Does Paid Search Impact Organic Search and What’s the Difference?

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Organic and paid have always appeared at opposing sides of the search divide, and the practitioners of both could argue that their approach garners greater results. But what is the truth of the matter when it comes to organic vs paid? And how do you choose between the two as part of your online marketing strategy?

To help you distinguish between organic search and paid search, and select the right approach for your requirements, we’ve put together this extensive guide on everything you need to know about the differences, as well as their pros and cons.

Use the links below to navigate or read on for the complete guide.

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What is the Difference Between Organic and Paid Search?

New to the concept of paid and organic search? Or perhaps you need a refresher on what the terms mean in 2021? Let’s take a step back to basics and define what we mean by paid and organic search, and how they differ.

Organic search marketing is the process of using SEO to optimise your site’s visibility in search results. There are many techniques and strategies you can use here, from creating evergreen content to increase the visibility of your brand, to optimising the structure of your site to make sure that Google’s ‘spiders’ can easily crawl its pages and content.

The purpose of organic search is to secure higher rankings in Google’s standard search results. And this is where the differences between organic and paid begin, with the latter focusing on paid rankings – the top results on a search engine results page (SERP).

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With paid search, the goal is to achieve a prominent spot in the paid search positions at the top of a typical SERP. To achieve this, you need to ‘bid’ for relevant terms, and the higher value the search, the more you’ll pay to sit pretty at the top of Google SERPs.

So, if you haven’t worked it out already, the key difference between organic and paid search is cost. With organic search, the goal is to achieve results with minimal outlay. Meanwhile, paid search requires you to spend with every ad, so it’s crucial that you invest in optimised and well-placed opportunities.

That said, cost isn’t the only difference between paid and organic search – nor should it be your primary consideration. Read on below for a breakdown of the pros and cons of organic and paid search to find out more about how they compare.

The Pros and Cons of Organic Search

Organic search offers a wealth of benefits to businesses looking to build a sustainable and healthy web presence. But it’s not without its drawbacks, as we set out below.

The Pros of Organic Search

Zero Upfront Cost

Easily the most eye-catching benefit of organic search is its low entry point. Unlike paid search, organic requires no initial outlay; the only thing you’ll need to pay for is the staff to implement an SEO strategy, as well as subscription fees for tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs.

Multiple Ways to Benefit

While paid search marketing is mainly designed to drive sales and conversions, organic offers wide-ranging benefits that enhance your business in lots of unique ways. Through an organic search strategy, you’ll not only benefit from lead generation and conversions, but you’ll also see an increase in site traffic, growing brand awareness, and a sustainable increase in revenue.

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Improved Online Credibility

Effective organic search relies on building a healthy and optimised website that users trust, particularly when it’s transactional. Paid search ads will only get you so far; organic growth lends integrity and authority to your web offering, presenting your online brand as a trustworthy vendor that will offer a good service and reliable information.

Outstanding Long-Term ROI

With minimal overheads and zero upfront costs, organic search delivers outstanding and consistent ROI. Though the rewards of implementing an organic search marketing strategy take longer to come to fruition than paid activity, the long-term benefits far outweigh the gradual, not immediate, initial uplift.

The Cons of Organic Search

Can Take Time to Deliver Results

Unlike paid, organic search is a matter of playing the long game. Even with an experienced SEO specialist on board, you rarely see instant results, and this can cause friction for internal teams who may be wary of tight marketing budgets. Reiterate the long-term gains of organic search, and consider investing in a fixed-term paid search strategy until the benefits of SEO begin to materialise.

Requires Ongoing Maintenance and Upkeep

Organic search campaigns take a lot of time to develop, implement and maintain, so you’ll need to factor this into your strategy. From SEO improvements and on-page optimisation to content publishing; delivering an effective organic search campaign requires a multi-pronged and systematic approach, so smaller businesses may need to invest in new hires or external help if they’re to make a success of SEO.

Constantly Evolving Best Practices

The nature of SEO and organic search means that marketers, both in-house and agency-side, are at the mercy of Google and its constantly evolving algorithms. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere with an organic campaign, the goalposts can shift, with new best-practice advice altering your approach. For this reason, you’ll need help from an SEO specialist who is attuned to the changing nature of search engines.

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The Pros and Cons of Paid Search

For businesses with plenty of ready cash to invest in digital marketing, paid search can prove an attractive and lucrative proposition. But as with organic, it’s not without its pitfalls, as we explore below.

The Pros of Paid Search

Delivers Instant Results

If organic search is a drip-feed process, paid is like turning on the taps. From the moment you invest in a paid campaign, either with Google or otherwise, there’s a high chance you’ll see results. This is great news for in-house marketing teams looking to impress digital-sceptic managers, immediately showcasing the power of increased web spend in driving leads and conversions.

Provides Excellent ROI

When implemented well by an experienced team, paid search can deliver outstanding ROI. Paid search specialists understand the rules of the game when it comes to putting money into Google ads, easily identifying key search terms that will bring the best results for the minimum amount of spend. This guarantees ROI for the duration of your campaign, with every £1 spent bringing tangible value.

Attracts the Low-Hanging Fruit

While organic search is all about making the right impression and slowly conveying visitors towards conversion, paid search can target tip-of-the-funnel users who are ready to make a purchase. The nature of paid search means you can target ads at transactional, ready-to-buy search terms – increasing the likelihood of capturing these low-hanging fruit sales opportunities.

Provides a Wealth of Usable Data

One of the secondary advantages of paid search is the actionable data it generates, insights that can be leveraged towards other parts of your marketing strategy – including organic activity. You can source a wealth of usable information, including SEO keywords, demographics, and time on page, all of which can contribute towards other parts of your strategy.

businessman analysing data

The Cons of Paid Search

Upfront Costs

Getting going with paid search requires a healthy budget, so it can be an intimidating first step for the uninitiated. For some, getting sign-off on paid search funds from senior managers and stakeholders can be the biggest hurdle, so you need to be clear about your objectives and what the business stands to gain.

Short-Term Results

Unlike organic, paid search is very much a short-term, pay-as-you-go solution. It doesn’t contribute to an optimised and healthy website that generates traffic and leads organically. This can lead to an overreliance on paid ads, which could see your budget dwindle rapidly. A better approach is to allocate funding for both organic and paid activity, with one informing and supporting the other.

Requires a Specialist Touch

There’s a misconception that paid search is easy, that anyone can login into Google AdWords and set up an efficient campaign, but this isn’t the case. Instead, effective paid advertising requires specialist support from personnel who know how to generate the most ROI from minimal expenditure. This may mean you need to hire new personnel or seek external expertise.

We hope this guide helps steer you towards the right approach for your digital marketing activity and requirements. At Banc, our paid and organic search specialists provide multi-channel campaigns that deliver consistent results and ROI. For more information or to find out more about how we can help your business, visit the homepage or give our team a call on 0345 459 0558.

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Jonathan Tuplin
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