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Paid vs Organic Marketing - Which Reaps the Best Results?

  Minute read

Over the last decade, online habits have changed dramatically, with more people than ever shopping, browsing and learning online, meaning there are so many more opportunities for businesses to target their audiences digitally. 

That said, with more opportunities often comes more uncertainty in which path to take; every business is looking for the next best technique or strategy to gain an advantage over their competitors and onboard new customers, but it’s not easy to know which marketing strategy to undertake.

Implementing the right methods to target, reach, engage, and convert audiences is paramount to a businesses growth. There are an abundance of online and social media platforms consumers use nowadays, so it can be challenging to determine where, when, and how to use the many digital marketing tools available.

Establishing the core differences between organic and paid marketing will better help a business to discover which strategy - if not both - best suits their business goals. 

Let’s take a look at the definitions of organic and paid marketing to begin with:

What is organic marketing?

Organic marketing is a strategy that generates traffic to a business over time without using any paid advertising or media coverage. 

Businesses use organic marketing to increase brand awareness and develop an authentic connection with their audience, this can be through educational or entertaining content - or both. To be successful with organic marketing you'll need a multitude of ways to attract leads and convert users. 

Examples of organic marketing include:

  • SEO - keyword targeting can target by intent, hitting customers at the right part of the journey. 

Keyword targeting is essentially the process of using keywords that are relevant to your product or service, on your website and in ad copy to ensure maximum efforts in achieving the top spot in search engines. Proper keyword research is vital to determine which keywords your business should be targeting, this can be done using platforms such as Answer The Public. 

Semrush Keyword Magic Tool is the perfect tool for keyword research:

  • Blogs and articles: Creating blog posts and articles that are information-driven is an effective way of organic marketing; education is extremely valuable. People want to learn more about a brand or specific topics relating to the brand to help establish trust and gain credibility. 
  • Social media: Regular and consistent posting across several social media platforms is great for brand awareness and to keep your current customers informed of upcoming events or new products, but it’s important to remember that organic social media marketing is not so good for lead generation.
  • Link building and digital PR: This is the process of using public relations techniques such as press releases and media pitching to secure valuable links within their webpage that direct users straight through to your website. This SEO backlink-building approach is a key component to increase domain authority to build natural credibility over time.

Businesses using organic marketing can measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts by analysing which content is driving the most traffic to the site, looking at leads generated from particular campaigns, and which channels drive the highest amount of high converting traffic to your site.

Organic marketing is widely considered as the most valuable traffic driving source for several reasons:

  • Google directs the highest amount of traffic and is the most trusted source for people researching a product with an estimated 5.6 billion searches per day!
  • Google is extremely particular about their rankings. Ranking in the top five results for a keyword indicates that your content is hitting SEO perfectly and the content is high quality.
  • Being in the top five ranking on Google organically is difficult and takes time, but once you're there you get to reap the benefits for a long time. 
  • The first page of Google captures 71% of search traffic clicks, this figure has been reported to be as high as 92% in recent years. Second-page results drop below 6% of all website clicks

Pros of Organic Marketing

  • Long-lasting content (not like turning a tap on and off).
  • Great for building authority - ranking #1 not only builds credibility but also naturally leads to more backlinks as others use your work as a point of reference.
  • Builds and nurtures relationships and helps you support your community.
  • Brings in subscribers, leads, and sales i.e. it engages customers at every stage of the funnel.
  • Offers longer-lasting results due to staying power.
  • Boosts your credibility and visibility.
  • Helps establish your brand voice and personality.
  • Drives traffic to your website.
  • It’s often seen as a ‘free’ solution - yes it takes time and effort, but there isn’t a physical financial outlay associated with pumping money into a paid ads provider.

Cons of Organic Marketing

  • Slow burner - have to be patient and prepared for results to hit in 6, 9, 12 months time, sometimes even longer. 
  • Despite often being considered ‘free’, it is labour-intensive and time-consuming.
  • Reach can be limited or rankings can be affected by ranking algorithms.

What is paid media? 

Paid media marketing is the process of attracting traffic to a business by purchasing advertising that allows them to specifically target an audience. Paid media involves buying clicks from platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, sponsored posts, banner ads and product listings, to name just a few!

While organic marketing is more like word-of-mouth marketing, paid marketing is similar to sales-focused marketing. The main goal of each marketing method is very different from one another. Organic marketing aims to attract audiences and increase brand awareness whereas paid marketing aims to convert an audience from a lead into a sale on a specific campaign.

Examples of paid media marketing include:

  • Google Ads - keyword targeting (can target by intent, hitting customers at the right part of the journey). Take the top 4 spots of the first search page with Google Ads - as shown below:
  • Paid ads: Pay Per Click (PPC) is a form of advertising that requires you to pay a fee to have your website on the search engine result page (SERP) when a user searches specific keywords or phrases. The SERP will display the ads you have created to direct visitors straight to your site, and the fee you pay is based on whether people click your ad. 

PPC can also be done on social media for ads to appear on people's social platforms when scrolling through. When done correctly, PPC on social media and search engines can yield some pretty impressive ROI results. 

  • Influencer marketing: An influencer in marketing is someone who can influence the buyer behaviours of others. Influencer marketing uses an influential person to collaborate with a brand to promote their products or services, either through paid work or gifting. 

Celebrity endorsements are the original form of influencer marketing, however in today’s digital world, social content creators with niche audiences can often offer more value to brands. These ‘influencers’ have dedicated and engaged groups of followers on social media who are more likely to make a purchase after seeing a figure they can relate to post about it. 

Pros of Paid Marketing

  • Reach a large audience very quickly.
  • Usually see immediate results, give or take a few weeks for learning phases.
  • Tangible ROI - great for e-commerce brands.
  • Easier to track results (ROAS) - clearer to see where to increase or cut budget to maximise Cost per Acquisition (CPA).
  • Ads can be very affordable on the right social platform.
  • Gain instant visibility whilst you build your organic reach

Cons of Paid Marketing

  • Doesn’t last forever, unless you pay forever!
  • Like turning off a tap - stop running ads = stop generating leads
  • Can get very costly depending on the industry and competition
  • Trial and error in seeing which platforms are more responsive than others

Organic vs paid - one or the other?

When looking at organic marketing vs paid marketing, it is important to remember that the two are used for different purposes, the comparison should only be on which marketing effort is most effective. 

Organic or paid media marketing can be extremely powerful, when approached correctly, and when brought together in the right way, they can reap phenomenal rewards; many businesses integrate organic marketing strategies with paid media marketing for optimum results.

A combination of both is ideally what businesses should consider, over time lending themselves towards one more than the other depending on the results. 

Using organic and paid marketing tactics interchangeably

As we’ve already discussed, organic marketing is a winner for building long term relationships and credibility to establish the business as an industry leader, and paid marketing is for more immediate results with bigger exposure. 

While you can use either marketing strategy on their own, the best results tend to come from a combination of the two - but it is important to understand how and when to use them interchangeably.

The first step is to look at your business size and goals, ask yourself the following questions before implementing any marketing strategy:

  • How big can our business grow to be?
  • Is there a long term or short term goal to be achieved? If so, what is it?
  • What resources do we have? Budget, employees?
  • How quickly do we want to see results?

More often than not, businesses will partner with a marketing agency like us and ask for quick and instant exposure, big social followings and a huge increase in sales…

Sadly, your business will never get there with a click of a finger. 

Simply pumping a tonne of money into social ads will not yield long term results, even if it does provide a quick temporary fix, just as writing an article won’t instantly make you appear number 1 on Google and get you hundreds of new leads.

Having the right strategy is just as important as the delivery!

When should you use organic marketing?

There isn’t a right or wrong time to use organic marketing, encouraging organic traffic to your business is always a positive thing. But there are definitely times when organic marketing will suit a business more than others, depending on business size, goals and resources. 

For organic media marketing strategies to stay relevant, businesses must keep up with the changes on the platform. A good organic marketing strategy should be implemented when the business isn’t just looking for a sudden influx in sales but instead is hoping for long term growth. Businesses who have a product offering that attracts lifetime customers often focus a lot of their marketing efforts on organic traffic rather than paid.  

Organic marketing methods are successfully used by both small and big businesses. Small businesses with a smaller budget can target their audience with lengthy blog posts, social interactions and keyword targeting. Bigger enterprises keep existing audiences engaged with their organic content 

Within organic marketing businesses can leverage the free tools available within a social media platform, such as sharing posts, stories, reels, videos, post interactions, following relevant accounts. These tools are perfect for engaging with an audience you already have in both an informative way and for entertainment- keeping them up to date with any latest products or changes to services. 

When should you use paid advertising?

Paid marketing is favoured by businesses when they have a new campaign to promote, or if they are looking for a quick boost in sales of a specific product or service. Campaigns are produced to reach a specific audience and to reach a specific goal - using paid advertising is a sure way to directly target posts and blogs to a particular audience. 

If a business has a hefty marketing budget then paid ads are a no brainer, but this doesn’t mean that you can skimp on the content side of the marketing. Paying to push an ad or campaign to your target audience will only work in your favour if the content is relevant and engaging giving visitors a reason to convert into a customer. 

There is a debate in the marketing industry over whether consumers are bothered about whether it is a paid marketing ad or organic, and if this impacts the results of using one over the other. 

Most of us have done a Google search in our lifetime (assuming so with the 5.6 billion searches a day) so you’re probably familiar with the top search results having the icon ‘Ad’ next to them. 

Being in the top spots you would assume these get the most clicks through, right? Well yes, it is true - but it’s not always the case…

Google is very particular about what ranks and what doesn’t, and even if you are paying for an ad to run in the top spot, if it isn’t meeting the requirements of your customers it won’t be successful!

Statistics from Search Engine Land found that 75% of people say that paid search ads do make it easier to find information that they’re looking for, with one-third of respondents saying that they click on a paid search ad because it directly answers the question they were searching about. So if your content doesn’t do this, you won’t get the sales lead!

We will be covering this topic in a whole lot of detail in another blog post, but for now these are the top Google Ad tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a PPC planning template
  • Avoid broad keyword terms
  • Don't run irrelevant ads
  • Improve your Quality Score (QS)
  • Optimise your ad landing page

When should you use both?

Using both organic and paid marketing can work to achieve almost all business goals - marketing experts largely agree that a combination of both strategies is often the most effective. 

Many experienced and successful businesses will leverage the overlap between the two methods of reaching their target audiences by integrating them. From keyword research to engagement data, there are many factors to consider as you look at how to use both paid and organic content to elevate and maximise your marketing efforts. 

There isn’t exactly a ‘right’ time to use both since both tactics can always be used alongside one another to obtain optimal results. There are some circumstances where it would work best though, and some top tips for ensuring you are making the most out of both marketing tactics:

  1. Invest in research and analytics up front to make your understanding of your audience crystal clear
  2. Use PPC advertising to boost organic engagement
  3. Make your paid content less promotional or ‘ad like’ and as interesting as your organic content 
  4. Extend the reach of all of your organic content with paid advertising
  5. Test your social content organically first to provide guidance for your paid strategies
  6. Analyse keyword performance in paid media to assess the SEO value of your content to be used in organic content
  7. Within a campaign offer lighter organic content and a more in-depth paid content
  8. Repurpose any existing organic content that has done particularly well, amplifying the content using paid advertising

Choosing the best plan for you 

Whether you’re using an in-house marketer, or outsourcing to a marketing agency, you should be working with everyone who is involved in the marketing plan for your business to ensure they get a good understanding of your ultimate goals and budget. 

Here at Beyond we work closely with our clients in a discovery session to learn about audience, goals and current marketing strategies, allowing us to develop a much more focused plan of action combining both paid and organic marketing tactics. 

We have a fantastic team of digital strategists, website designers, developers and marketers who will be able to advise, guide and create the perfect website and marketing strategy for your business.

Taking you back to the foundations, we immerse ourselves in your organisation to properly understand your suite of products or services, allowing us to position the strategy, journey and content correctly, before initiating the design and delivery phases.

Emma Fieldhouse Founder of Beyond Agency
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