Organic Search vs. Paid Search

According to Jupiter Research, 81% of people online find what they are looking for through a search engine. To be featured more prominently on a search result page, and most importantly, be more attractive to people searching online, companies boost the visibility of their websites through organic search or paid search.

There are a lot of terms thrown around nowadays around search. SEO, or search engine optimization, generally refers to unpaid marketing that boosts your organic ranking in the listing of web pages returned by a search. Pay per click (PPC), paid search, CPC (cost-per-click), and CPM (cost-per-thousand) are all terms relating to online paid advertising which boosts search engine results and optimize your SEM (search engine marketing). It all sounds like a mouthful. But, ultimately, which is the better way to go? Which provides the best approach for your needs?

Organic Search

In many cases, marketers use blog posts and content on their websites to drive traffic. The more traffic a website gets, the higher it can appear in search result returns. To get to that point, keywords and phrases must be implemented throughout content on a web page in an order for search engines to pick them up. Just the same, too many keyword phrases or heavy repetition of a certain keywords can land your page at the bottom of the search barrel. Google and other search engines will recognize “keyword stuffing” and penalize sites by dropping their search rank.

Marketers use these tactics to place website listings on the first page of search results, ideally in the top three rankings. Most users don’t go past the first page when searching with keywords. For example, if you needed to send flowers to your friend for her birthday and you don’t know where to order from, you might use “flower delivery company in Baltimore” as your search term. The companies with the best SEO will appear on the first page, even if another company is just as capable or affordable. This is why smaller businesses should implement blogs, social media, and an optimized website to compete with larger competitors.

Of course, you don’t need to pay for any of this. However, if you’re short on time and/or labor to effectively implement organic SEO for your site, you might want to explore paid search.

Paid Search

The yellow “Ad” box you see within a search listing denotes a paid listing. Those results are paid search and are placed depending on the amount you bid on keywords and the quality score of the ad. If one company outbids another, even by just a penny, that ad is more likely to show up more prominently in searches. A lot of time is saved when using paid search, as organic SEO often takes many weeks or months to produce results. Paid search can throw your website into the top search ranking mix immediately. However, the downfall of paid search is that users generally trust and prefer organic results more. In addition, ads also disappear once you stop paying for them.

Which is better?

Organic search provides credibility for a business and conveys that it is a viable enterprise. Rankings are also easily maintained once you’re in the flow. The key is to apply organic search tactics for at least six months to see where you appear in search rankings in relation to competitor sites. It takes time and resources to rank organically, and writers, programmers, and an SEO expert must be brought in to achieve your goals.

Paid search benefits include specific audience targeting and significant time savings. Based on your business, it can be costly to apply paid search. Overall, you need to decide if it is worth it. Analytics can be used to determine your return on using paid search.

Overall, there is no right answer as to whether organic or paid search is better. A combination of both is often the best option for your business. A tactic many use is to pay for search until analytics show that organic ranking is overtaking the paid search. Once you see your business making “headlines,” so to speak, paid search can be scaled back accordingly.