Organic and paid search – explained

Often when concentrating on search alone it’s easy to forget that there are in fact two different types of searches businesses need to know about and understand.  Here we briefly explain the differences between organic and paid search – and why an appreciation of both is key to online success.

What is organic search?

Organic search refers to the results displayed on a search engine that have not been altered in any way by payment. What this means is that rankings displayed as organic results are purely a product of the search engine’s indexing and ranking process (in case you missed it there’s more on this here) – and have not been influenced by having paid to be there, or the amount they have invested. Organic search success requires a targeted SEO strategy implemented by professionals. Usually this is holistic and incorporates a range of techniques – including developmental optimisation, design tweaks and refining content as well as social media management.

What is paid search, and how is it different?

Paid search is fairly self-explanatory. Google offers businesses the chance to pay for listings at the very top of a user’s search – and businesses pay in the hope that securing a prominent space will result in greater exposure and therefore increased traffic. You then pay for the click – whether the user who does so goes on to spend money with you or not. This is the reason for paid search also being referred to as PPC or ‘Pay Per Click’ advertising. You can see results influenced by payment both right at the beginning of your search results and occasionally down the right hand side. These will always be marked as ‘paid’ (a green box with ‘Ad’ should appear on the left of the listing). It’s well known however that users can mentally rank the relevancy or quality as these results less favourably, as they know they have been paid for. Therefore paid search options are particularly useful for businesses who already have a profile and following, but need to remain front of mind or share lesser known services with current customers who are likely to purchase from the company again, but who may not yet know about them yet. It’s also important to note that ‘popular’ searches and key terms will naturally carry a higher price per click than more obscure keywords or phrases.

Like organic SEO, paid search is an art form in itself. It’s crucial to have an appreciation of relevant searches, keywords and your target demographic to secure success – otherwise it’s very easy to waste money as users click through and discover that you don’t have what they were looking for.

Which type of search should I concentrate my resources on?

The short answer is both – but exactly how much you concentrate on each very much depends both on the nature of your business and your objectives. It’s true to say that organic search results are favoured by consumers online – so if you have to pick only one, this is where your focus should lie. Our specialists in SEO will be able to advise you accordingly and put together a strategy to help your business to receive optimum benefit both in organic and paid results.

It’s also worth remembering that paid (and organic) searches are just the beginning for businesses that need to sell online. You’ll need to make sure that you’re retaining and engaging users who do click through to your site once they are there to fulfil your online objectives.

Stay tuned for more in our Beginners’ Guide to the Web series or get in touch for more details on how we can optimise both organic and paid search for your business.

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