Online presence is essential for growing a business in today’s market. If you aren’t marketing online — you’re stifling your growth, even if you operate a strictly brick-and-mortar store.
An online presence (at the very least, a Google My Business listing) helps potential customers find your products or services right from the moment they start searching.
No business is too small for an online presence. Google processes over 3.5 billion searches a day. Your target audience is online, and if you can show up on the first page of a search engine, they’ll find you first — before they notice your competitors.
In this article, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of organic vs. paid search, so regardless of the size of your business you can choose the best option for your needs.
How Do Businesses Reach the First Page?
When a user types a question into the search engine bar, the search engine results page (SERP) provides them with roughly ten relevant listings. If you look closely, the first few will often have a small “ad” badge to identify them as paid advertisements. Businesses pay for these ads to show up first on the search results page.
Below the paid listings are the organic results. These non-paid listings have reached the first page through relevant, useful, and search engine optimized content.
Let’s take a closer look at organic vs. paid search.
The organic search results on a SERP are the non-paid listings that have ranked organically or naturally. Organic listings on the first page account for about 71.33% of all clicks from a search. So how can you get your organic searches to the first page? The key is search engine optimization (SEO).
Organic search utilizes SEO to satisfy algorithms and rank higher. Algorithms look at keywords and relevant content to decide how web pages will rank. Organic SEO strategy can be technical and require some special skills, but delivering useful, actionable, and valuable content to your audience is an excellent start to this strategy.
An organic search strategy often takes the form of content marketing, and that makes it feel more natural to a potential buyer. By providing useful content, you build a relationship with your audience and gain their trust. When customers trust you, they’ll be more likely to return to you in the future. A big plus when comparing organic vs. paid search is this relationship.
You can also use organic search to target buyers at every stage of their journey. Use it to target buyers who at any of these stages:
- Researching their problem
- Researching potential solutions
- Ready and eager to buy
Organic search content that is evergreen (won’t go obsolete) will continue to work for you long term. If your content is optimized correctly, there’s usually a compounding success rate over time.
If you don’t initially rank very high, there’s a good chance that you’ll continue to rank higher and higher on the search engine results pages with time.
Organic search also works very well with other online marketing channels, such as social media and email marketing. The content you write for the web can be an inspiration for your social media marketing.
In return, compelling social media posts can link back to your online content. This combination can be a highly effective tactic for increasing your brand visibility and presence.
Paid search listings are the same as paid ads. Businesses can pay to increase the odds of showing up first when users search for specific keywords and phrases.
The strategy behind paid advertising is SEM (search engine marketing). SEM is incredibly effective at targeting motivated, ready-to-buy users, which is how it produces its high ROI (return on investment).
It’s not exactly as simple as paying for a prime spot, however. A successful paid search will require a bit of research to ensure you’re using the proper keywords to produce results.
These ads are pay-per-click, so you should be aiming for high commercial intent keywords. Words like this demonstrate a strong desire to buy. Your ad copy and landing page are also crucial to achieving overall success with your paid search.
With Google AdWords, you still need to satisfy Google’s requirements for quality. When you decide how much you want to pay per click, you’re entering an ad auction that takes place every time a user searches.
Google considers your maximum bid on keywords and the quality of your ad to decide if you’ll show up in a search’s paid search results. Google always aims to show users the most relevant and high-quality results.
A paid search ad is a much quicker tactic than organic search — in fact, you can get instant results. The average ROI for Google ads is an $8 return on every $1 spent. How long these results last, however, is a critical difference between organic vs. paid searches. The instant benefits of paid advertisements end the moment you stop paying.
Pros and Cons of Organic Search
Here’s a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of organic search.
- Long-Lasting and Compounds Over Time — By the time you get to the first page, you’ve virtually secured your spot. As long as your content stays relevant, users will continue to find you, and you will continue to rank long term.
- Can Be Accomplished for “Free” — Organic search requires no upfront cost except time. If you establish it on your own, you’ll have to put in the work, but that’s it. It requires no monetary investment.
- Establishes Trust, Credibility, and Authority — When users find your helpful content on the first page, they see you as credible. And if you organically pop up often, they’ll begin to see you as an authority in your field.
- Boosts Other Marketing Channels — Your content from organic searches can be a tool to support your other marketing channels. Your content can become instant social media posts and email campaigns. It can even complement your paid ads.
- High Return on Investment — A solid SEO strategy can provide an unlimited increase in reach, ultimately improving your bottom line.
- Provides Analytics — With Google Analytics and similar tools, you can keep a close eye on what content has the most success and tweak as needed.
- Time-Consuming — If you go at this alone, it can take an incredible amount of time and energy to create quality SEO content.
- Takes Time to Rank — Even quality, optimized content will take a bit of time to improve your ranking. The amount of time it takes depends on many factors, but it could take months before you start seeing a significant difference in ranking.
- Requires SEO Knowledge — At a minimum, a basic understanding of SEO is necessary. Expert knowledge is ideal for standing out amongst the competition. Find out how to maximize your results.
Pros and Cons of Paid Search
Here’s a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of paid search.
- Quickly Rank in Search Engines — When Google deems appropriate, your ads pop up instantly on the first page. No waiting for them to rank higher.
- Instant Results — Because a paid search strategy is highly-targeted, paid advertisements are put directly in front of users who are ready to buy.
- Options for Different Budgets — You don’t need a massive advertising budget. You pay what you’re comfortable with, and you only pay when a user clicks your ad.
- Boosts Other Marketing Channels — Just like organic search, paid search can promote your social media and email strategies. Your ads can help to build your subscriber lists, and your social media ads can work together with your paid search ads.
- High Return on Investment — On average, Google AdWords boasts an $8 return on investment for every $1 spent.
- Provides Analytics — Paid search analytics can provide you with a deeper understanding of your audience’s demographics and click-through rates. This information can benefit and influence both your paid strategy and your organic strategy.
- Needs Close Monitoring — You must keep a close eye on your ads’ performance to make sure you’re receiving the results you need. With money on the line, a failing campaign is the last thing you want.
- Short Term Results — As soon as you stop paying, the ad stops working for you.
- Requires an Advertisement Budget — While you can choose how much you pay per click, if you have no advertisement budget, you clearly won’t be able to go this route.
So Which Is Better For My Business?
The organic vs. paid search debate isn’t truly an argument for which one is better. The best marketing strategy will include a combination of paid and organic.
The goal with online marketing, of course, is to be seen by your target market every time they search. To be truly successful with this, you need a long-term strategy and a short-term strategy.
While you’re waiting to rank in search engines organically, paid search helps to get you front and center immediately, but it can’t be your only strategy. Making sure your audience doesn’t forget about you when your ad campaigns are over is crucial.
Organically ranking with SEO should be your long term goal. Utilizing both is the key to a winning strategy.
Now, imagine a user types a prime keyword for your business into the search engine box. If you are successfully using a combination of paid and organic search, there’s a possibility of the search engine resulting in your business being the first several page listings!
An online presence this prominent would be impossible for a potential customer to ignore. To get started with your winning SEO organic search strategy, check out our Comprehensive SEO Checklist.