The Landscape Of Organic and Paid Search

The Landscape Of Organic and Paid Search

The vast majority of users, when searching for internet, turn to Google for their search results. In fact, only 19 percent of the search market is divided up among the remaining search providers, like Bing and Yahoo. All the rest belongs to Google.

It goes without saying, then, that when you’re optimizing your website for search, Google is where you’ll want to focus. When you’re focusing on getting on Google’s page results, there are two ways to go about it: SEO and SEM.

SEO is search engine optimization, and it’s the process of building your site and creating and curating quality content so that Google sees your site as a quality resource for its users.

SEM, on the other hand, is the way in which you can pay Google to have them rank your site at the top of the search results page.

Organic Search

When searching on Google, the results you see that are not paid placement are called “organic”. These are based on the quality of your content, as well as how well-structured your site is.

The Landscape Of Organic and Paid Search

Organic traffic is much more valuable. There are a few different reasons this is the case:

  • Google sends most of its traffic to organic search results, thus, these results are the most trusted
  • Google is extremely picky when it comes to rankings, only delivering what it determines is the absolute best content for its users
  • Ranking well on Google’s first page requires a lot of time, but once you’re there, you have staying power
  • Over 90 percent of search traffic uses one of the links on first page of results
  • Nearly 33 percent of search goes to the very first result

Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut when it comes to organic search. The competition used to be much less fierce. All it took to rank well on Google was a few good keyword-targeted articles.

Google has also gotten heavy-handed when it comes to less savory methods of SEO, such as keyword stuffing. Attempting these techniques can actually negatively impact your site, making it even harder to rank well in the long run.

It takes time and a lot of persistence to rank well organically, but it pays off:

  • Nearly 60 percent of marketers state that organic search is the biggest factor in lead generation
  • Compared to outbound marketing leads, organic search leads have just under 15 percent rate of close
  • Organic search results are overwhelmingly favored by the highest online spenders

Paid Search

Paid search are the ads that appear at the top of search results that have the little ad badge on the result. Despite the badging, many users don’t recognize them as ads. The results have a boxed outline but fit in with the flow of the rest of the results.

The Landscape Of Organic and Paid Search

Because of this, and due to the competitiveness of organic search, paid search as gained more traction over the years.

Rather than spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on only SEO, marketers can start marketing campaigns and begin appearing at the top of search results immediately.

Google’s AdWords—the most popular advertising program available—accounts for about two-thirds of Google’s revenue. It’s not just a big piece of the pie; it’s nearly the whole thing.

When you’re working on an AdWords campaign, it’s imperative that you be strategic and smart. It costs, but you’ll start getting results rapidly, and you need to know what to do to handle the influx in traffic.


Many marketers have stayed away from paid search in the past. It’s generally viewed as outbound marketing compared to the inbound marketing strategies of organic search. But with things like social media ads, times are changing, and marketers have to change too. It’s becoming much more common to use both SEO and SEM in tandem.

It can take anywhere from three months (very optimistic) to six months (more realistic) for organic search optimization to move your site in the rankings. Most businesses don’t have the patience or resources to wait that long. With paid search, you can push visitors to your site immediately.

This also helps with the process of optimizing your landing page for maximum conversions, which is invaluable in the long run, whether it’s from organic or paid search visitors.

If you’re weighing the two, consult your team, look at your budget, and figure out which one or what combination of the two works best for your business goals.

Generally speaking, organic search is usually the most cost effective. But paid search can be effective as well, depending on your business factors. While you undoubtedly want to focus on organic search for long-term growth and sustainability, experimenting with paid search isn’t a bad idea at all.

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