In online marketing, you have essentially 2 ways to get your site visitors: The paid search way through making online ads and the organic search way where you get traffic from Google search, YouTube search and similar search engines, and that is free.
I am going to be providing some numbers from my own experiences in using both and help you decide which one you should focus on (really the answer is both in most cases).
I have made a comparison chart to give a VERY general answer for which is better for which case, but please do not let this chart help you make up your mind because there are tons of circumstances where these generalizations do not apply.
This is just to give you a summary of the most immediate and general benefits of each method:
The spark notes on organic search vs paid search:
- You will always have to invest more money in paid search than organic.
- Organic search will get you more traffic in the long run.
- Paid search will get you faster traffic.
- Paid search requires that you spend money on online ads.
- Organic search provides free traffic, which is most cost effective.
- Beginners should not get involved with paid search until they master organic search.
- If you run a local business, using paid search options works better to get leads to your business.
Now we’ll get more into the details of each method and where they may have more superiority over the other.
Let’s start with paid search:
While it is one of the two major options available, there are a number of networks that you can use. Essentially paid search means that you literally pay to get visitors. There are a lot different networks you can use for this method:
- Google Ads.
- Bing Ads.
- Facebook Ads.
- Display Network Advertising.
- Traffic Exchanges.
- Solo Ads.
- Ad Swaps.
- And more.
Ways I have profited from some of the above networks:
Google Ads and Bing Ads have the biggest traffic potential and also basically have the same method by which you can advertise intelligently and pay little but get big exposure. The key to success with these networks in my experience is targeting relevant keywords for your site.
The same rules don’t exactly apply to say Facebook where the focus isn’t on keywords, but is on demographics and being super relevant to whatever you’re advertising to a specific demographic, then ads appear for the types of people you chose. I am currently testing this network.
Display network advertising is also different because your ad is put on private websites, not search engines or social networks so in this example, the best way to advertise is to make sure your ad and it’s topic lands on similar topic websites so it’s more easily noticeable by the niche crowd.
The rest, I don’t have enough experience with, so I can’t comment, but they are also different and in many cases, what I have heard is that you can run into a lot of “junk traffic” if you’re not careful, but you really don’t have much control over who visits your site with things like traffic exchanges, solo ads and ad swaps.
While many of these networks are different, the one thing they do have in common is that you pay to get traffic from them and there are many ways to use these places to make money with.
The biggest benefits of using paid search in my experience are:
- You get fast traffic to your site (usually within 24 hours).
- You can target ANY keyword no matter what it’s organic competition is and pay enough to be shown on the first page.
- You can leverage the speed and power of paid searches to get a lot of visitors to your site and profit rather quickly if you hit the right market at the right time (case study of a 1 page, six figure earning website).
You can “test” the traffic and profit potential of niches and markets by setting up one page websites or just a normal article just to see how much traffic you’ll get if you advertise it under certain keywords, then you can narrow down your sales funnel to a point where it can make you money. This sort of “saves” you work quantity and only helps you focus on profit generating keywords and niches.
There are however major downsides to using paid search:
- Besides paying for the traffic, there’s a GOOD chance many of your attempts will yield a loss.
- You risk losing big money. Do note that even if you get a lot of traffic, that does not always = profits.
- I have lost a lot of money blindly trying to profit of one hot market after another. I think it’s in the range of $50,000 over the years.
- Never do any sort of paid search advertising without a good budget or experience (this is more important).
Now we have organic search (SEO)
This is basically free traffic that you can get from search engines if you meet the right criteria of targeting the right keywords and having enough authority on your website for those same search engines to rank you high (this is how I do it).
Unlike different advertising networks, with organic searches, you’re really looking to have your website “pop up” on Google most of the time and also Bing as well as Yahoo (1st page if possible!), the rest is really not that significant.
Although your goal isn’t just to show up on Google, it’s to show up on the right search results to get the most relevant traffic, this option is my preferred one over paid and here’s why:
The most significant benefits of organic search:
- MORE traffic potential. First page rankings for websites generally get more visits and clicks vs ads that appear on the first page.
- The traffic you get is completely free which means even if your site or sales funnel on it doesn’t work, you don’t have to worry about losing money.
- I’ve made most of money with organic search. For example, in a program I studied called Affiliate Bootcamp, I generated at least 500,000 organic visits to my blog and made over $300,000 in the process.
But of course, there’s the negative side of organic search:
Generally takes a long time to get ranked high. Weeks (if you’ve got some GREAT content, comment engagement and are consistently writing new information on the site), but usually more towards months and years.
There is A LOT more work involved in making a successful site that gets a lot of organic visits. MUCH more work. The work one can put in to make 1 page, advertise it and get visits in under 24 hours would take at least 50x-100x more time with a site you’re trying to get organic visits to.
That’s because SEO (organic search success basically) is a game of patience but not the type where you literally sit and wait for your site to get ranked, but the one where you keep working on it and adding constant content.
Why people quit doing both things:
Most people who quit doing anything related to paid searches do so because they just don’t have the money or the right experience to keep trying to make it work.
Most people who quit SEO and getting their site organic searches quit because they just get tired of waiting for it to happen. They lose time, not money and another big reason they also quit is because they resort to black hat approaches to speed up the process only to be spotted for it and punished, thus losing it all in the end.
So where should one start?
In just about every single case, I will recommend everyone start with SEO and getting their website organically listed. You can get training on this from Wealthy Affiliate. It has more stability in the long run vs paid searches and if money is made through SEO, you then have 2 new benefits:
- You see that the site CAN make money, therefore there is potential to make it earn more.
- You can put in the profits made into paid search. If money was made with SEO, you can get more of the same relevant traffic to the site.
- People who have never made a website should do SEO.
- People who don’t have money to put into their online business should start with SEO.
- People who do not have experience with paid search should also start with this.
However, here are several groups of people who may benefit right away from paid search networks like Google and Bing Ads:
People who have a budget to spend and have experience with paid searches and/or someone who does and can help them set it up correctly.
People who have personal/existing businesses that don’t have time for SEO. In these cases, you can use things like Adwords, Bing Ads and even Google Ads alternatives (great for local business advertising and local business consulting firms) to let people in YOUR area know about your business.