online experiences start with a search. This means that almost all of your potential customers are using Google and other search engines to find brands. Therefore, search marketing will naturally lead to a higher ROI than some other traditional marketing methods.
For example, organic search has been found to generate 3x more leads and 6x more conversions from other marketing strategies. Google estimates that brands can earn $2 for every $1 spent on Google Ads (with a 200% ROI).
Provide actionable user data
Both organic and paid search provides actionable insights to help you continually refine your strategy and drive better results. You can use demographics like age, gender, and location to create accurate buyer personas.
Keyword data can help you understand which search queries to target more aggressively. Click-through rates, conversion rates, time on page, and other behavior-related data are critical to understanding the effectiveness of your work.
Google Ads alone provides a wealth of data that you can use to inform your strategies and programs, such as the following audience report showing demographic breakdowns:
In short: a data-driven approach to search marketing is a must, and you can do it through both organic and paid searches.
Inform other marketing and sales efforts
The insights you gain from your organic and paid search marketing efforts can inform your marketing and sales teams for better results in other programs.
For example, you might discover a new audience segment that you haven’t pursued before. You can use keyword data to write more effective copy for printed brochures. Behavioral data can help you improve your website for better engagement.
These are just a few examples, but the point is that the impact of search marketing data can go far beyond your actual search plan.
Which should you choose?
Now that you know the benefits of paid and search marketing, you may see that the answer depends. Some new businesses may not have the budget for paid marketing, and in these cases, organic search is the way to go.
Others may operate in such a competitive industry that some paid search work is required to remain competitive in certain markets.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: every brand should use organic search marketing because there are no downsides. free. It has proven to work for companies of all sizes and in all walks of life.
If you’re just getting started with search marketing, I recommend jump starting your organic search marketing strategy right away. This is the first step.
Once you’ve got it up and running, consider where you might need an extra boost. Think about what you know from your keyword research and where the opportunities for paid search marketing pay off. Then, launch a paid marketing strategy to complement your larger organic search marketing efforts.
Well, the real answer to organic versus paid search marketing is this: it shouldn’t be a competition. Whenever possible, use them as an integrated strategy to find prospects at every stage of the funnel and meet them where they already exist: on search engines.
Improve your search marketing ROI with great content
Today’s digital marketing environment requires every successful marketing strategy to be rooted in great content. But content creation also takes time—if you’re too busy starting or running your business, you might not have the time.
Marketing Insider Group’s team of writers and SEO experts can provide you with optimized, ready-to-publish content every week for a year. Learn more by checking out our SEO blog writing services, or schedule a quick consultation with me to get started!