Paid vs. Organic Search: What You Need to Know

Posted on February 7, 2020 • Written by Ben Smith
paid vs organic search and what you need to know

In 2020, having a strong digital strategy is key to a business’ success. With the real estate above the fold on the search engine results pages (SERPs) becoming more limited due to paid ads and featured snippets taking position zero, you may be tempted to throw all your efforts into paid ads to gain top placements. However, don’t be too quick to discount the power of SEO. To show you the value of having a well-rounded digital marketing plan, we’re discussing the pros and cons of paid and organic strategies  and how to find a balance between the two. 

Paid Search

When companies use paid search, their landing pages appear at the top of the SERPs, above those who earned their top positions on page one through organic optimizations. To participate in paid search, your business must pay for clicks for the keywords you want your ad to appear. 


  • Increase Brand Awareness Quickly: If you successfully set up your campaigns for the keywords that are relevant for your business, your ad will appear above the organic results. This can boost the visibility of your business much faster than through organic search because of how long it can take to gain rankings with SEO.
  • Garner Traffic and Conversions: When used effectively, paid search can help your business garner traffic and conversions by targeting relevant keywords. It’s also an effective tool to entice potential customers to download whitepapers or sign up for email.  Capturing emails at this stage allows you to drop them into an email drip campaign if they aren’t ready to make a purchase at the moment. 


  • Cost:  Depending on the cost of the keywords you want to bid on, you may need to invest a significant amount into your paid search efforts. If you haven’t delved deep into the world of paid search yet, the upfront cost may seem steep, especially if you are in a very competitive PPC market. What matters most, though, is your return on investment – if you spend $3,000 up front, but make a $5,000 profit, your efforts are clearly paying off. 
  • Learning Curve: Paid search is truly a science, and setting up campaigns properly, performing keyword research, and creating compelling ads takes time and experience.  
  • Conversions Aren’t Guaranteed: Even if you successfully bid on your top keywords, conversions aren’t guaranteed. To make sure you’re not spending money without getting a return, you’ll need to examine and tweak your strategy over time by finding the sweet spot for your cost per click and a/b testing ad copy, landing pages, and time and location bid modifications to continue to improve your return on ad spend (ROAS).  

READ MORE: Should You Consider Geofencing As Part Of Your Paid Search Strategy?

Organic Search  

Organic search results are those that appear based of off the quality and content of your website. Organic results appear below ads, but top-ranking organic results still typically appear above the fold, at least on desktop searches.  


  • Cost: Organic search is technically free, so with the right content and SEO strategy, your business could garner free traffic and conversions. 
  • Credibility: Although about half of adults don’t recognize paid ads in Google, those that do may trust the credibility of organic sites more than paid results, which will make them more likely to convert. As you follow SEO best practices, you’ll earn more authority, which helps you rank higher. The cycle continues to your benefit – the more authority you have, the higher you rank, and the higher you rank, the more traffic you’ll typically receive.     


  • Time and Effort: To rise through the ranks of the billions of websites out there, you’ll need a strong SEO strategy, a technically healthy website, mobile optimization, fast page load time, and high-quality content, to name a few.
  • Google’s Algorithm: Google’s algorithm can change at any time, which can dramatically affect your traffic and rankings. Google determines your rankings for keyword phrases based on relevancy and no matter how relevant YOU think your website is to a search query, the power to gain rankings is in Google’s “hands.” In addition, to keep your top spot, you’ll need to stay up to date on any changes and adjust your strategy accordingly. Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker is a great tool to monitor your website’s traffic against any latest algorithms.

READ MORE: Google SEO Trends: What To Expect in 2020

Finding A Balance

Both paid and organic search have their pros and cons, but leveraging both of these powerful strategies in a holistic manner will deliver the best results. Depending on your industry, you may choose to focus on one method over the other. 

Regardless of how you choose to balance paid and organic search, it’s important to set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine the right strategy for your business. Setting these KPIs early will help you analyze your results and tweak your strategy going forward.

Do you need support balancing your paid and organic search efforts? Talk to the experts today!

Get in Touch!
Ben Smith

Written by Ben Smith

Ben Smith is a Researcher at Fruition, specializing in Google's Algorithm changes. Ben is a graduate of the University of Denver’s Mathematics program, and he enjoys learning about Google’s search algorithm updates. He's a vital asset of the Fruition team, and he one day hopes to publish a book. In his free time, you can find Ben enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.

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