Since only 19% of the internet’s users use Bing or Yahoo (sorry, guys), most of us tend to search for answers in the same place: Google.

Google searches can be broken down into two components: organic and paid searches. For a user searching on Google, this means that your search results can either be from ads, or from websites that Google recognises as high-quality sources of information. For digital marketers, it means that you have multiple options when it comes to getting the attention of people searching for the products and services you offer.

Whether you’re a marketer or not, you’ve probably heard the term SEO thrown around somewhere, by someone. SEO, also known as search engine optimisation, is the method of attracting website traffic through organic search – meaning, you aren’t paying directly for users to come to your site through advertising. Search engine marketing, on the other hand, is the method by which you pay directly for traffic to your site through advertising on Google (or, for the other 19% of searchers, on Bing and Yahoo).

So now that we know the difference between organic and paid traffic sources, most people typically ask: what’s better for my marketing strategy? Our answer is this: both. Stick with us and we’ll explain exactly why that is.

Google Organic v Paid

Organic search results cost you little in the long run

Whenever you type a query or word into Google, the list of links that appear below the ads are the organic results. Google has over 200 factors that its algorithms consider when determining the order of how a page ranks; as we said above, it’s easiest to just understand that results appear based on what Google recognises as the content of the page, as well as the quality of the content on the page.

Organic traffic is highly valuable because it is free – with paid traffic, you pay every time a user clicks on an ad and is dropped on your site. Not so with organic traffic. Furthermore, the benefits of being listed in the top 10 search results (the first page) are huge: 92% of all clicks come from results on the first page of Google search results. 33% of clicks go to the very first result.

So now you’re probably sold on why organic traffic is valuable. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as slapping up a website and letting Google find it and placing it on its first page. If only! Remember how we said that Google considers 200 factors when determining the order of search results from any given query? Yeah. That means you have to optimise your website, making it easier for Google to recognise what you are offering and what your webpages are about. This can take a lot of time, and there is often competition in the form of other websites offering similar services and products. That’s where SEO comes in: it is the process of optimising your site for search. So if you’re looking for instant gratification, SEO isn’t the approach for you.

We’ve talked to clients who are sceptical about whether SEO will help them at all. If you think that people aren’t Googling your business or any keywords that would help you get a lead or make a sale, consider the following:

  • Organic search leads have a 14.6% close rate, whereas outbound leads have a 1.7% close rate.
  • 78% of US internet users search for products and services online.
  • Every month, there are more than 10.3 billion Google searches.

Chances are, someone out there is looking for you. You just have to know how to help them find you. Since it is the major, globally-accepted way to search the internet, this is your best way to inexpensively get in front of people who are already actively searching for your product or service.

But what if you’re in a rush? Running a promotion? Have cash to burn (a good problem to have!)? You might be thinking of…


Paid Search, which will cost you money but get you results fast (if set up correctly)

Paid search results, and the people who click on them who are known collectively as paid traffic, are attained by running ads through Google Ads. The paid search results are placed above organic search results. Although there is a small sign denoting that the result is an “Ad”, it turns out that many people are unaware that these results are even advertisements – the ads look and feel like other, organic Google results. This is often enough to get someone to click on a result and pop! Land on a webpage.

The biggest benefit to paid search is that you needn’t wait as you build up your SEO (meaning ticking some of the 200 boxes Google has to show your search result in a position that will likely get it clicked). Instead, you can pay for the privilege of being featured on Google’s page 1.

Why would anyone invest in SEO when they can see results right away? Well, because they’re paying for clicks, of course, and this can get expensive. More than half of Google’s revenue comes from Google Ads; considering Google owns YouTube and Android as well, you can understand just how much is spent on Ads.

Although Google Ads can help you jump the queue and not build up a more robust SEO profile, the fact remains that you need to meet different ranking factors for Google Ads, so don’t jump in thinking that if you pay Google, you’ll automatically appear in the first result on a search query just because you’re paying. There are strategies and best practices that must be observed when it comes to setting up SEM campaigns, too.


Organic v. Paid search: which is best for you?

In conclusion, both paid and organic traffic have their benefits and their place in a multi-channel marketing strategy. Both require strategic know-how to do effectively, and both can get you great results.

Questioning how to get started, or where to go from here? We’re on Twitter if you want to tweet us @90digital, or we’re just a call away. Schedule some time to chat with us here. We can help you with your traffic, both paid, organic, and other digital marketing needs.

Khaleelah Jones

Khaleelah Jones

With a PhD in emerging media, Khaleelah has worked in the marketing industry for over a decade. She leads growth and sales at 90 Digital, developing new projects and partnerships. Khaleelah is the main contact for all potential 90 Digital clients, ensuring that our proposed services and initial strategies are aligned with the overall business goals and objectives our clients seek, so we can bring them the best results possible.

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