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Organic vs. Paid Search – Which is Better for Driving Traffic?


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The Internet is pervasive in modern life, and search engines are an enormous part of that pervasiveness.

“Google” has gone from being a noun to a verb, with people suggesting that you “Google” something several times a day. If you want to know more about a news headline, you “Google” it.

If you’re shopping for a new car, you turn to a search engine. When it’s time to find that perfect pair of jeans, you log on to your favorite search engine yet again.

Consumer reliance on search engines is no secret. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo go to incredible lengths to ensure that their users get accurate, appropriate search results every time.

It follows then that businesses that provide goods and services to the public or other companies would want to figure out how to end up at the top of the heap in the Search Engine Results Page, or SERP, of every search engine.

According to, Google alone handles in excess of 40,000 searches every second of every day.

Doing the math demonstrates that this number of searches translates to 3.5 billion searches every day, which in turn equals 1.2 trillion searches on an annual basis.

Each time a user submits a search query, they receive hundreds or even thousands of results. The most relevant results should come up on the first couple of pages, with additional results following.

Moz determined in 2014 that 71 percent of clicks on search engine results occur on the first page. More recent numbers, and our own date, suggest that this number actually may be closer to 92 percent or more.

Clearly, it’s critical for businesses to ensure that their website appears among the first results on any SERP.

How can a business ensure that its website ends up among the first few search results? It’s not a simple matter of luck.

Instead, the answer lies in using savvy marketing strategies. The two main strategies are organic search marketing and paid search marketing.

Organic Search Marketing (SEO) vs. Paid Search Marketing (PPC)

When you perform a search, you enter specific keywords. The search engine’s algorithm goes to work, hunting for the most relevant search results containing your keywords.

Most of the results you see on the SERP will be “organic.”

Essentially, this means that the algorithm took an in-depth look at the content on a particular website to determine that one of them was most relevant to your search, that another one was the second most relevant, and so on.

However, before you see these organic or “natural” results, you’ll see a few results at the top of the page. These are designated with the word “Ad,” which is presented in an outlined box.

Rather than being organic search results, these are paid search results. In other words, a company pays the search engine to place their ad whenever certain keywords are entered into the search box.


These search results may be just as relevant as the organic results. However, they may be more geared toward people who are ready to make a purchase.

Which one should you be using for your business? In order to answer this question, it helps to know more about each of these marketing strategy as well as the pros and cons of each.

What is Organic Search Marketing?

Organic search results are compiled by a search engine’s algorithm. The algorithm analyzes websites across the Internet to determine which ones are most on-point for the current search.

Search engine algorithms process vast amounts of information in the blink of an eye.

Websites that have meta descriptions, a pertinent URL, good title tags, solid keywords, and informative content are going to rank higher than those websites that have very little information and less professional execution.

Site SEO

Businesses ensure that their company ranks higher on SERPs by utilizing good Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, techniques.

SEO is in itself a massive subject, and getting the techniques right on a website requires time and expertise. This is why many organizations will pay big bucks to professionals to perfect their website’s SEO.

For example, there are marketing agencies that specialize in doing SEO for specific fields, such as Fintech SEO, SaaS SEO, and many others.

However, you don’t have to pay for content marketing services to maximize the SEO on your website.

You can do it yourself by adding great content. Here are examples of a few things you can do to improve SEO on your website:

How to improve SEO on your website

  • Start a blog
  • Add in-depth descriptions of all products and services
  • Invite satisfied customers to leave reviews and testimonials
  • Make use of photos, charts, and graphs
  • Produce guest posts on other blogs that link back to your website

These are just some basic examples of SEO techniques. Without a doubt, building great SEO into your website takes time.

In fact, the longer you can sustain your practice of adding information-rich content to your website, the better your placement on SERPs is likely to be.

Search engine algorithms like to see that your website has been up and running, and being well-maintained, over the long term. This makes your website look like it’s being run by recognized, trusted professionals.

Pros and Cons of Organic Search Results

One of the main benefits of relying on organic search marketing is that this technique is proven to get results.

In fact, organic search marketing outperforms paid search marketing 65 percent of the time when users perform desktop searches. Hiring an individual or a company that offers professional marketing services will significantly increase your organic search traffic.

Additionally, studies suggest that 70 percent of the links that get clicked on a SERP are organic results.

If the proven success of organic search marketing isn’t enough for you, then consider the positive bias effect. When a website shows up in the first two or three results on a SERP, users are already positively biased toward those websites.

Also, first result on Google SERP gets around 28.5% of all clicks coming from that search query:

Google CTR Per Ranking

This makes an automatic assumption that because your website showed up in the top three results, it must offer precisely what they are looking for.

Moreover, relying on organic search marketing pushes you to keep generating great content on your website. You’ll find that you’re constantly adding new evergreen content that informs and engages website visitors and improves your standing in search engine results.

The drawbacks to organic search marketing become clear once you undertake this task. Generating outstanding content requires massive amounts of time.

Additionally, your website will enjoy a higher ranking if it’s been producing good content over a longer period of time.

If you’re in a really competitive field, it may take months or years of dogged persistence to finally get to the top of the search results. Also, you have to devote resources to organic search marketing. While you’re maximizing SEO, you’re not selling products or services.

That said, increasing organic search marketing doesn’t have to be done by an in-house marketing team, it can be achieved by outsourcing marketing services. Either way, you have to pay someone else to do the SEO work for you.

What are Paid Search Results? (aka “Sponsored Google Ads”)

Paid search results, which also may be called pay-per-click or PPC Google ads, are purchased by companies that want to make certain that their website comes out on top of even the organic search results.

When a company wants to use these search results on Google, they create an advertisement that includes certain keywords. Google has an auction in which website owners may bid for placement based on those keyword research.

Paid and organic results

As you might imagine, the really popular keywords go for big bucks, which can make it difficult for a small, cash-strapped start-up to break into the game. For example, you can do SEO for a remote work company, but the chances of ranking for high-volume keywords are low.

While the website owner who pays the most money for placement is likely to get preferential treatment, Google still pays attention to other metrics like the quality of the landing page and the quality score to determine which customer gets the first position.

Pros and Cons of Paid Search Results

The advantages of paid search results are plain. It is the fastest, most efficient way to ensure that a certain website comes out on top when people enter particular keywords into a search engine.

Of course, buying ad space is just the tip of the iceberg. You still have to provide a precisely worded advertisement and create a great landing page.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t require the time and resources that are an inherent part of the organic search marketing process.

Another benefit of these search results is that they are targeted. Each of the major search engines allows businesses to select criteria regarding precisely who should see their ad.

Google Ads Targeting

The more specific the criteria, the more clicks are likely to be generated.

PPC advertising also makes sense because people who click on these ads usually are ready to make a purchase. In other words, they’ve already done their research.

They are clicking on your ad because they are ready to spend money, and they just need a nudge in the right direction to spend it on your website.

The downside to using paid search marketing is that it only lasts for as long as you pay for it.

Unlike the evergreen content on your website, your carefully worded ad will disappear once the money disappears.

Depending upon your budget, this may mean that your paid search marketing campaign only lasts for a short time.

Additionally, studies show that ads appearing in the top position on SERPs have an average click-through rate of seven percent. Basically, organic search results just receive more clicks.

Why You Should Aim for Both Organic and Paid Search Results

Is it better to use paid search marketing than organic search marketing? The answer is, “It depends.”

Both have their pros and cons. In some situations, organic search marketing comes out on top. In others, paid search marketing is the champ. This means that it’s wise to use both.

paid and organic search supporting each other

Building strong SEO on your website will always serve you. It makes your website dynamic, interesting, and engaging, and you can always buy backlinks to skyrocket your growth.

People will keep coming back to see what’s new and to make purchases or otherwise engage with you when they like your website.

New customers will be directed toward your website by search engines, which have algorithms that tell them that your website is worth visiting.

If you’re looking for consistent, long-term results, organic search marketing is the way to go. For example, Blue Tree’s link building services will amount to a high number of quality backlinks.

Healthy Backlink Profile

These links will accumulate more links and search traffic over time and result in higher overall Google rankings for your entire website.

Once your pages start appearing at the top of the SERPs, you can expect them to stay there as long as you keep working on your website. Moreover, you’ll be building an authoritative website that’s an asset for your business.

However, there may be situations in which PPC is the way to go. If your business needs immediate results, then it’s imperative that you buy some paid Google ads.

The number of visitors to a website may increase instantaneously when an ad goes live.

Additionally, paid marketing is essential if you’re looking for a highly targeted market.

With criteria like geographic location, marital status, age, education level, profession, and more, you can directly reach a specific target audience that would be hard to attract with SEO.

Paid search marketing also makes sense when you’re running a special, sale, or event.

You need to get the word out fast as this is a limited-time offer, so the obvious choice is to go with the marketing method that gives immediate results.

Organic vs Paid Search: Striking a Balance

If you’re in charge of a startup, then you want your website to get noticed as soon as possible.

At the same time, you probably don’t have especially deep pockets.

This means that it would be wise to start building a great, content-rich website as soon as possible and start doing outreach to other websites in your industry.

At the same time, it’s sensible to look into which keywords you want to emphasize in any paid advertisements. Doing your research can help you manage your expectations as far as how much those paid Google ads may cost.

Your use of paid ads may be limited in your company’s early months or even years of existence.

However, as your revenue builds and your marketing budget grows, you will be able to establish a larger presence with paid search marketing.

At the same time, you’ll be building a constantly improving website, giving you the best of both digital marketing strategy.

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Dan Fries

Dive deep into the mind of BlueTree CEO Dan Fries and explore a wealth of knowledge on the nuances of link-building and digital marketing.

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