• Organic vs. Paid Search

Building your online presence is important for businesses of any size or stage of development. As search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing) are widely used today by consumers searching for information, products, and services, they play an important role in building your online presence.

There are two ways to enhance your online presence in relation to search engines: organic search engine optimization and paid search advertising. While both organic and paid efforts are geared towards increasing your online visibility—whether through lead conversion or increased traffic to your website—the two strategies are used differently. This post will go over the two types of search engine strategies, and how they can help you build your online presence.

Organic vs. Paid Search

Organic Search

Organic search results are the list of websites that appear on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) after a person has typed a word or phrase into the search box. Search engines rank the results according to their relevancy to the search terms, and various other factors.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the various methods used to help search engines rank your site for relevant phrases and keywords people are searching. There are a number of factors that influence your business website‘s rankings.

Elements of SEO

Efforts can be made both on your business website and elsewhere online to improve your website’s rankings on search engine results pages. The following components of your website can be optimized for search engines:

    • Content

Using high-quality, unique content on your website that is relevant to visitors will raise your site rankings. This type of content should be focused on answering common questions and providing insights into your business in particular.

    • Coding

From meta and alt-tags to the use of H1 and canonical optimization, the back end of a website is a treasure trove of opportunities for highlighting what a site wants to be known for.

    • Architecture

The use of headings, subheadings, and alt tags can make your website easy to read and load faster—two factors that can help you gain a search engine’s favorability.

There are also factors outside of your business website that can affect your search engine rankings. These include:

    • Back Linking

Back links represent a “vote” for your site from another site. The more “votes” you have from well regarded sites, the more search engines will look upon your site favorably.

    • Customer Review Sites

Search engines know that people rely heavily on online reviews when making a purchase. As a result, the volume and quality of online reviews for your business has some influence over how search engines decide to rank you in their search results.

The Benefit of SEO

A good business website is one that requires minimal effort form search engines. Making your website easy for search engines to read and find also makes your website easy for visitors to read and find. The more navigable your site is, the more conversions you will see on it. In addition, when your website is in a top position on SERPs, your business gets more exposure, increasing site traffic and brand awareness.

Paid Search

Paid search results are sponsored ads that show up in a SERP, and are labeled as ads. Paid search is also referred to as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click-advertising (PPC).  Depending upon the search engine, paid search ads  show up in the first 3-4 spots above organic rankings. For example, in Google’s SERP, paid search ads are the first four spots, and have a a little green box that says “Ad” next to these results. While you pay to obtain these rankings, relevancy to the search terms you are trying to rank for is still important.

Paid Search Ads

As with SEO strategies, paid search ads, also known as pay-per-click ads aim to increase the visibility of your business website and products online. However, while SEO focuses primarily on getting discovered organically, paid search advertising involves bidding on the opportunity to have your website displayed across major search engines.

Elements of Paid Search Ads

While organic search efforts are a bit more passive, paid advertising has more of an active element, often stating a specific call to action (CTA) or promotion in the ad copy. Paid search ads are placed directly in front of your target audience. They also commonly utilize location targeting, meaning they focus on users searching for specific products or services in a particular area.

Paid Search Models

Typically paid search ads follow either a cost-per-click (CPC) or a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) model. With a CPC model, you are only paying to have your ad displayed if a user engages with it—meaning they’ve clicked on your ad. With a CPM model, you are paying for the number of impressions your ad receives—essentially paying for visibility.

Benefits of Paid Search

With paid search advertising, your business website can be seen by customers at the very moment they are searching for a product or service. In this manner, you can drive more traffic to dedicated landing page and convert those visitors into new leads for your business.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of paid search advertising is its immediacy. Not only does this method drive high volume to your website, it does so more immediately. The ads platforms also enable you to target specific audiences to ensure you have the right traffic coming in.

Organic Search vs Paid Search

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) focuses on increasing your website’s organic, or natural, presence on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Paid search advertising, on the other hand, is focused on specific target audiences, which can include both demographic and geographic focuses.

SEO does not require any media spend, but it does require time and the cost of producing relevant content, making website updates, and building authority/references to your website across the web. SEO is a long-term commitment, often taking up to 6 months of work before seeing results.

Paid advertising solutions offer a more immediate ROI, and can drive a high volume of relevant traffic to your website, but they require the overhead cost of your actual ads.

Factors such as your business objectives, target audience, and budget will play into which strategy is best for your business. Typically, your best bet is to employ a combination of the two, favoring one over the other depending upon how immediate your need is for new business, and how long you can wait for the return on investment.

There are excellent benefits to both organic and paid search efforts. When done right, both will lead to excellent public awareness of your business.


Kristen McCormick
Kristen McCormick
Kristen is the Content Marketing Manager for ThriveHive, where she geeks out daily over SEO, organic traffic, and A/B testing. When she's not equipping business owners and marketers to get their name out there through effective content, she's out pedaling the streets of Boston on her beloved bike.


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  2. I really enjoyed this article. I have been considering an online business for consulting services and this has really been enlightening for me. Thank-you for taking the time to share this with others.

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