If you own a website, you have probably heard the terms “SEO” or “PPC” being thrown around. While they both deal with gaining placement and (hopefully) traffic from search engines, these two methods have very different ways of yielding those results.
By reading this article, you will understand the pros and cons of organic search vs. paid search.
SEO: Stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. This is creating web pages that search engines like Google can read.
PPC: Stands for “Pay Per Click”. Search engines like Google will charge per user click on your ads.
URL: The address used to reach your website, (ex. https://stellarbluetechnologies.com/).
Web Page: A page within a website.
Keyword: A relevant word used to describe or signal something.
Search Query: What the user typed into Google.
SERP: Stands for “Search Engine Result Page”. This appears after you enter a search query.
Index: The position of a web page within SERPs.
Organic searches are the results within search engines like Google that appear below the ads. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of focusing on a keyword for your web page, so search engines can identify the content to index it within a SERP. You can differentiate between organic results and paid results by finding the “Ad” identifier before the URL. An example of a SERP is given below.
Organic search results rank individual web pages. Appear for more search queries by creating web pages centered around that keyword. Learn more about ranking your web pages here, (link to domain authority and Google rank blog).
Paid search results are ad placements in search engines like Google, labeled with the “Ad” identifier. Users bid for these placements in auctions, “pay per click” is a bidding system where businesses pay for each click they receive from that search engine.
Each ad placement for different search queries will cost a unique amount based on the popularity and intensity of bidders. Generally, ad spend is budgeted by the day, and tools like Google Ads will manage placement for you.
Let’s start with the positive points about organic search. The biggest strength of organic search – it’s free! Every time you create a new page on your website, you have another opportunity to be indexed in SERPs.
Organic search is one of the best ways to show your industry knowledge and build credibility. A business that has written about its products and services hundreds of times can show more credibility than a business that does not. This reputation helps build links too; if other website owners consider your web page trustworthy enough to credit and link back to.
Another positive remark about organic search is that once you create a web page optimized for a keyword, the risk of losing your position within the SERP is low. In fact, the more content you create increases your ability to appear higher in SERPs.
We use the analogy of building a ladder for building organic search traffic. With each step you build, the higher chance you have to rank. When you stop building the ladder it becomes weak and limited to where you can reach.
The biggest downside to building organic search results is time. It takes time to find the relevant keyword, create quality content, and then optimize it so search engines can read the web page. It also takes time to attract traffic to that page and analyze what visitors are engaging with. There are no guarantees that you will appear in SERPs considering how often search engines update and competitors create more web pages.
Another downside to organic search is that there are no guarantees. According to Search Engine Journal, more than 50% of clicks in SERPs go to the top 3 results. If you are indexed at the 10th (last first page) spot, your chance of getting a click is around 2.5%. It is important to build pages around keywords that your website has a chance to rank for.
There are no guarantees that you will appear in SERPs considering how often search engines update and competitors create more web pages.
Now onto the pros list for paid search ads. One benefit to paid search is the ability to attribute every click or dollar earned towards specific actions, like running an ad campaign.
With SEO, it can be difficult to track exactly how users converted based on your pages. With a paid search ad, you can find exactly how useful it was based on your cost and conversions earned from it.
Another advantage of paid search is that they appear above organic search results. Google users are less likely to click results lower on the page, so this is the easiest and fastest way to appear within a SERP.
Paid search campaigns come with a few downsides. Imagine running ads like you are running a faucet. When you pay your daily budget the water continues to run, and your page appears in the SERP. If you don’t pay, it will completely stop your appearance in the SERP. That traffic source is completely turned on or off, and must be monitored.
Another con to relying on paid search is, in the case of “pay per click”, you pay for each click on your ad, not customers. Users could click on the ad, enter your website, and choose not to purchase anything. In the end, they would cost the same as a user who clicked on your ad and made a purchase.
A healthy mix of organic and paid search strategies for your business is essential to appearing where your potential customers are. The balance between implementing search engine optimization for pages to rank in organic placement and bidding for paid search keywords is unique for every organization.
Want to discuss organic search and paid search with professionals? Schedule a chat with us to learn how we can impact your website traffic today!