Paid vs. organic – the winning search strategy

Ever wondered why certain websites appear at the top of the page when you search phrases such as “buy shoes,” “best dishwasher,” or “smartphone reviews” online?

Appearing at the top of those coveted search engine results pages (SERPs) is far more than a game of chance. Do you know how to affect where your business appears in the results list?

There are two main strategies for affecting your website’s SERP ranking and different situations for employing both.

Search results are vitally important to your business since 80% of website traffic is directed to your site via search engines. Studies show that people tend to give their business to the ads that appear near the top of the page, whether paid or organic. If your website is buried on page 3 or 4 of the SERPs for your most important keywords, chances are, you are getting almost no clicks at all.

Defining the terms

First things first. Do you know the difference between paid and organic searches? Almost half of people polled (45.5%) could not differentiate between results that had been paid for and those that appeared naturally on the results page according to research conducted by WordStream.

Even if you don’t know it, you see paid and organic search results side-by-side everyday when you perform a search engine-driven web query. You’ve probably noticed that the search results that appear at the top of the page or on the right-hand sidebar are often shaded, in bold or otherwise marked as different from the other results (Google recently started adding the word “Ad” in yellow beside the paid entries to make it even clearer).

paid search vs. organic search

These search results have been paid for and, therefore, are “paid” or “sponsored” results. The entries below these are “organic,” meaning that the business is truly a popular entry with high-quality search engine optimization (SEO) that matches the search you performed.

The highest organic results might better match your query but the paid ads will always appear at the top of the page, drawing attention, clicks and, in many cases, revenue.

Now that you know the terms, which sort of results should you pursue to get more prospects to click through to your website and, hopefully, become customers?

Why Pay for Search Results?

The benefits of paid ads are that they appear at the top of the list, the first place that most searchers’ eyes go. Some users don’t even realize the paid results are ads since the font and style almost always match that of the unpaid results (ads that look like content are one aspect of “native ad” strategies that manipulate visitors into thinking they are looking at editorial material) and click without reservation.

Another advantage of paid results is that, while getting to the top of an organic search list might take months of work and SEO rankings, paid results reach the top of the page as soon as you pay for them.

Paid results, also sometimes called “pay per click” (PPC) advertising, can be tailored to reach exactly who you are trying to convert. You can choose to reach users in a certain region, income or age bracket, workers in a certain industry or people of a certain education level or marital status. Social media platforms can even show your ad only to people that play a certain sport or like a certain type of music!

If you have a certain type of customer profile, imagine how closely you can tailor your ads to reach the right audience!

The disadvantages of paid search results include, obviously, the cost and that people don’t always trust content when they know it is an ad. Additionally, your search results disappear from the top of the pages as soon as you stop paying for the ads.

The one case in which searchers are more likely to click on obvious paid results are when they are actively looking to buy something. Searches such as “buy curtains” or “order groceries” are called “high commercial intent” searches and garner double as many clicks on paid content as on organic results.

Why Choose Organic?

By now you might be thinking that paid ads are the way to go. But wait. You haven’t heard it all yet.

At least half of web searchers realize immediately that a result is a paid ad and avoid it entirely for that reason. Those searchers report placing more trust in organic ads and being more likely to click on them. Searchers feel that a business with high organic search results has a true foothold on the market and their finger on the pulse of the industry in question.

So how do you get in on the action? Raising your results in organic searches is done by search engine optimization (SEO), a complex system for positioning your site so that it will appear ever higher on the list of search results for certain keywords that your potential customers are searching for.

The advantages of placing high in organic search results are that, once you are near the top of the list, it is relatively easy to stay there, you have the trust of searchers and it is possible to do it cheaply.

That being said, though it is possible to do it cheaply it can be difficult, frustrating and time-consuming for those who are not tech-savvy. Some people call organic search results “free clicks” because you are not paying Google, Bing or Facebook for the results, but this is far from correct. Most people are unable to perform true SEO on their own and will need to hire a professional to optimize their site.

Taking the organic route is also not as fast as paid search results. It can take weeks, months or even years to reach the top of an organic search results list. Does your business have time to wait?

Better Together

For many businesses, the formula for success will be a mixture of both kinds of search results. The organic results lend your business a voice of authority and evergreen search results while paid ads result in immediate top-of-page placement and higher actual sales when consumers are looking to make a purchase in the moment.

At Pronto, we can tailor a search results package that’s right for your business. We handle SEO, PPC and targeted keywords while making sure that your business appears on Page 1 of search results. Let us deliver results that will make it easy for customers to find you. We have affordable packages to maximize your business and make you shine online. Contact us today.


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