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organic search vs paid search

When it comes to digital marketing, one common question prevails: what is the best way to reach potential customers? The answer is simple: search engine marketing. However, when it comes to SEO, there are two distinct strategies that businesses can take: organic SEO and paid search. Organic search involves optimizing your website and content for the most relevant keywords and phrases, while paid search involves paying for ads to appear at the top of search engine results pages. So, what is the best option for your business?  If you're wondering about the details of organic search vs. paid search, you've come to the right place. Let's dive in!

What is Organic Search?

Organic search is the practice of optimizing your website and content to rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) naturally. It is free (if you do it yourself) and it works by increasing your website’s authority across search engines like Google. Once your website has increased authority, it will rank higher in the search results, driving more traffic and conversions to your site—without you having to pay for ads. Sounds great, right? Organic search also comes with other benefits, such as higher brand recognition and trust, increased customer loyalty, and increased sales generated from new customers. Organic search can be broken down into three fundamental parts: on-site optimization, off-site optimization, and content optimization.

On-site Optimization

On-site optimization refers to the steps your business takes to make its website more search engine-friendly, such as optimizing the URL structure for shorter, more keyword-driven URLs, and making sure your website is mobile-friendly and doesn’t have broken links.

Off-site Optimization

Off-site optimization refers to the steps you take to make your business more authoritative. This can include building relationships with other high-authority websites, like guest blogging on authoritative websites, or gaining social media followers.

Content Optimization

Finally, and arguably most importantly, content optimization refers to optimizing the content on your website, such as blogging, to help you rank higher in the SERPs. This is where your marketing strategy, strategic keyword research, and valuable content creation all come into play.

Pros and Cons of Organic Search

Let’s look at the pros and cons of organic search in more detail. The upside of organic search is that it is free, and you have the agency to improve your ranking over time by creating high quality content and ensuring your website has a strong user-experience. One of the downsides to organic search is that it is time-consuming and can be difficult to measure your ROI, or return on investment, compared to paid search. Organic search is also susceptible to the whims of the search algorithm, which is constantly changing and is difficult to predict. There's no guarantee when it comes to organic SEO, and if an SEO company is guaranteeing you a #1 spot on Google, run.

What is Paid Search?

Paid search is the practice of purchasing ad space at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) through an online advertising platform. Most use Google Ads (previously Google AdWords). It is not free, but it works by instantly driving traffic to your website by displaying your ads at the very top of the SERPs. This prospective traffic is known as “impressions,” and it can include both existing and new customers. Paid search can be broken down into two fundamental parts: targeting and bidding.


Targeting refers to choosing which keywords and phrases to target, like “business travel insurance,” and which geographical areas to target, like the U.S. and Canada. You can also choose the platforms to advertise on, like Google, Bing, or Facebook, and the type of ad you want to run, like a display ad, text ad, or sponsored ad.


Once you choose your targeting options, you then need to place a bid on the keywords and phrases you want to appear at the top of the SERPs. The amount you bid is determined by how much your business is willing to pay per click (PPC), or the number of times your ad is clicked on.

Pros and Cons of Paid Search

The upside of paid search is that it can generate "instant" traffic. Depending on your industry, you can bid on cheaper keywords, giving you the potential to create a strong ROI. The downside of paid search is that for many industries and corresponding keywords, it can be very expensive. Additionally, unless you have a strong understanding of the ad platform, you can easily lose control over your keyword bids and risk paying for unqualified or inappropriate traffic to your site.

Comparing Organic Search and Paid Search

One of the best ways to understand organic search and paid search is to compare and contrast their pros and cons. Organic search can have a lower return on ad spend (ROAS) than paid search, while paid search has a higher cost per click (CPC) than organic search. In a sense, organic search relies on customers browsing the organic SERPs, while paid search essentially pins your site to the top of the page. At Blue Archer, we like to think about Organic SEO as the long-game and paid ads as the short-game. Organic SEO is an investment - either an investment of your time or an investment of your money if you hire an SEO company. However, once the work is complete, it will continue to work on your behalf. On the other hand, paid ads can get your business quick exposure, but the moment you stop running your ads, your website disappears from the top of the SERPs.

So, Which Strategy is Best for Your Business?

Now that you understand the basics of organic search and paid search, it’s time to decide which strategy is best for your business. So, what should you look at?

If you are looking to grow organically, you will either need to put in a lot of time and effort (or hire an SEO expert). If you want instant results and are willing to pay for each visit to your site, paid search might be a better fit for your business.

Furthermore, if you have the money to spend on paid search and are comfortable with paying for the learning curve that may come along with your paid ad strategy, paid ads could be a good fit. However, if you prefer to invest more in the overall quality of your site and have the patience to play the long-game, organic SEO is your best bet.

At Blue Archer, we like to remind our website clients that organic and paid search work together well. This approach enables you to invest in the quality of your website overtime with organic SEO and also capitalize on instant website traffic with paid search. With the appropriate synergy between organic SEO keywords and paid search keywords, your website can potentially appear more than once in SERPs, making users more likely to click through to your website.


When it comes to digital marketing, there are two distinct strategies that businesses can take: organic and paid search. Organic search involves optimizing your website and content for the most relevant keywords and phrases, while paid search involves paying for ads to appear at the top of search engine results pages. These two strategies have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, but in the end, it comes down to an epic showdown: organic search vs. paid search. When making your decision, you will want to consider your goals and resources, your risk tolerance, and which strategy will help you achieve the best results for your business.

Have questions about which is better for your business? We'd be happy to help.

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