The Difference Between Paid and Organic Web Marketing

When you open a search engine to look for something and the results page come up, do you ever wonder if the top websites received their spot organically or if it was paid for? Sites that appear right underneath the ads do so naturally because of their SEO and optimization. Traffic naturally flows to that page versus a company’s site that receives visitors because they paid to have it at the very top of the results.

The difference between the two is simply how they received the ranking on the results page. Now, that is not to say one option is better than the other, just that you must decide which one is more ideal for your business and what you are trying to accomplish.

Organic Search

Organic or “natural” results appear underneath the ads and local listings that appear on the search engine results pages, or SERPs. They are considered organic because that site used proper SEO practices and have optimized their site, and the page that shows up, to receive that spot. The algorithm of the search engine decides that those pages contain the most relevant and useful information based on what you searched for and choose them specifically for you.

The algorithm analyzes the keywords you type into the search bar and, if those sites have similar keywords in their meta descriptions, title tags, content, etc., they appear at the top. These pages are generally a more trusted resource than those that were paid for.

But keep in mind, your business page will not just become the number one result overnight.

It takes time to reach such a high ranking, but the position is earned because that site optimized their content and the pages ranked as much as possible. According to iMPACT, 33% of clicks from organic search results go to the very first listing on Google. When your website does become the top result based on what someone searched, the amount of traffic your website will begin to generate will skyrocket.

Paid Search

Paid search results are ads that were bought in order to appear above the natural rankings on the page. Even though the word “ad” is shown next to those businesses, many people are unaware that these accounts purchased that spot.

Instead of working to increase your rankings, you can pay to be seen immediately when someone searches for something that is relevant to the content included on your site. But, it is important to note that just because a business paid to boost their website does not mean that it can contain any random information and will be seen on the SERPs.

You still have to use SEO tactics even when you use paid ads because other businesses are also paying to have their site on the top of SERPs. They may have optimized their website better than yours and even though they both appear at the top of the page, they are receiving a higher click-through rate.

PPC Targeting

A notable drawback to organic search is unpredictability in how your results may appear. Constant Google algorithm updates and increased privacy options for web browsers make it difficult to determine how to boost your rankings to first-page exposure. It may take months or more to appear on the first page of results using organic SEO. Also with your competitors continually optimizing their sites, it means you really need to stay on the ball when optimizing yours.

Due to stricter guidelines for optimization, it is becoming more time consuming to optimize for organic search. To rank well it may take an entire team of specialists to optimize content and market your business effectively.


Household income is one of the demographics marketers consider when they develop these ads. If that business would like to market its products and services to someone who has on average a higher annual income, they can do so. They use location in their targeted ads to include households that make more money and exclude those in the lower-income bracket.

Age and Gender

These advertisements can also be specified based on someone’s age and gender. A company has the option to have its ads geared toward female, male, and unknown. Search engines can assume your gender by analyzing your past searches and apply that to what appears in your results. The same can be done with age. Advertisers can choose between 18-24, 25-34, etc.


Using the geo-targeting or local PPC feature is exactly what it sounds like. They can target you through these ads by using your location. Many companies are limited to what areas (cities, countries, continents) they can provide their services in, whether that’s by foot traffic or shipping. Geo-targeting allows you to find consumers in close proximity to the perimeters you set and see your ads.

Web Analytics

Web analytics is also another tactic that can be used on your website to reach your specific audience. An analytics dashboard will help you understand your website performance including website traffic, views, and click-throughs over time, by device, and traffic source. You can look at who already frequently engages with your content and go from there.

When you use Google Analytics, the information can even be as specific as what type of device someone used to view your site. It will even tell you who is a returning visitor compared to someone who has never been on the website before.

If you, for example, own a veterinary practice, you can target people that have already visited your office and get them to return by booking another appointment when they see your ad pop up. You can also reach someone who frequently searches for local veterinarian practices or people who looked up animal care near their location. When you utilize PPC targeting to its full potential, you have the power to reach so many more potential clients.

The Pros and Cons 

If you aren’t sure if you’d rather try paid search or naturally boost your rankings with SEO, don’t forget to weigh the pros and cons of both. Consider these differences when trying to decide which is better for your business:


If you want instant gratification and to automatically start receiving more clicks, paid advertising through the pay-per-click model would be more suitable for your business. This option is completely up to you because it is based on what you’re willing to pay for.

It can take years for your website to naturally work its way up the results page if you don’t have a serious SEO game plan in place. This requires creating relevant and useful content for your visitors on your site to increase the ability for your site to rank for keywords that relate to your practice.

It can become very time-consuming but is worth it when you put the hard work in. Once you have a solid SEO game plan with targeted keywords for your business, or enlist some help, you can start seeing results anywhere between 6-8 months.


PPC is not a free marketing tactic, so if it is not included in your budget, this might not be the best option for your business. If the keywords you want to use to target your audience are popular, it will be more expensive.


People generally trust websites that organically receive the top spot versus one that was paid for. Consumers figure that if you did not have to purchase it, you must be a credible authority figure in your industry and earned your spot, otherwise people would not continuously click on your page.

Which option is best for my business?

When you’re trying to figure out which method best suits you and your company, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of both. But, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Many companies find that the best tactic for them is to utilize both. Teamwork makes the dream work! You should work to optimize and use the best SEO practices to naturally boost your site in the SERPs, but also have PPC accounted for in your budget, if possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about PPC and organic search or would like to have these services provided for your website, contact us here at iMatrix for more information!

Looking to get started on growing your reach?

We share some great tips on how to succeed with SEO and PPC in the posts below.

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