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Organic vs. Paid Traffic: Which Is Better?

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Both paid and organic traffic can help your business attract leads. But putting a greater focus on organic will help you establish credibility and trust to make longer-term connections.

Key takeaways:

  • Organic traffic is generated by users organically finding you via search engines
  • Paid traffic is generated from paid advertisements on the results page
  • Both may be necessary, and each has benefits, but organic traffic helps you build trust and gives more long term ROI 
  • Organic traffic is free, makes up the majority of all internet traffic, and can give you three times as many leads as paid


A primary goal of marketers is to bring in more online traffic. But how to get it can be a continuous battle.

An organic approach is centered around bringing in website visitors who search for key terms on Google. Paid traffic comes to websites from paid advertisements. They both have the same end result, but getting to that point is pretty different.

So, how does each method work? And should you prioritize one approach over the other? Here is your guide to both organic and paid traffic.


How organic traffic works

Organic traffic is pretty much how it sounds. People organically find your content through search engines, instead of you shelling out any ad dollars to get them there. They’ll type in a question, word, or phrase, and Google will put the most relevant content in front of them.

Organic search accounts for 53% of all internet traffic.

Organic campaigns aim to get content to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) for those specific terms and phrases.

This is often the preferred method for consumers because the results they see are relevant to what they want to know, and they don’t have to worry about a brand simply trying to sell them something with an ad.

Organic traffic is where SEO comes into play. You won’t rank on the SERP without using SEO best practices that get your content noticed online. These best practices include:

  • Inserting keywords and phrases organically and naturally
  • Creating compelling meta descriptions and title tags
  • Using anchor text with relevant links to other sites
  • Writing unique titles and headlines
  • Optimizing page loading speed


Content that plays into organic traffic success includes:

  • blogs
  • infographics
  • videos
  • landing pages
  • product releases


This method is more about the long game since it may take a while for you to build up lead numbers this way.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of organic traffic is that you can connect with your audiences in, well, more organic ways. This leads to more meaningful relationships built on trust that are more likely to last. You have many opportunities to inspire people with great content when you’re focused on developing organic traffic.

Organic pros:

  • It’s free
  • It builds credibility and trust
  • You can integrate organic with your content strategy
  • You can make more meaningful connections


Organic cons:

  • It may take you longer to build your following with organic alone


How paid traffic works

Paid traffic is similar to organic in that it’s centered around the SERP. But, with paid, you depend on a user clicking on one of your paid advertisements on the page instead of the organic results listed. Both approaches depend on getting those clicks from users, just in different ways.

You’ll use an ad platform, like Google Ads, to create your ad campaigns, come up with goals, and track progress and activity of the ads.

Ads then appear at the top and bottom of the SERP, and they’re related to the keywords people enter into Google. So, you’re not completely shooting in the dark with your ads since they’ll hopefully be relevant to whoever sees them. And, you can depend on more instant results since you know your ads are appearing on those SERPs.

You really want that paid content to work for you because it costs you more than organic traffic. It’s wise to focus your paid ads around products or services you’re selling rather than more informational content on your site.

Examples would include landing pages for products and services or demos of your products. You want to put out the content here that will convert leads.

Paid pros:

  • More instant results
  • Traffic may build more predictably
  • Ad platforms give you access to lots of user behavioral data

Paid cons:

  • It may not come off as genuine to consumers
  • It can become costly


Should you focus more on organic or paid?

Since each approach has pros and cons, it’s hard to know where to focus your time and energy when you’re trying to attract leads. The answer is different for every business, and a balance of both methods usually works the best.

However, when your goal is to build your online presence, establish credibility, and provide authority on a certain subject matter, organic traffic is the way to go.

And, using SEO best practices instead of relying on paid ads can pay off more in the long run. Brafton data found that SEO provides three times as many leads as paid search when measured over the long-term. Organic is also a fraction of the costs of using paid ads.

Paid ads give you more immediate results and help you attract attention to your new products and services. But organic traffic may be your key to success by building authenticity and opening the potential for more meaningful interactions with your audience.


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Incorporating SEO best practices is one way to improve content marketing and increase organic traffic. But you need the right resources to do it.

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