Which Is Best: Organic Search Results Or Paid Advertising?

This question obviously comes up a lot amongst those who haven’t yet got to grips with online advertising, so we’ll lay it all out for you right here.

As you’re probably aware, there are two main types of advertising online: paid and free. 

Paid usually refers to things like Google advertising (PPC – Pay Per Click) and free refers to ‘organic search results’ created by adding content to your site in order to get your pages listed in the search engine results for various key phrases.

However, it’s not only the obvious cost which separates them.

They are different to set up, manage and the results can also differ. However, they both have their uses, both can be very effective and they can also be used together very effectively.

Let’s break down the differences and benefits of both free and paid traffic:

Free Traffic

Firstly, let’s clear up a misconception. No traffic is actually free. Even organic search results. 

If you want to be listed in the search engines natural results, you need high-quality content and lots of it. Useful, valuable content is needed to begin appearing for your chosen terms/keywords in the search results.

Although there’s no direct up-front cost, it takes time to write content and even more time to begin seeing results, and your time is money. Alternatively, you’ll have to pay someone else to write your content.

Either way, your visitors aren’t free.

Here are a few other points to keep in mind regarding free traffic:

  • You won’t see results overnight. When, or if, you start appearing in the results depends on many factors, one of which is how competitive your industry or niche is.
  • The good news is, if you can create excellent, useful, info based content, or have it created, it can have a huge impact a little further down the road.
  • If your competitors aren’t offering this info for free, it makes you stand out, increases your value and fosters trust. All very important when it comes to converting visitors into customers.
  • There are no shortcuts to this. Weak, thin content simply isn’t going to rank in the search engines anymore. All the secret trapdoors are now closed, so you need to approach this sensibly, get stuck in and produce great, shareable content if you want it to work.

Free traffic can be great, as once you’re set up and your content begins getting indexed, the new customers begin to appear as if by magic.

It takes some work, research and thought, it’s not fast and your results can be hit and miss, but get it right and you’ll reap the rewards for years.

Free Traffic Pros & Cons:

Pros: There’s no up-front cost, it’s completely self-managed, it’s easy to create content if you like writing and it’s very effective long-term.

Cons: It’s slower to see results and more hit and miss than paid traffic. Also, if you don’t like writing, you’ll have to pay to outsource your content.

Paid Traffic

Paid traffic can have targeted visitors arriving at your website in hours. It’s very fast, very targeted and once you get the hang of it, it can be very cost-effective.

Unfortunately, many people are scared away from paid traffic simply because it has a certain reputation for eating up your budget quickly when you get it wrong. The truth is it’s actually very manageable and you can set your daily budget as a failsafe.

The trick is obviously to make more in sales than you spend on ads. 

Sounds obvious but many people dive in, spend a fortune thinking they’ve nailed it and are scared away when their ad campaigns run away from them.

You need to start small, test and ramp up your successes.

The great thing about paid traffic sources such as Google advertising is you can test your ads quickly, find the winners and roll out your budget for high ROI (Return On Investment).

You can’t do that with free organic search results.

Once you refine your paid ads and they begin producing results, it’s easy to continue testing, gradually forcing up your results even further. By growing in this way, you stay safe as the ads you push have already proven themselves from the particular traffic source.

Same successful ads + same traffic source means you can keep pushing up your spend, thereby increasing your profits.

Initially, you’ll have to have a budget for testing. Keep in mind, however, that once you find your most successful ads it gets much easier and the profits start to roll in, making up for any initial outlay.

We have plenty of expert tips on this very blog to make sure you make the most of your PPC spend, including:

  • Learning how to write good ad headlines. We have a post about that here.
  • Only send your ad clicks through to specific landing pages. We also have a post on this important subject here.
  • Use Google Ad extensions to improve conversions. And yes, we have a post on that too, here.

Paid traffic Pros & Cons:

Pros:  It’s fast, cost-effective and easy to roll out once you’ve found your successful ads and very repeatable.

Cons: There’s a cost obviously and a fairly steep learning curve to deal with.

A quick summary

Which of these two tactics is best for you depends on your goals. 

If you are not in a rush for new customers, you can focus on building up your website with excellent, sharable content and wait for your new visitors to arrive.

Produce enough good content regularly and they will.

If you want your new customers today, paid traffic is your answer. As long as you understand you’ll need a small budget and a little time for testing to really make the most of it.

A mixture of both is the best bet, as you can build up your free visitors in the background while focusing on your paid ads for immediate impact.

If you love the idea of almost instant visitors with paid Google advertising, but you’re inexperienced, you can get all the valuable benefits without the learning curve with Adzooma. Click here for more info.

Phil Coleman
As a Copywriter with 25 years experience I have written squillions of words, writing for all sizes of business, both online and off including The Chamber of Commerce, the NHS and of course Adzooma. I'm a not so secret UFC fan, I live in the heart of Sherwood Forest and I have 2 pet cats called Copy and Spooky Dave.