Paid vs. Organic Search Marketing: Which Traffic Source Is Best?

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Paid and organic search are two major traffic highways of the internet.

    They both allow businesses to capitalize on one prominent trend. We’re talking about the rising number of online searches with commercial intent.

    Despite a similar purpose, these two traffic source approaches are far from created equal. Tactics used on them differ and so do the types of traffic they generate. This means there are some unique pros and cons to consider.

    Yes, you can invest in both traffic sources at once, but it still makes sense to differentiate them.

    As for which one is better, the answer isn’t cut and dried. There’s a variety of factors that affect it: Your budget, marketing objectives, business needs, you name it.

    The best way to proceed is to ignore the hype and buzz. We’re going to focus on the facts and carry out a thorough assessment.

    PPC: A Quick Traffic Lane

    From a business standpoint, having a strong search engine presence is paramount.

    The only question is how to go about building it. Do you buy your way to the top of SERP or earn the spot organically?

    Well, let’s start with the paid search. The main thing it has going for it is speed. You can get your offerings in front of customers much quicker than with SEO.

    It’s even possible to secure the first-page position in a matter of a single day.

    This swiftness pays dividends for those who want to drive a certain action. Let’s say you plan to carry out A/B testing of your new web page. With PPC, you don’t have to wait for effects to kick in order to obtain valuable data.

    PPC is also a better traffic source choice when you seek quick conversions and sale spikes. The same goes for a limited offer or special event promotion. All in all, the paid tactic is a great way to gain a head start upon launching a company/website.

    The particular edge PPC has here is traffic conversion. According to estimates, it has 1.5x higher conversion rates. That’s because ad collateral and landing/product pages are tailored to spur this outcome.

    This also suggests paid strategy yields better results for products than for services. 

    Factoring in the Costs

    Gauging effectiveness of PPC is not as simple as it may seem.

    It hinges on several factors:

    • Lading page keywords
    • Ad keywords
    • Cost per click bids
    • Targeting
    • Level of competition

    The latter indicator is crucial. Namely, to fuel PPC campaigns, you need to have an extensive budget in place.

    What’s unique is a pricing model: Available platforms don’t feature fixed prices. The numbers vary according to bids for a single keyword click. Naturally, hot keywords are much more expensive than unpopular ones.

    There are multiple issues that stem from this situation. First off, researching and selecting the right keywords takes time and practice. Secondly, even if you secure a good ad potion, competition could ramp up bidding and displace you.

    Indeed, competitiveness can be a major hurdle for small businesses. More often than not, they are forced to rely on SEO. Either that or they have to start with small, highly-targeted PPC campaigns.

    Lasting Foundations of Trust

    The chief problem with PPC is consumers have grown leery of ads.

    Use of ad blockers is on the rise and fatigue is real. On the other hand, organic search enjoys unparalleled trust and respect among consumers.

    They are way more likely to click on organic results than paid (sponsored) results. Heat map studies even reveal ads often go unnoticed.

    Taking up prime organic real estate is associated with immense benefits. They are proportionate to how well your website/blog is optimized for search engines. In other words, bots have to be able to easily crawl and index your pages.

    Main factors at play are:

    • Web content
    • Linking structure
    • Metadata

    Before venturing further, make sure you understand their SEO role and effect on ranking.

    SEO: Key to Long-term Success

    Provided you rank for the right keywords, you can substantially boost your brand visibility.

    Your name pops up when people type specific terms and phrases. This enables you to spread brand awareness and foster loyalty and trust.

    Furthermore, SEO points you score stick with you.

    It’s not necessary to constantly throw money at campaigns to keep the momentum going.  Technically, the traffic comes free of charge and the benefits add up. They don’t stop once your budget dries— your SERP positioning is relatively stable.

    This is to say SEO is superior to PPC in case you want cost-efficient, long-term results. It gives you a solid traffic base that is actually interested in your brand and offerings.

    This results in meaningful relationships that stand the test of time.

    Alas, competition can be quite fierce and industry leaders (authority websites) dominate small fish. For those operating on a shoestring budget, occupying the first page is mission impossible.  

    The good news is you can at least avoid wasting your time and money. Use tools such as Google Keyword Planner to assess the competition and inform your strategy. 

    Rough Patches on the Organic Road

    The tricky thing about SEO is Google frequently changes its algorithms.  

    Ranking factors aren’t set in stone and your site can never be fully-optimized. Every now and then a major shift takes place, sending us scrambling.

    That’s when all of a sudden, hard-earned ranking starts withering away.

    The way to shield against these shocks is to respond to change and fine-tune strategies. That’s not the case with PPC campaigns. Once you set them up, they’re immune even to seismic shifts.

    In any event, if you want to be on top of the organic game, organic search is incredibly time-consuming. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of reputable SEO agencies to help you with this endeavor.

    They can tailor organic search initiatives that generate maximum ROI.  It becomes much easier to establish authority in your industry and make it to the forefront of SERP.

    Of course, you get what you pay for in terms of quality of service. Skimping tends to do more harm than good.  

    Choosing Your Traffic Source

    Due to affordability and long-lasting effectiveness, SEO should be your primary focus.

    It’s a go-to strategy for businesses of all shapes and sizes. That being said, you can and probably should utilize both approaches. They are complementary rather than opposing forces.

    Therefore, try to strike a fine balance. Integrative marketing strategies combine the benefits and offset the drawbacks of two approaches.

    For instance, you can get the ball rolling with SEO. Once you run a few campaigns, you obtain invaluable insights to inform your efforts. Based on them, you can patch up the holes in your strategy with paid search.

    And remember, spending decisions always depend on your target audiences, financial means, and marketing goals. They’re also contingent on what you value more: quality or quantity, immediate or long-term avail.

    One-size-fits-all solutions don’t exist.

    The Best of Both Worlds

    Done right, both PPC and SEO add value to your organization.

    They are a potential game-changer, your shot at market success. This is because a vast majority of visitors come through search engines instead of directly typing your name.

    To reap the spoils though, you have to allocate your resources where they make the most impact. Your decision on a traffic source must reflect market realities and your specific needs.

    With that in mind, formulate a holistic strategy. At the end of the day, paid vs. organic search is not either/or proposition. It’s a matter of smart strategic deployment and synergy.

    Finally, remember digital marketing is an ongoing process. You have to keep up the pace with market and advertising trends as well as shifts in consumer behavior.

    Contact us if you need further guidance in outmaneuvering your competition. It’s time to add value to the lives of people.

    They will know how to repay you! 

    About The Author:

    Chris Kirksey

    Chris Kirksey

    Chris Kirksey is the CEO of Direction, a digital marketing agency reflecting the culmination of a 15+ year obsession with digital marketing. It all started with an eBay business at 9 years old, then transitioning from domain investing and website building. After a 6-year US Army career leading intelligence collection teams both in the US and overseas, Chris now brings a sophisticated approach from cryptologic language and adversary data intelligence to digital marketing intelligence. His precision and planning of military campaigns, now reflected in digital marketing campaigns, have proven successful for clients in industries ranging from law firms to technology startups.