If we compare organic and paid results with all other marketing channels they share one distinctive similarity: they are both based on what the user is actively typing in the search bar.
Taken individually, however, they are different in their approach and outcome.
What are Organic Search Results (SEO)
Organic search results are web pages that earned their position on Google’s first page in a ‘free’ organic manner through on-page and off-page techniques. These techniques oftentimes require a lot of effort, resources, and time.
For organic SEO results you can influence what search queries to trigger your page but you don’t have 100% control.
What are Paid Search Results (PPC)
Paid Results means that you directly pay Google to have your page shown in the top search results. They are almost instantly displayed and updated and don’t require the effort and time organic rankings require.
For the Pay-Per-Click results you have total control over what search queries to trigger your ad.
Key Benefits of Organic Search
- 70-80% of all users click on the organic non-paid search results.
- Your site’s search results position can last for weeks, months, and even years.
- The user has more credibility in organic results than paid advertisements.
- Except for transactional keywords that are saturated with paid results, organic results usually have a better conversion rate for the intended goal.
- Although organic SEO requires investment it is still more cost-effective than paid ads.
Key Benefits of Paid Search
- Total and almost instant control to modify what the user sees in search results.
- Compared to a TV or Radio ad where your ad may require multiple points of contact and meetings, in PPC you can take care of your ads from your phone.
- The fact that the user can type a search query on the phone wherever he goes at any time is a big advantage when targeting ads by location or by keywords with specific intent (e.g. “bike repair shop near me.“)
- The possibility to promote time-sensitive offers such as coupon codes, sales.
Organic and Paid Results Similarities
- Both take place on the search engine results page (SERP).
- They need the user’s keyword input to either show your ad, or the organic result.
- Both require keyword research.
- Organic and Paid ads require a landing page where the user lands after clicking the ad or the organic result.
- Both have clickable headlines, site links, and meta descriptions.
Organic and Paid Results Differences
- The biggest differentiator is that paid results are ranking instantly on the first page, whilst ranking for organic search results can take months or years.
- The paid ads are showing on top of the search results.
- For organic results, you need to develop a content marketing strategy with relevant and valuable content, whilst for the paid ad the content is not as important.
- For organic search, what is shown in the search result information is data from the landing page, whilst for the paid ad you can use a different landing page to what the search result information suggests.
- The ROI is trickier to measure on organic rankings compared to paid ads.
- The ad has a small “Ad” icon indicator.
- And of course the Pay Per Click Traffic is traffic you are paying for.
Paid Search vs Organic Search
There is no right or wrong between the two. To maximize the results of your digital strategy it is best to use both PPC and organic rankings.
Here are some ideas on how both can be used in a way that complements each other.
- If you have pages that are not yet ranked in Google you can use PPC to fill the gaps left by organic search and help drive awareness about your less popular content.
- If you are already ranking on the first page but not on the top result, you can pay for PPC ads to help that page make it to the top. You can check this Moz article explaining how Paid Results can positively impact Organic Results.
- Using paid ads together with organic results will help you grab both desktop and mobile searchers. That’s because on mobile devices the user needs to scroll down to get past the paid ad so it is most likely the mobile users will click on the first results. On desktop devices, it is easier to ignore the ad and click on the following organic results.
- When your page appears both as organic and as a paid ad, it will increase your visibility. The user is most likely to click on any of them.
Regardless if you try to rank organically or to pay for ad results, the battle is fierce. Both PPC and SEO require that extra mile of effort to outperform the competition.
If you believe you don’t have the stomach for a silent war, it’s better to outsource and find someone who is more prepared to win at the detriment of the other.
But it doesn’t have to be so dramatic actually. After all, we talk about business. Business is by definition hard and challenging. It’s a world for people who know or at least should know how to lose.