Your Ultimate Guide to Paid vs. Organic Search


  • Organic search results are the sites Google recommends based on relevancy, while paid results are advertisements.
  • Top organic searches are the ones Google considers the most useful and relevant to your search. Generally, these results earned their rankings by implementing smart SEO functions. 
  • Paid search results are typically generated through Google AdWords and work faster than organic ones, but do incur an additional fee. 
  • Our recommendation is to implement a little of both to stay competitive.

 


When you look something up on Google, you’ll land on a search engine results page (“SERP”), which will provide a list of results. Some of those results will be organic, and some will be paid. Organic search results are the sites Google recommends based on relevancy, while paid results are advertisements. Google clarifies which results are paid by including a small box to the left of the listing that says “Ad.” 

A lot of our clients approach us wondering about paid vs. organic search. What’s the difference? Which is better? What are the pros and cons? To answer these questions in one place, we put together this guide to paid vs. organic search. If you’re considering implementing an SEO strategy for your website (which you should), you’ll want to review the following information before getting started. 

What is Organic Search?

Google analyzes every single web page and ranks it in order of relevance to certain keywords. When you search for something on Google, the results (that have not been paid for) are organic searches. 

In the example above, we searched for the keyword “Search Engine Optimization.” The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz is the top organic search. This means that Moz did not pay to have its guide at the top of the search. Instead, it created a piece of content so powerful, Google ranked it as #1. Organic results are also often referred to as “natural” results because results got where they are in search rankings almost “naturally” (i.e., with no additional payment). 

Top organic searches are the ones Google considers the most useful and relevant to your search. Generally, these results earned their rankings by implementing smart SEO functions, such as engaging content and strategic title tags/meta descriptions.

In general, the purpose of SEO is to improve your organic search rankings. While ranking organically in the top searches is one of the most effective strategies for driving traffic to your site, it can be a long and slow process. For that reason, many companies opt for…

Paid Search

While a lot of people will try to wage war between paid vs organic search, the truth is, both serve a very specific need, and both can be very powerful. A paid search ad is essentially a ranking earned through payment from the website (rather than through relevancy). In the example above, the first result (with the “ad” box next to it) was paid for by the website.

Paid search results are typically generated through Google AdWords and work faster than organic ones. While anyone who works on the web will notice the difference pretty quickly, surprisingly enough, the average consumer is not dissuaded by the “ad” signifier. 

It’s also important to note that paid search results aren’t as easy as paying and waiting around for traffic. Google still factors in relevance and quality when determining a paid ad’s placement. A PPC expert can help you make the most of your ad dollars, by ensuring you’re targeting the right keywords and providing the most relevant content. On your own, you may find the money you’re putting towards paid search results isn’t returning very much on your investment.

So, paid vs. organic search… which should I focus on?

Our recommendation is to implement a little of both to stay competitive. There are over 1.5 billion sites on the web, which means you 100% need a 360-degree strategy to stand out.

Focusing on your organic search results is critical for the longevity of your site’s rankings. While it may take longer to rank this way, the rankings you earn will also last longer. When it comes to organic search and SEO, slow and steady wins the race. The great thing about organic search optimization is that you only need to pay your SEO agency or expert. There’s no additional cost.

Paid search is a great option when you want to get traffic moving ASAP. It’s faster and easier than focusing on organic search results, but you can rack up an advertising bill pretty quickly, while not necessarily hanging on to your visitors. PPC is harder than it sounds, but when it’s done right, it can be very effective in the short term.

Summary: Paid vs. Organic Search

Organic search results are ones that are crafted through smart SEO practices over a long period of time. Paid search results are purchased to drive quick traffic. While organic searches are essentially free, they do require a lot of SEO manpower. Conversely, while paid searches are very quick, they don’t necessarily have lasting results and can take over your marketing budget very quickly. Both options offer vehicles for driving traffic to your site. Both have pros and cons. The best strategy incorporates both functions to optimize your website’s success. 

Find Someone Who Can Do Both

If the balancing act of paid vs. organic search sounds too complicated, rest assured––it’s certainly not easy to nail down. Working with a team of experts who have spent years testing and tweaking both strategies to deliver the best results is a smart way to take this hefty task off your to-do list. At Redefine Marketing Group, we’ve been optimizing websites through SEO and PPC tactics for years. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about what we do.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David is the former lead member of an enterprise digital team, where he managed clients across a spectrum of industries. He’s been perfecting search engine optimization for years and specializes in technical SEO and local strategy.
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