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Organic Search vs. Paid Search: What’s the Best Strategy?

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The internet has been transforming how people interact and do business. Organic search and paid search have emerged as powerful digital marketing strategies, having their own merits and disadvantages. Choosing between them depends on many aspects, and making the right decision is a fundamental strategic decision for any brand.
This article will delve into organic and paid search in detail, including their differences, benefits, and drawbacks.

Introduction to Organic Search vs. Paid Search

Organic search refers to unpaid results that appear on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These results are determined by search algorithms, where many factors are considered, like content quality, search query relevance, and domain authority.
On the other hand, paid search involves buying ads that appear at the top or alongside organic search results. These ads are typically run on a pay-per-click (PPC) model, where companies pay each time someone clicks on their ad.

What Is Search Marketing and Why Is It Necessary?

Search marketing is a digital marketing tactic to increase a company’s presence in search engine results pages for websites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It drives organic and paid website traffic, helping companies attract and convert new customers.
Currently, 93% of all online experiences start with search engines. People use search engines for almost everything – to ask questions, find contact information, learn about new topics, research brands, and more. Therefore, brands that fail to secure high rankings risk being invisible to their online audience.

Differences Between Organic Search and Paid Search

The main difference between organic search and paid search is cost. As expected, paid search pays directly for prominent ranking positions, while organic search generates natural results at no cost.
Organic search works like this: Companies use content marketing and SEO tactics to achieve rankings in the SERP. Users see this content on their results pages when they make relevant search queries, making them more likely to click and visit the website.
Paid search is usually executed with a pay-per-click (PPC) model, where a company pays the search engine each time someone clicks on the ad. The ad always appears at the top of the page and before the organic search.

Here you can see how they appear on Google’s SERPs:

organic search vs paid search

Organic search and paid search have their unique benefits. Let’s delve deeper.

Benefits of Organic Search

Cost-effective

Organic search marketing only requires initial investment up to time. This is because organic search rankings are driven by consistent, high-quality, and valuable content.
When you create and publish content regularly while using SEO tactics, you build a content library that catches the attention of search engines and appears in the SERPs of your audience.

Generates compound results

Content posted as part of your organic search strategy continues to yield results long after you first publish it. Over time, great content climbs in rankings and gets more views. It can also be shared by your brand and others on social media and linked to other websites.
Therefore, while organic search marketing may require a significant time investment, you can expect it to pay off handsomely over time.

Establishes brand authority

Creating high-value content addressing topics relevant to your audience builds your reputation as an industry expert. In other words, you establish brand authority, which occurs when a brand has high levels of trust from its customers.

Attracts the right web visitors

Organic search naturally attracts genuinely interested visitors to your content and your products and services. They click on your website because your content resonated with them for a reason – not because you paid for it to appear at the top of the SERPs.

Benefits of Paid Search

Generates immediate results

Unlike organic search, which requires you to start creating content and patiently wait for results to appear in a few months, paid search generates immediate results. You can expect platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads to approve your campaign request in just a few days and your numbers to boost shortly after your ads go live.

Attracts high-intent users

While organic and paid search attract relevant audiences, paid search attracts more users with high purchase intent. Think of it this way: if you’re doing initial research on a topic or a potential purchase, you’ll likely scroll through the results to learn more about it.
If you’re ready to purchase, you’re likelier to click on the ad at the top of your SERP that shows the product you need.
That’s why paid search is the best option if you’re looking to boost a specific area, such as sales of a particular product.

Has options for all budgets

While paid search requires an initial investment, options are available for all budget sizes. You can create a custom budget and set your monthly ad spend on the paid search channels you use.
However, remember that some industries are more competitive than others regarding paid search, and investing more in your paid ads can lead to saving your investment.

Benefits when using both Organic and Paid Search

Delivers a high ROI

Remember: 93% of all online experiences start with a search. Nearly all your potential customers use Google and other search engines to find products or brands. As such, search marketing naturally yields a higher ROI than some other traditional marketing methods.

Provides actionable user data

Both organic and paid search provide actionable user data insights that help you continually refine your strategy and achieve better results. You can use demographic data such as age, gender, and location to create precise buyer personas. Keyword data helps you understand which search queries to target more aggressively. Click-through rates, conversion rates, time on page, and other behaviour-related data are crucial for understanding if you’re going the right way. Google Ads provides a wealth of data that you can use to inform your strategies.

Informs other marketing and sales efforts

The insights you gain from your organic and paid search marketing efforts can inform your marketing and sales teams for better results in other actions. For example, you might discover a new audience segment you weren’t targeting before or behavioural data can help you improve your website for better engagement.
These are just a few examples, but the main idea is that the impact of search marketing data can extend far beyond your actual searches.

So, which Strategy to Choose?

Now that you know the benefits of paid and organic search marketing, you can see that the answer depends. Some new companies may need a budget for paid marketing; in such cases, organic search is the way to go. Others may operate in such a competitive industry that some paid search efforts are needed to stay competitive in specific markets.

All brands should be using organic search marketing because there’s no downside. It’s free. It has been proven to work for businesses of all sizes and industries. On the other hand, organic search and paid search shouldn’t be a competition. Use them as a combined strategy to find potential customers at all stages of the funnel and meet them where they already are: on search engines.