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ORGANIC SEARCH VS. PAID SEARCH: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
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If you’re involved in the Digital Marketing sphere you’ve probably heard the terms “paid search” and “organic search” thrown around quite a bit. Needless to say both methods come with their own specific pros and cons, we’re here to break down not only the meaning behind the two terms but also shed some light on the benefits and drawbacks of both.

Search engines are comprised of both paid and organic search methods. What does this mean exactly? Whenever a user goes to a major search engine, traffic is acquired through two methods, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website. This means that the search result appears high on the list compiled by the search engine. Search engine marketing on the other hand is a digital strategy that is used to increase visibility of a website in the search engine results page known as Pay Per Click (PPC).

Organic Search
Organic search is a method where a user enters keywords into a search engine such as Google or Bing. The search results are displayed as a list based on the relevance of the search term. The term “organic” refers to searches that come directly from a search engine as opposed to paid advertising methods. When a user clicks on an organic search result this action is recorded in analytics tools as an organic search traffic.

The following is an example of a search engine result page for REI hiking boots. Organic seach results are displayed as listings based on a query. The picture below outlines Men’s hiking boots as the highest ranking search results.

Why is it important?
Having a general idea of your organic search traffic is critical for your marketing approach because organic search can cater to your specific audience. That means that users who visit your website already have an idea of what they are looking for. Organic search takes a user’s query and directs them to sites with that are most relevant based on search engine rankings. This means that your company or product might provide a solution that can easily solve their problem, making it more likely for visitors to become paying customers.

Pros:

  • Increases credibility
  • Provides real-time data
  • Supports other marketing channels

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of upkeep
  • Takes time to deliver results

Paid Search
Paid search is a form of digital marketing that  displays  ads directly on search engine results pages (SERPS). The difference from organic search is that paid advertising focuses solely on the pay per click model. In other words, you only pay for your ads once someone clicks on them. This type of marketing method is powerful because it allows businesses the opportunity to market directly to consumers  who are looking for similar products or services. Paid search ads are typically displayed on the top or bottom of search engine result pages and typically contain text ads which feature the company name, a short blurb, or a call to action to visit the website or prompt to call.

The following is an example of a paid search advertisement for REI hiking boots through Google’s search engine. The ad is displayed at the top of  the search engine result page to ensure it gauges the viewers attention.

Why is it important?
Paid search has immense reach, thousands upon thousands of people rely on search engines daily in order to research products and find quick solutions. According to Internet Live Stats, Google alone receives 3.5 billion search queries daily and that volume is projected to grow by roughly 10% every year. Search engines are prime real estate for targeted marketing efforts. Utilizing the pay per click model helps get your ad in front of a higher volume of prospects and presents the opportunity to market to a relevant and engaged audience.

Pros:

  • Provides quick results
  • High Return on Investment
  • Attracts ready-to-buy users

Cons:

  • Costs money upfront
  • Needs to constantly be maintained
  • Good for short-term results

Conclusion
No matter which method you choose to meet your marketing needs, each has it’s own specific niche. Even with a better understanding of organic search vs. paid search the question remains” “is organic or paid search better?”. Although there is no definitive answer to that question, many online marketers agree that both methods pose a variety of benefits. Businesses can see results from incorporating both organic and paid search into their online marketing strategy.