As many as 49% of Google users say they use the search engine to find new products and services online. The search engine (whether Google, or others) has become the ubiquitous directory of the modern era, with many successful businesses making sure they get the best out of organic search traffic and paid traffic, both.
But how does organic search and paid traffic differ from one another, especially in the present digital marketing climate?
What does it mean to focus on one and forego the other? Will your website benefit mainly from the credibility brought about by organic search traffic, or will it also get a few advantages from paid traffic’s instantaneous results?
Listed below are five differentiating factors between organic search traffic and paid traffic, and why a complementary approach may be best in 2021.
#1 SEO vs SEM
Organic search traffic necessitates a working knowledge of SEO or search engine optimization, while paid search touches more on search engine marketing.
If you’re looking to pull in more traffic the organic way, this requires optimizing your website so that it is able to satisfy the requirements of the search engines.
Ultimately, and primarily because search engines aim to make internet search easier and more convenient for users, this also means tailoring your website to match the needs of your audience.
Paid search, on the other hand, involves PPC or pay-per-click marketing, where you pay every time a user clicks on your ad. It is through this ad that you get paid traffic channeling back to your website or web page.
#2 Unpaid vs Paid Strategies
From the term itself, organic search means getting search results without resorting to paid strategies. Organic traffic does not rely on paid ads, unlike how paid traffic may come from PPC campaigns. Getting the most out of organic search requires optimizing your site, social media presence, and overall content strategy.
Paid search requires ad spending on a daily, weekly, monthly, or on a generally recurring basis. But while it’s paid, it doesn’t always translate to huge expenses. Paid traffic spending can be quite flexible, allowing you to choose campaigns according to set budgets.
And as per Google’s report, a dollar spent on Google Ads can potentially bring in a profit of $8 on average.
#3 Organic vs Instantaneous Results
It’s no secret how anything that’s natural takes time to grow, create, or develop. The same is true with search engine optimization and organic search.
Organic traffic can take some time to build, and it may appear like nothing is happening at first.
The optimization outcomes, however, are usually steady and long-term.
With paid search, it’s reasonable to expect more automatic results. Depending on ad spending, your brand could be plastered on the top of search results or in prime social media feeds.
The only downside is that once you discontinue advertising, paid traffic also stops.
A good strategy is to work on SEO efforts alongside a PPC marketing campaign, so that optimization efforts can bring in organic traffic once the ads are no longer as visible.
#4 Credibility vs Visibility
Exceptional paid traffic can come from visible ads being placed optimally on the SERPs (search engine results pages). This space is often situated right on the first three links visible on the SERPs.
It pays to invest in PPC or paid search, thus, if you’re going for brand visibility.
Organic search, on the other hand, relates to organic traffic. You attract relevant users, and not specifically those who click on the ads themselves.
By optimizing your site and getting a high ranking on the SERPs organically, you also establish credibility as a consequence.
Neil Patel refers to this as building your brand through SEO.
#5 User Characteristics
Another difference between organic search and paid search reflects on the kind of users you attract on the search engines.
With organic traffic, you get relevant users; paid search, conversely, brings in ready-to-purchase users.
Citing Power Traffick reports, HubSpot says that the first three advertising spots pull in as much as 46% of total clicks on the first search engine results page.
This is not to say, of course, that organic traffic will not attract ready-to-buy users. Conversion, after all, remains to be a primary goal of SEO.
As optimization requires compounding efforts, however, it may take some time before the buying action takes place.
Ads, on the other hand, bring in traffic from people who are ready to make a transaction, pronto.
The Complementary Role of Organic and Paid Search
So, should you forego paid search in favor of organic search traffic altogether? Or, is it also wise to allocate a PPC campaign budget alongside your business’ organic traffic strategies?
This will depend on multiple factors, including market presence, budgetary considerations, and whether you’re looking for short-term boost or long-term viability — or both.
To get the best results, aim for a complementary mix of organic and paid traffic strategies, and see how it works for you.
In the end, it’s the business owners who know how to ride the bumps and shifts in the search landscape that grow in digital confidence and online profitability, over time.