Paid and organic – what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Paid and organic – what’s the difference and why does it matter?_5ee33dff21deb.png

For many startups and SME’s, gaining brand visibility quickly is crucial to building a consumer base. However, the cost or lack of knowledge can hold them back.

Organic, on the other hand, is more of a slow burn and allows time to gradually build a portfolio of content on site and ensure a great user experience, but sadly results aren’t often as instantaneous as those in Google Ads.

So how should you approach your search marketing strategy and which is truly more effective – paid or organic?

Recognising paid from organic

When UK marketing agency, Varn approached a group of over 1,000 internet users to test their knowledge of the difference between paid and organic search results, the results were pretty astounding. Almost two-thirds of the consumers questioned could not differentiate which links within the SERP’s were paid adverts and which were organic.

This could be down to the subtle nature of the paid Google listings, which has led consumers to believe these top positions are due to relevance rather than a bought position obtained by the advertiser. This raises questions around if ads are being disclosed appropriately by the search giant, or if they are misleading users to boost that PPC income through misdirection.

How does paid work?

Google Ads, are a form of advertising which allows a brand to appear at the top of the search results page for a particular set of key terms. To get to these coveted spots, you must consider a variety of factors including the relevance of the page you want your users to reach in line with your desired key terms, the placement of the ad is then determined by a quality score and a bidding process.

The positives

Unlike organic search, paid ads are placed as soon as the payment has been made, meaning that, so long as you’ve optimised your site and your ad settings, you can appear in front of your desired audience almost immediately.

The bespoke nature of ads is also a plus, with the capability to target a specific type of persona through segmentation which includes location, age and income. The ability to target people based on a range of demographics allows advertisers to build much more relevant ads which speak to the consumers in the most appropriate way.

Lastly, paid ads have been favoured for their higher click-through rate within terms which denote a higher purchase intent, this includes brand specific keywords or product names. This makes Google Ads ideal for brands looking to capture customers who are primed and ready to buy.

The negatives

Unfortunately, paid ads are fleeting and as soon as you stop paying for a spot, your brand disappears from the top spot. Not to mention the cost required to spend on the ad and a professional to optimise and run them effectively.

Despite some customers unable to differentiate between these search results and organic, they are becoming savvier and therefore they are becoming less likely to click them, placing more trust in organic listings.

How does organic work?

Organic search results are generated through the relevance and quality of a site. This covers a wide range of elements including the on-site experience, the content on site, keyword relevance, the links pointing to the site and a whole host of other elements which determine the trust and quality of your site.

The positives

Organic search is a great investment and allows you to build trust in your brand. A high search engine ranking comes with the perception of credibility to consumers and denotes a position of authority, leadership which in turn leads to greater CTR’s.

Once you’ve established rankings, through best practise techniques such as offering great quality user experience and content that answers a plethora of unique queries, it’s easier to maintain this.

For brands who want to generate inbound marketing leads, organic search is an absolute must-have. Get your content found by the right people and this will help guide them through the purchase funnel. Educate, inspire and prove your worth through the content you put out there, and through this, you can build a rapport between brand and consumer. For companies with longer buying cycles, this step is critical to driving interactions with a lasting effect.

Finally, when it comes to consumers who at the top of the funnel, who don’t have an immediate purchase intent, organic does tend to experience much higher click-through rates. This helps progress the buying cycle and generates a sense of value around your brand, driving them towards the final goal.

The negatives

Unlike paid as, building an organic search presence takes time and an ongoing effort to develop your strategy to align with the lastest algorithm update. If you’re looking to rank for some seriously competitive search terms, you could be looking at months or even years to get up to the front page of the SERP’s. Once you’ve estblished your position there, it can be much easier to sustain, but the effort it takes to get there is often substantial.

To get where you want to be in the organic search results, you’ll need an established understanding of both technical SEO and content marketing. Regularly refreshing your onsite content, and ensuring a seamless user experience requires resource and time, which isn’t often readily available in-house and typically requires the support of an external agency.

Can’t I just have one?

In short – no.

The best way to approach search marketing is by using a mix of both organic and paid tactics to build your brands visibility. This means you can appear at the top of the SERP’s through a paid placement to generate those click-throughs for customers with purchase intent. Meanwhile, you can be beavering away at your evergreen search results and building your organic search rankings to boost your brand’s credibility.

Without a balance of the two approaches you can end up relying too heavily on one channel and missing opportunities to capture consumers are different points within the purchase funnel.


Think we can make magic happen together? Drop us a line and we’ll setup a call to go through your goals and explain how we can help.


Favoured relies on it’s amazing set of talented staff to achieve what we do. Think you’d like to be part of an award winning team?

Thanks so much! Please download the guide below