If you’re involved in online marketing in any capacity, you’re surely familiar with the whole organic marketing vs paid advertising debate. Many people read about such terminology without really understanding their meanings. If you want to promote your business online, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) as well as the difference between paid and organic and paid marketing. Let’s look at some of the definitions and distinctions that you should know about.
SEO and Organic Marketing
When you engage in search engine optimization (SEO), your goal is to get Google and other search engines to rank your website for certain search terms or keywords. For example, suppose you’re a maintenance company in New York City (NYC) who specializes in window washing. You’d probably want to rank for search terms such as “window washing NYC” and “New York City window washer” and many others as well. The same principle holds if you’re marketing an online product such as an auto body shop in San Jose or a service such as auto or freight transportation.
Just like organic food refers to food that’s natural, organic search means that people can find your website “naturally,” without advertising. Organic search results are the listings in Google that are ranked according to Google’s algorithms, based on many factors such as the quality of your content, how easy your site is to navigate, mobile-friendliness and many other elements. There are certain benefits to ranking your site organically. For one thing, search engine users may trust organic listings more than ads. However, it’s important to realize that the line separating organic and paid marketing has gotten blurrier in recent years.
Even if you have no background in online marketing, you’re surely familiar with the idea of paid advertising. The most popular forms of online advertising are run by large platforms such as Google and Facebook. As with organic search engine optimization, the focus is on keywords. In this case, however, you’re bidding for them rather than trying to rank for them organically.
As noted, the distinction between paid and organic is not quite as sharp as it used to be. This is deliberate as Google and other companies are making ads that look more like organic listings. If you do any type of search on Google, whether it’s for running shoes, pizza places or nail salons, you’ll notice that paid listings are at the top of the page. If you don’t focus on the word “ad,” which appears in a little box next to the ad, you might think it’s an organic listing. Facebook, Twitter and many other sites similarly insert paid, sometimes called sponsored listings right next to organic listings.
Which is Better: Paid or Organic?
The whole question of whether it’s better to focus on paid or organic in your marketing campaigns is really not very useful nowadays. It’s usually best to do a combination of the two. Google, Facebook and other search engines and advertising platforms have made it very difficult to survive solely on organic SEO. Because ads are now so prominently featured everywhere, you have to work harder and harder to get top listings organically. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your organic marketing efforts. The two actually complement one another. You can, for example, use Facebook ads to promote your organic content such as your Facebook page.
You should always base your marketing efforts, both paid and organic, on solid analytics. Always test the results of all your campaigns. Organic search works better for some businesses than others. For example, if you’re in a niche without much competition, you may be able to rank your site organically more easily than a business that’s is in an extremely competitive market. Observe what works best for you with both organic and paid methods and develop your own unique marketing strategy.