Businesses have to invest in a digital marketing strategy to remain competitive but knowing where to get started is tough.
How do you know where to put your resources?
To show up in search engines, you have to make a choice between two big concepts—paid search or organic search. Or should you do both?
Below, we detail what you should know about paid and organic search so you can make a comparison and decide what’s right for your business.
What’s Paid Search?
Paid search is also known as PPC. PPC stands for pay-per-click. PPC is part of the broader world of search engine marketing, abbreviated as SEM.
Businesses can advertise in sponsored listings of search engines or on a partner site using paid search marketing. Pay-per-click advertising means that you pay each time your ad is clicked. You may pay less frequently when your ad is displayed, which is known as cost-per-thousand, or when you receive a phone call, which is known as pay-per-call.
Paid search and PPC aren’t exactly interchangeable because paid search marketing can include other models, but PPC is the most popular type of paid search and the most widely used.
When you’re a service provider, if you use paid search, your ads will show as a list of regular text.
For paid search and PPC, most people rely on Google Ads.
The primary benefit of paid search is that it’s a fast way to appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP).
A lot of users can’t even tell the difference between a paid and organic search result, so that means they’re still going to have a high level of trust even when you are paying for your spot in a search.
PPC is undoubtedly the fastest way to put yourself at the top, and setting up these campaigns can be done relatively quickly.
Benefits of paid search include:
- You can get results generated instantly. The turnaround time is fast, and building successful organic search results can take a lot of time by contrast.
- You can use the data you gather from your paid search advertising to find key data for your SEO work. For example, you’ll gather data on keywords, user location, age, and other demographic information.
- Paid search tends to generate more users who are ready to make a purchase. They often have transactional intent. If they can find a company that offers what they need, they might be ready to take the next step, so you’re putting yourself right in front of them.
- While paid search is going to cost money, you have a lot of flexibility as far as your budget. You can spend $100 a month or thousands of dollars a month.
The disadvantages of paid search include the fact that it needs constant maintenance on the campaigns, and the results are short-term only.
What About Organic Search?
Organic search, in some ways, can be seen as an alternative to paid search, but many would argue that it’s not necessarily an accurate representation.
Organic and paid search are two very different things, and you can do one and not the other, or ideally, maybe you integrate both into your larger digital marketing strategy.
Organic search, in theory, is unpaid rankings in search results. While it’s true you’re not paying for your position, and you’re earning it organically, thus the name, you are still going to have to invest. In some cases, you might end up investing a lot more in your organic strategy than you do your paid strategy.
Organic search is a way to optimize your rankings and visibility in search results based on a wide variety of factors.
Benefits of organic search include:
- Again, it theoretically costs nothing. You’re not budgeting for monthly ad spending, but you have to think about researching keywords, developing content, and optimizing it. You might also be paying for link-building services and some of the other critical things that need to go into organic search to do well. You could also hire an agency or consultant to do the work for you or pay for tools. While most people put a significant chunk of their budget toward organic SEO, the reason it’s considered free is that you don’t have to in order to rank.
- When you invest in organic search, whether that’s an investment of time, money, or both, you’re going to see a strong ROI in most cases.
- The benefits of organic search compound on one another. The more people see your content, for example, the more they’re going to share it. That’s going to get you more links which further improves your rankings. It all builds on one another, while with paid SEO, you get one click, and that’s likely it. The more great content you generate, the more your work is going to continue to scale in terms of results.
- There’s a sense of trust and credibility that comes from organic search. If someone is looking for a product or service and you appear on the first page of the search results, that’s inherent credibility.
The single biggest drawback of organic search is the time it takes to see any results. It can take months to see your efforts pay off, which can be discouraging. You’re also likely to have to pay for ads during that time as a bridge until your SEO campaigns gain some momentum.
Even working with a team of professionals isn’t going to speed the process up. The organic search takes three to six months on average to deliver results, especially if you’re trying to get on the first page.
So how do you choose which approach to take?
You might try both and see how each goes. You can also work with an agency that can help you get started with the basics, like creating campaigns and doing keyword research. From there, you can build out your strategy as you go—SEO, in particular, is a marathon rather than a sprint.