Organic Search vs. Paid Search: A ‘Simply Put’ Comparison

If you’re reading this, the year is 2020 and the digital marketing landscape has become as vast as it’s ever been, and we all have Google to blame (and thank) for it. Whether you’re a multi-billion dollar organization or a new entrepreneur just beginning your journey in the digital marketing landscape you’re going to need to, as well as want to, take advantage of the different types of search Google has to offer; organic search and paid search. Both of these search types provide value to your online marketing agenda and business goals in their own unique way. The methods associated with obtaining traffic from these sources are known as search engine optimization (SEO), which attributes to organic search growth, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which is responsible for paid search results. To keep things simple, we aren’t going to dive into specific SEO or PPC practices. Today, we are going to briefly look at how each of these search types are defined, how they are displayed on Google’s search results page, and the benefits of pursuing an increase in both organic and paid search traffic.

Organic Search

If you’re living in the modern age using a smartphone or a computer on a regular basis, it’s likely you’ve used Google or any other search engine to answer a question you may have or to find a business of interest. The list of results and links that appear below the ads are known as “organic results”. These results appear based on the quality and content on the page, and whether or not the page satisfies the user’s search intent. An example has been provided below of what the “organic results” on a Google search results listing page looks like.

organic search result example

Traffic that enters your website from users clicking on your links within these search results can be classified as “organic traffic”. Organic traffic has recently become one of the most valuable traffic options for a few different reasons:

Organic Search Benefits

  • Quality Content: Google’s algorithm that determines organic search result rankings has greatly improved over the years and ranking in the top five results for a keyword indicates that your content is high quality.
  • Ranking: Rising to the top of the search results is difficult and can take time, but once you’ve reached the top you get to reap the benefits for a long time to come.
  • Trust & Credibility: Ranking among the top of a search engine for a given organic search query implies industry authority and leadership. Along with this comes the perception of credibility and trust.

However, not everything is all sunshine and butterflies when it comes to organic search. Below are a couple of drawbacks to pursuing organic search as a means of advertisement:

Organic Search Disadvantages

  • Time: Highly competitive keywords can be incredibly hard to rank high for within the organic search results, sometimes taking months or even years to reach a top position.
  • Effort & Resources: In order to obtain high organic search rankings, quality content and numerous SEO practices and tactics must be put in place. The research and analysis involved in achieving this can be a daunting task for a single person to take on.

Paid Search

Simply put, paid search results are advertisements. They give the user and account owner the ability to pay to have your website displayed on Google’s search engine results page (above the organic search results!). The exact placement of a paid ad is determined by a ‘quality score’ and bidding process. Paid search advertisements have been designed to blend in with the entire search results page, above the organic results, while mimicking the exact same display format as the organic results with one exception; a small “ad” logo next to the URL. To most searchers this “ad” logo will go unnoticed. Below is an example of a paid search ad displayed within Google’s search engine results page.

paid search result example

As you can see, the difference in appearance between a paid ad and an organic search result are very minimal. The ads feel native and blend in seamlessly with the entire search results page.

The benefits and drawbacks of paid ads are usually polar opposites of organic search, but let’s take a closer look below:

Paid Search (PPC) Benefits

  • Targeting: Paid search campaigns can be set up to target specific audiences. Any given ad can be segmented to include a specific geo-location, industry, age, and even income.
  • Time: Paid search campaigns are designed to provide instant gratification. As opposed to organic search rankings, which can take months to years to achieve ‘front-page’ positioning, paid search ads are placed along the top of the first page as soon as you pay for the ad placement.
  • Click Through rates: When it comes to high purchase intent queries, paid ads are king. High purchase intent queries typically contain product or brand-specific keywords and often catch a consumer when they are nearing their time of purchase.

Paid Search (PPC) Disadvantages

  • Cost: The cost of running a paid search campaign can vary greatly, and the more competitive a keyword is, the higher the cost will be for each click on an advertisement.
  • Temporary: A paid ad will only display as long as you are paying for it. Once it is no longer paid for, it will go away.
  • Click Through Rates: Other than for high purchase intent search queries, searchers will often click on organic search listings over a paid search ad. An organic search result has more trust and credibility with regular search engine users.

Organic Search or Paid Search?

If you’re asking yourself, where should I put forth my resources, time, effort, and even money into? The answer is, it depends. It depends on your marketing goals and needs. Are you looking for immediate results on a product you are trying to sell? Then, investing the time and money on paid search ads may be in your best interest. Perhaps you aren’t trying to sell anything at all on a given web page, (after all, not all web pages are designed to sell products) and you are simply just trying to build brand awareness, loyalty and trust. Then, maybe some quality content and expert SEO tactics will get you showing up on the organic search results and provide you the long lasting results you desire.

If you’re ready to maximize your website’s organic and paid search results, the experts at Aronson Advertising are here to help! Simply fill out our online contact form or give us a call at (847) 297-1700 and one of our representatives will be happy to help you get started.

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