Organic SEO vs. Paid Search: What’s the Difference?

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Have you been searching for more ways to drive traffic to your business’s website?

If so, you’ve probably heard of two main strategies for bringing in more website traffic: organic search and paid search. While both organic and paid search can be beneficial for your business, it’s essential to understand the differences between the two. 

It’s also essential to understand the pros and cons of each so you can decide which tactic is best for your business. Read on to learn all about organic SEO vs. paid search

Related: SEO Industries We Serve 

Organic Search vs. Paid Search: What’s the Difference? 

The main difference between organic search (SEO) and paid search comes down to cost. Organic search primarily focuses on boosting unpaid rankings in the search results, whereas paid search focuses on improving your paid rankings

With organic search, companies implement SEO strategies to optimize their website’s visibility and rankings in the search results. On the other hand, paid search involves users paying for an optimal spot in the search results. 

Paid search is also often referred to as paid-per-click advertising or PPC. The reason it’s called this is because businesses need to pay a fee each time someone clicks on one of their ads. 

However, when someone clicks on an organic search result, businesses don’t need to pay anything. For this reason, many businesses prefer organic search over paid search. Once you make an initial investment in organic search, you can keep seeing results without having to fork over more money. 

This is not the case for PPC, as you need to pay every single time someone clicks on your ad. 

While both are effective methods for driving traffic to your website, SEO tends to work better overall than PPC. However, it can be beneficial to implement both SEO and PPC into your marketing strategy to bring as much targeted traffic to your website as possible. 

The Benefits of SEO 

Laptop with “SEO” on-screen

SEO is all about optimizing your website so it performs better in the search results. The higher your website ranks in the search results, the more likely it is that someone will click on it. 

In fact, the first page of Google gets 71% of all search traffic clicks. If you can get your website to rank on the first page for a certain search query, you’ll have a much better chance of bringing in more business. 

Here are some of the biggest reasons you should focus on organic search:

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Impressive ROI 

Organic search offers a big return on investment. While it’s difficult to measure an average ROI across all businesses, it is easy to measure the return of your SEO strategy. 

Plus, because SEO is so affordable upfront, your chances of making your money back and then some are much higher. 

Related: SEO Case Studies 

Raises Brand Awareness 

Another very important component of organic search is that it helps raise brand awareness. Gaining visibility in search engines for your targeted keywords will put your business in front of potential customers in the same way as if you were to put a huge billboard advertisement on the side of the highway.

Visibility around certain search terms will make it easy for others to become accustomed to your brand and begin to trust it. This will allow for your business to become an authoritative voice around industry-related topics

Boosts Trust and Credibility 

Another important part of SEO is that it helps you build trust and credibility around your brand. Whether someone is searching for an interior design company or reliable business software, your company will make a positive first impression when it appears at the top of the search results. 

In comparison, businesses that appear in the paid section of search often appear less credible to users. If users continue to see your site pop up in the search results, that will boost your trust and credibility even further

Attracts Relevant Users 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of organic search is that it helps attract relevant users to your site. Through natural search, your business can target an array of users without having to deal with the upfront cost of paid search. 

This allows your company to maximize its presence in industry-related search results. Organic search also allows you to take advantage of content marketing, such as blog posts. Content often takes an informational and educational approach, and users respond well to this type of content

Related: SEO Content Writing Services 

What are the Benefits of Paid Search?

Pay per click

While SEO may outshine paid search, the benefits of paid search should not be overlooked. Here are some advantages paid search can provide your business:

Generates Instant Results 

One of the biggest benefits of paid search is that it can help your company generate instant results. Instead of having to implement organic tactics and wait for your website to climb the search engine rankings, paid search will put you at the top of the rankings right away. 

If you’re a new company looking to get the word out about your business, this can be a huge benefit

Gather Keyword Data for SEO 

Paid search can also help with your organic search efforts. By advertising online, you’ll receive helpful user data regarding keywords, customer age, customer location, and more. 

Not only will keyword information benefit your SEO strategy, but demographic information will also benefit your overall marketing strategy. 

Attracts Ready-to-Buy Users 

Another significant benefit of paid search is that it attracts ready-to-buy users. Instead of looking for informational content or looking to learn about a brand, they’re ready to buy a product once they click on an ad. 

By targeting your ads to ready-to-buy users, you’ll be able to bring in more revenue and generate immediate results. 

What Are the Drawbacks of Organic SEO?

While organic SEO brings many benefits to businesses, there are some requirements to keep up with it that can turn into drawbacks for some companies.

Organic SEO Requires Routine Maintenance

Organic search and SEO isn’t a one-and-done project—it requires you to continually optimize your website and content to improve your presence in the search results. These optimizations include everything from uploading fresh content and tweaking your meta descriptions and title tags to improving page loading times.

Without continuous upkeep, your SEO efforts will go to waste as your content gradually fades past the first page of results.

The solution? Working with an SEO agency.

Organic SEO Doesn’t Deliver Instant Results

Most businesses won’t see results from their organic SEO efforts right away, leading them to drop the strategy altogether.

Compared to paid search, which can drive leads and conversions immediately, organic SEO can take months to deliver measurable results—if your goal is page one of the SERPs, it can take six months to see your content appear at the top of the search results.

Organic SEO Requires a Specific Skill Set

Like any sector of marketing, you need someone with a specific skill set to succeed with organic SEO.

And while there are plenty of free resources your team can use to learn SEO themselves, this route can prove challenging for many organizations.

Launching an in-house SEO strategy without prior knowledge isn’t feasible for most companies—it requires the time and budget to hone your SEO skills, which is why many organizations, from small companies to large enterprises, typically hire an SEO agency.

What Are the Drawbacks of Paid Search?

Paid search can quickly drive traffic to a site, but it comes with some disadvantages compared to organic SEO.

Paid Search Is Expensive

Organic SEO doesn’t require nearly the upfront investment that paid search does. Investing in paid search requires you to set and provide a specific ad spend—if your company doesn’t have an advertising budget, it can’t advertise.

This expense is a significant drawback compared to organic SEO—you need to budget for a paid campaign in advance, requiring your team to develop and execute a full-fledged paid search strategy.

Paid Search Is a Short-Term Solution

If you run a paid search campaign, you’ll only see results as long as you continue investing in it—once you stop spending and maintaining your ads, the results stop, too.

For example, if your business becomes dependent on the revenue driven by paid ads, it forces you to continue spending and supporting the strategy.

And while paid search can offer significant benefits, it’s crucial not to become 100% dependent on the strategy for your leads and conversions.

Paid Search Requires Constant Attention

While organic SEO also requires regular upkeep, this drawback is even more pronounced for paid search—it requires more of your team’s attention more often.

Running a successful paid search campaign entails checking on your paid ads and making changes multiple times per week.

Many organizations struggle to find the time to check on their paid ads, resulting in inflated ad spend and a loss of conversions.

Organic SEO vs. Paid Search: Conclusion 

As you can see, both paid search and SEO can play an important role in your business’s overall marketing strategy. And the good news is, you don’t need to choose one over the other. 

Many businesses use paid search while developing their SEO strategy. Then, once they start to see results from SEO, they scale back on their paid search efforts to save advertising dollars. 

Are you looking for an SEO agency that can help you develop your organic search strategy? Contact us today! 

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