Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson 1 April 2022

10 Insightful Differences Between Paid Search and Organic Search

If you want your business to have good online visibility, you need to take the necessary steps to rank high in search engines simply because most people search for answers using search engines. In addition, businesses seeking traffic to their websites do so via two traffic sources: paid search and organic search. And there are only two methods for acquiring traffic from these sources: Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The decision on whether to use paid search or organic search to boost your business's online visibility is down to choice. However, to make your choice easier, you should fully understand their differences. In this article, you will get ten insightful differences between paid and organic search and understand how to use them to benefit your business. 

What is Organic Search?

If you want a quick answer to a question bugging you or need a solution to a problem, you will likely visit Google or any search engine to find answers.

When you visit Google and type the question, it instantly returns several links to websites that solve your problem. This action you just performed (typing a query into Google) is an Organic Search, and the links that appeared (minus the ads) are Organic Search Results. 

Organic search results are based on a website's quality and content. Hence, a website that ticks the right boxes with its marketing campaign and search engine visibility is likely to appear among the top organic search results. 

What is Paid Search?

When you type a query in Google, sometimes, you may observe that some results appear above others. These top-ranking results have a yellow box marked "Ad" next to them. These results are paid search results and fit so seamlessly into organic results that many consumers don't realize they are advertisements.

Hence, paid search has become popular with the increasing competition in organic search. Thus, many businesses pay for the chance to appear top in search engine rankings rather than waiting for their SEO to build up. 

Differences Between Paid and Organic Search

Here are ten differences between paid search and organic search using different criteria. You should know which methods are best for your business strategy based on these differences. 

1. Cost

A difference between paid search and organic search is the cost. Organic search is free and depends on how well a business uses SEO best practices to boost its traffic and online visibility.

On the other hand, if your company uses paid search or SEM, it must set out an advertising budget for paid ad campaigns and have a working strategy for online advertisement. With paid search, you pay each time a consumer clicks or sees your ads, hence the name, Pay-Per-Click (PPC).

2. Position on Search Page

When you search a query on Google or other search engines, a paid search result will appear at the top of the page. However, organic search results appear below the paid search results.

Despite paid search seemingly having the advantage position-wise, statistics show that most people who search for things on Google ignore the paid ads, with 70% clicking on organic links.

3. Target Audience

Paid search makes it possible to target a specific audience with your ad campaign. This is because you can direct the search engine to allow only people within a specified geographic region, with particular interests, income levels, etc., to see your ads. However, with organic search, this luxury is absent. 

4. Time

A key difference between organic and paid search is the time needed for results to become evident. It takes a long time, sometimes upwards of six months, to rank with SEO, and there are many critical strategies you need to adopt to do this. However, with SEM, the results are quick, and you can track your ad's success in analytics once you launch it. 

5. Lasting Power

Generally, organic search lasts longer in search rankings than paid search. As long as you maintain routine upkeep and keep your website optimized for SEO, you are likely to maintain your search engine rankings. However, you must keep paying to retain online visibility with paid search. Once you stop paying, you won't appear in search queries. 

6. Backlinking

With organic search, reputation and backlinking aid your business's cause. Hence, if you use the right backlinks and have a good reputation, you have a better chance of appearing at the top of search rankings.

However, paid search allows you to compete fairly with big companies without an established reputation or backlinks. This is because SEM only accesses your advertising text and landing page for quality without paying much attention to your backlinks or reputation. 

7. Trust

Organic search takes a long time, a good SEO strategy and reputation, and good website practices to rank high. On the other hand, you can get visibility for your business quickly with paid search and good SEM practices. Due to these differences, it is easier for consumers to trust organic search results than paid search results. 

Some consumers believe that businesses who are top of the rankings thanks to paid search bought their way to the top. Hence, such businesses may not necessarily be good at what they do or have good ratings despite being featured at the top.

On the other hand, companies at the top through organic search must have done so by maintaining good business practices, ratings, and excellent customer reviews or page clicks. As a result, many consumers click on organic search results rather than paid search results. 

8. Competition

Besides taking time to achieve results, organic search campaigns also face much competition for a chance to appear in search results. This competition is not just with competing businesses but with Google Ads.

Other elements to contend with include video and image carousels, local search packs, and featured snippets. On the other hand, you don't face such competition with paid search. You can receive a good placement in search engine results with paid search as long as you pay and have quality SEM practices. 

9. Attention

Both paid search and organic search require your time and attention. However, paid search demands more attention than organic search. It will help if you track your ad campaigns more often, at least once a week.

However, many companies don't do this, resulting in lost conversions/sales despite the high cost of paid search. With organic search, you need to ensure your website information is always up to date and has the right keywords and SEO strategy to make you visible in search rankings. 

10. Usage

If you want to run a long-term ad campaign that will continue to remain effective in the long run, your best bet is organic search. However, if you want short-term campaigns that require immediate results, you are better off with paid search. 

Paid Search vs. Organic Search: Which to Use? 

There is no definitive answer to which one of the two searches is better. It all depends on your business's needs. However, most digital marketers agree that it is best to use both, given their benefits.

If you want a short-term marketing strategy while trying to build a startup or promote a new product or service, it is best to use paid search. That way, you can give the product or service the necessary exposure it needs.

Then, when you achieve the desired results, you can maintain its relevance with organic search. Organic search also works best for old products or services with low demand. 

Before settling on a strategy, outline what your business needs and wants to achieve. Then, based on these needs and objectives, you can note whether paid search or organic search will help you achieve them. However, it is never a bad idea to combine both strategies. If you find the right balance between both, you will have a winning marketing strategy.

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