Paid search vs Organic search: Which One Is Best For Personal Brands?

Chapter 6

To profit from your website, you must have consistent traffic. You either buy the traffic or generate it for free on your own. Paid traffic gives you a quick start but is costly, while organic traffic takes a long time to gain traction.

Traffic is the lifeblood of online business.

Without steady traffic, you have no website visitors, no leads, no income. 

And if you don’t have revenue coming in, you don’t have a business to speak of. 


So you must do everything in your power to increase your traffic because an increase in traffic leads to an increase in your leads and sales. But many small businesses struggle to drive consistent, targeted traffic to their websites. 

To get traffic, you buy it or generate it yourself.

Of the two strategies, which one is best for personal brands?

Let’s find out.

What Is Paid Search Traffic?

Paid search traffic or pay per click advertising (PPC) comprises visitors who arrive on your website after clicking an advert or content you paid for.

Paid traffic sources include:

Here is an example of a Facebook ad from Hubble:

Source: Outbrain

In the State Of PPC Report 2020, Brain Labs Digital reported that 74% of marketers use paid traffic to drive traffic to their business websites.

Pros And Cons Of Paid Search Traffic

While paid traffic is costly, it has many advantages over organic traffic. Let’s explore 7 advantages of PPC traffic.

6 Pros Of Paid Traffic

1. Works Fast

Setting up paid ads only takes a couple of minutes. The best part? You can start getting traffic immediately. 

You go from a completely unknown brand to a household brand in a matter of weeks or a few months if you have a fat budget to play with.

In contrast, organic traffic takes many months to take off.

2. Laser Targeted

Unlike organic traffic which can drive untargeted traffic, paid traffic gives you full control of how you want to target your audience. You can be so granular in your targeting and attract the exact audience you desire.

In Facebook advertising, you can laser-target your audience through:

Facebook Custom Audience empowers you to connect with your current ideal customers who have already bought from you and fit your customer avatar.

You can upload your customer phone or email list or web visitor activity list. This hikes customer loyalty and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Once you’ve seen which custom audience responds best to your offers, you can scale your campaigns.


By cloning the high-converting audiences. Through using a mobile app or a pixel, the algorithm can unearth audiences with similar characteristics to the ones you have.

When targeting your audience, you don’t have to choose one type of targeting over another.

The good news is you can combine different targeting strategies at once for maximum exposure and brand penetration. You can even merge data and create smaller, hyper-specific audiences for higher conversions.

Facebook’s life events targeting allows you to zero in on people undergoing certain significant life events.

As a case in point, depending on your business, you can target people who are:

The sweet thing about event targeting is that it combines content and intent to connect with people during micro moments when they are more likely to convert.

Source: Think With Google

That’s why micro moments are so powerful. They allow you to reach your ideal customers at the perfect moment when they need you the most.

Facebook has a massive fresh database of purchase behavior data to help you identify and target people who are active buyers.

This shortens the buyer cycle because you focus on known buyers who have bought something similar to what you are selling.

You can target different sub-categories:

For example, you can specifically target B2B businesses in the health and beauty sector.

3. Measurable ROI

Paid traffic makes measuring your return on investment a breeze.

Through a tracking pixel, you can follow a visitor from the initial click through several stages until they become a paying customer and even brand advocate. Because you know exactly how much you paid for a lead, you can easily calculate:

4. Glean Valuable, In-depth Customer Data

Today’s marketing landscape is data-driven.

Smart brands use many data points they’ve gleaned from their interactions with customers throughout the buyer cycle to fuel their marketing campaigns.

Using native ads and a host of third-party analytics platforms, you can gather vast amounts of useful data.

Here’s a case study from Word Stream.

Source: Word Stream

You get numbers on how much you can save if you improve your ad quality score. 

5. Scalable (more money, more clicks)

Scaling your brand’s campaigns can be difficult.

Not so with paid ads. 

With paid ads the Math is simple

More Ad Spend = More Traffic and Leads = More Revenue

If you’ve optimized your ads, you know exactly how much you must spend on ads and how much profit you will pull from your investment. To scale, just invest more in the high-performing ads.

6. Myriad platforms, many growth opportunities

There’s more to paid traffic channels than the big six: Google ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, Twitter ads, YouTube ads, Instagram ads.

There are many other channels to promote your brand online.

Promoting your brand on multiple channels means:

Get your name out there. Single Grain listed 54 online ad platforms, so you have plenty of options.

4 Cons Of Paid Search

Despite its many benefits, paid traffic has a few cons. Let’s go over 4 of them.

1. Expensive (no money, no traffic)

The problem with paid traffic is that it’s a pay to play strategy. Yes, in business you mustn’t mind paying as long as you get a reasonable ROI, but paid advertising costs can pile up quickly.

The average cost per click ranges from $1.16 to $6.75+ depending on the industry. 

Source: Word Stream

Doesn’t sound like much, right?

But your costs may start reasonable but balloon when you get into a bidding war with competitors.

When your ad budget runs out, your campaign grinds to a screeching halt.

2. Fewer Clicks Than Organic

It’s second nature for searchers to click on organic search results, not paid search results.

Investing in PPC won’t get you as many clicks as you would get through organic traffic strategies.

Organic search results get a massive 85% of clicks while paid ad search results get a paltry 10-15%. This means you must spend more on ads to get more clicks that can make a difference to your brand.

3. Clicks don’t always result in sales

In PPC advertising, they charge you for each click you get, not the sale you make.

This pricing model can lead to losses because getting clicks doesn’t mean you’ll close more sales. Your ad spend bill keeps rising, whether or not you are cashing in on sales.

Can you guess what the average paid traffic conversion rate is? 15% perhaps? Nope, it’s not as high as you think. Check this survey from Word Stream for the answer.

The average paid traffic across industries is only 2,35%. For every 100 clicks you get from paid traffic channels, you close a mere two or three sales. Yes, there’s more to branding than closing sales, but the final goal of every business enterprise is profit.

You are not in this for fun and games, right? 😀 

To get maximum returns from your ad spend you must increase your lead-to-sale rate. That’s a topic for another day.

4. Requires high skill-set

Creating high-converting ads isn’t child’s play.

You don’t just cobble up a few lines, click publish, and see thousands of clicks on your dashboard the next day.

It takes A-level copywriting skills, a knack for which keywords work, and a host of other skills to nail it. If you have never written an ad before, you will struggle to achieve a positive ROI. 

That’s why household brands hire specialist paid traffic agencies to do the heavy lifting. But for startups and fledgling brands, that’s out of the question. You must soak in as much free ad copywriting material as you can and experiment a lot if you want to see results.

Now that you’ve got a handle on paid traffic, let’s look at organic traffic next.

What Is Organic Search Traffic?

Organic traffic is visitors who arrive on your website via search engine search results (SERPs) organically without clicking on any paid ads.

Such visitors end up on your site because they searched for answers related to the problems your product or service solves on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or another search engine and your site provided the most relevant answer.

Pros And Cons Of Organic Search

6 Pros Of Organic Search

Organic traffic has many advantages. Let’s summarize the top ones.

1. Cheap

Contrary to popular belief, organic traffic isn’t free.

To get your pages to rank, you must invest in top-class writers, content promotion, and SEO tools. For instance, Ahrefs plans start at $99, while for SEMrush you must fork out $119 for their base plan. And don’t underestimate the time investment you need to get the SEO content marketing heavy gears moving.

That said, organic search traffic is way cheaper than paid traffic.

Stats show that content marketing generates 3x more leads than PPC advertising and costs 62% less. Not only do you pay less upfront, but your costs get lower over the long term.

2. Less disruptive

People hate ads.

Everyone, across age groups, from tech-savvy Zoomers to Baby Boomers loathe cheesy ads. As the chart below shows, it’s a matter of how much each age group hates, ads not if they hate them.

The top three reasons are revealing:

The bottom line? Ads annoy people because they are too pushy and intrusive. A clear advantage of organic traffic is that it’s non intrusive. In inbound marketing, people willingly connect with brands because they enjoy their content. That’s why the other name for it is permission-based marketing. 

While paid search is also organic in the sense that the ads that show up seek to answer the user’s need, people still lean towards organic results, not ads. Users put their guard up whenever they see ads.

3. Higher conversion rates

Generating tons of leads for your brand is great, but there’s something better—closing them. Turning those leads into buying customers.

For closing leads, organic traffic leaves PPC advertising trailing in the dust. Organic search traffic converts at 6x higher than other marketing channels. While content marketing needs patience because it takes time, when results arrive they are sizable and multiply with time.

4. Sustainable

Want more organic traffic and leads?


Publish more quality content that answers the burning questions your audience has about the problems you solve. According to HubSpot, brands that blog get 55% more traffic than those that don’t blog.

So the more you put out quality content, the more traffic you get. Simple.

5. Enhances Brand Credibility

Nothing boosts your brand’s credibility faster than being found by your audience via a Google search.

Being found naturally online shows your marketing game is spot on. You beat hundreds of competitors to the top. That in itself is a big plus on your credibility. 

When you win in organic search marketing, you win big. SEO content marketing is a winner-takes-all game.

Advanced Web Ranking analysis shows brands that get top spot rankings gobble up all the clicks.

It’s downhill from there. Position number 11 gets virtually nothing 

On top of this, a study by Ahrefs revealed the average #1 ranking page will also rank for 1000 other relevant keywords.

What’s the point?

When you win the ranking race, you dominate the SERPs. People keep seeing your brand pop up in the results pages whenever they search for solutions. This dominance underlines your authority over your competitors.

You boss the industry.

4 Cons Of Organic Search

Organic search isn’t all sunshine and roses. It has many downsides, among them:

1. Takes Long To See Results

The biggest drawback of organic search is that it’s a slow burn strategy, unlike paid traffic, which brings results quicker.

Depending on who you ask, this is how long it takes to drive organic traffic to your site.

Reliable Soft says it takes 3-7 months.

Getting organic visits from Google isn’t a rapid strategy. There are a lot of factors that come into play as shown by this graphic from Cognitive SEO.

So if your priority is fast results, organic traffic strategies aren’t for you.

2. Hard To Master

Organic traffic sounds easy enough. Produce delicious content your audience delights in and they will fall in love with your brand. 

But is it? 

While the concept is straightforward, executing it isn’t. A lot goes into getting a page to rank and attracting the right leads. 

Things like:

All this on top of content quality takes time, experimentation, and expertise to nail. Inbound marketing is not for the fainthearted.

3. Volatile

With organic traffic, you can boss the SERPs today and drive tons of traffic, but disappear from the top pages the next day after a Google algorithm update. 

Granted, major algorithm updates happen once in a while. But when they do, your rankings may tank and your traffic dries up. As for paid traffic, you have steady traffic as long as you pump out cash for your campaigns. 

That said, if you’ve mastered the fundamentals of SEO content marketing, you can quickly recover from a sudden dip in traffic. 

4. High maintenance

SEO marketing isn’t a do once set-and-forget strategy.

It’s a labor-intensive strategy with myriad tasks you must keep up with:

Sounds like a full-time job to me.

Organic Or Search? How To Determine What’s Right For You

You’ve seen the pros and cons of each strategy. Which one’s the best fit for your brand? 

Each strategy does the job. It all depends on your goals.

1. Pick Paid Search If You Have More Money Than Time

Paid traffic is a great fit if you have a big budget to push your campaigns.

2. Choose Organic Search If You Have More Time Than Money

If your budget is tight but you have all the time in the world go for organic marketing strategies. 

You will have the spare capacity to invest in content creation, optimization, and distribution to make content marketing work. 

3. For Fast Growth Go For Paid Search

Because paid traffic brings instant results, it’s perfect for you if you want your brand to take off fast and make a big splash from the get-go.

4. For Slow But Steady Growth Select Organic Search

If time isn’t a primary factor in your business goals, then organic search can work well for you.

It’s Not Organic vs Search But Organic And Search

On the surface, these two strategies look opposed. 

But on closer inspection, you realize they complement each other so well. 

You can start paid traffic to generate brand awareness fast while working on your organic strategy. Once organic traffic picks, you can gradually reduce your ad spend and allow organic to take over. 

Or you can do things the opposite way. Begin with organic search. When traffic is in full flow and you are generating a lot of leads and sales, rope in paid traffic for faster growth. 

A hybrid approach works best.

Here’s how to integrate SEO with PPC

Combining PPC with SEO has many benefits that include:

This is vital since 92% of visitors aren’t ready to buy on the first visit.

Source: Visiture

So stay in touch with non-converting organic visitors and keep your brand top of mind through smart PPC remarketing.

It’s not PPC versus SEO. 

Rather, PPC and SEO—a powerful unbeatable tag team.

Combine both for maximum brand visibility and thump the competition.



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