It’s All a Matter of Visibility– Paid vs Organic

There are approximately 200 factors of which a website is analysed against. These are considered ‘best practice’, or Google’s recommendations for how a website should perform. For those that use SEO–that is, ‘Search Engine Optimisation’– to follow these recommendations, Google rewards them through higher visibility in search results.

But with so many companies choosing to not to invest in SEO, and instead relying solely on paid search, which method is really the most effective?

What is SEO?

Monthly Search vol: 2,500    CPC: $7     Keyword Difficulty: 83/100

*SEO Tip: Pay attention to the search volume, Keyword difficulty and CPC that’s listed under particular titles in this article, these are terms that you’ll need to be familiar of when it comes to SEO. You can also find a glossary of terms here.

Through Search Engine Optimisation, Google is able to recommend changes that websites should make and in turn, reward those that do with better rankings in search results. Through doing this, Google creates a better experience for the users that produce over 3.5 billion searches per day. So ultimately, SEO is purely to drive companies into creating a better experience for their customers.

What’s important to remember about SEO, is that it’s really about how favourably your website returns after it’s been crawled by Google, whether you rank or not, depends solely on that.

The first thing you need to determine, is what channels you want to use to be visible in search results–organically or paid? Most websites tend to use a combination of the two.

Organic Vs. Paid– Where Do Users Click?

Surprisingly, when it comes to your visibility on Google results, both paid and organic traffic have their benefits. Paid traffic, on the one hand, yields instant results, once you place a bid for keywords through Ad Planner, you can be seen on results almost straight away. The other benefit; is that it is very useful in local search and can work to budgets very well.

But when it comes to organic search results, and being visible through SEO practices, it really is the clear winner. Organic traffic–usually the top 3 results–have the highest clicks than others, including PPC ads.

“On average, 90% of all clicks on SERPs falls on Organic Results, and PPC ads obtain 3% of clicks”

Optify Clickthrough rate ranking dataSource:

As you can see in the above image, the click through rate in organic results shows clearly in favour of the first three results. This is an average however, and as you’ll see later in this article, it’s not always the case.

Is Ranking First The Priority?

To help explain rankings and user behaviour on search results, I’ll be using a gift website  to illustrate how to evaluate a website performance.

Let’s search for the related keyword ‘gift ideas for women’  

Search volume: 3,400     CPC: $0.80    Keyword Difficulty: 3/100 ranks 2nd in Google for this search time– a great result! Ranking first doesn’t mean that you’ll get more traffic, and this is where having a well-optimised title on your pages really comes in handy. Below is a screenshot of the websites that currently rank for this search term:

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 11.19.07 pm

Here’s what’s interesting about this search result: the first ranking page has over 2,000 less click throughs than, even though it outranks it. This is also the page that seems to get the most backlinks, which is what we’ll discuss later in this article. This could be because of a number of things, but I have a strong feeling that it’s due simply because of a well formatted page title.

Including other relevant terms ‘Birthday Gifts & Presents’ is a great way of finding traffic from users who are particularly searching for birthday presents. This is also the ONLY search result in the top 20 that include birthday in the title– just showing how important using the right keywords are in titles to drive traffic. If you were searching for this term– which result would you click on and why?

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to be intimidated by bigger websites– they can be outranked. Using the example above, is a much smaller website than pages that follow including Redballoon and The Iconic, yet rank higher and obtain more traffic than those results. You can tell that these other websites are larger, due to their Alexa ranking, or ‘AR’, which suggest they get much higher website traffic.

SEO Tip: ‘AR’ in this image refers to Alexa Ranking, the definitive ranking of all websites on Google, with one being the highest.

So, now that you have a better understanding of the effectiveness of organic and paid search, you can see that while the return on investment may not be instantaneous for SEO, ranking organically is very beneficial.

8 thoughts on “It’s All a Matter of Visibility– Paid vs Organic”

  1. Hi Amber, interesting blog! You greatly pointed that SEOs highest ranking doesn’t necessarily mean highest number of clicks, proving the benefits of enhancing the title in staying ahead of the competition. Your findings are definitely encouraging for smaller businesses and emphasises that bigger is not always better. By using tactics to show the businesses confidence in themselves and provide confidence for users in using using deals, uniqueness, promoting themselves, ratings and reinforcing reputation through the title (just to name a few), can mean that large businesses are not a large threat! Look forward to seeing more of your work 🙂


    1. Hi Sara, thanks for leaving your feedback, it’s great to hear! And yes, it seems a lot of smaller businesses shy away from SEO practices because they find it too difficult to outrank larger competitors, but it isn’t impossible, nor necessary to still drive traffic. – Amber


  2. It is interesting that you mention PPC only generates 3% of clicks. I personally as a internet user never clock on ads that pop up first in search results. I am also almost unconciously oblivious to the side panel of ads that pop up on the right of a web search. Mainly this is because when i search for things i conciously know that the ones which are ad related arn’t nessesarily what im looking for and i would rather scroll down to a content section of my search. I believe many people are the same and hence PPC is far less effective than organic SEO.


    1. Hi Eirene, I completely agree! I also never touch ads, I feel as though this is the case because of the bombardment we face every day by ads, we prefer not to choose these over natural results, like organic search. Thanks for the comment, really appreciate the discussion! Amber


  3. Lovely read! (as usual)

    You’ve given an insightive approach to defining SEO, providing a general discussion on whether SEO or SEM is better than the other. After reading this article, I find it quite instinctive to believe that a combination of both and not just SEO will provide a high traffic result. Keywords are quite important also, given that these provide general links toward company websites/webpages. Therefore, I think it’s merely impossible for companies to publicize their website prior to ensuring proper keywords are used.

    Looking forward to reading your next blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lindita, great to hear from you again. Always good to have your insights. I agree with you, I think for most companies having that balance of SEO and SEM is really important. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach. Keywords are by far the most important aspect of SEO in my opinion, and accurate analysis is vital to developing a primed SEO and PPC strategy! Thanks again– Amber


  4. Really great post Amber! You’ve got great knowledge of SEM and covered SEO in a lot of detail here and used a great example to demonstrate the different factors that can contribute to being a highly ranked website. You’ve talked about a really great point here that even though a website might appear first on the listing, that it’s not always going to have the highest traffic and this is due to keywords. You’re definitely right! If I was completing this search I’d be more inclined to click on the second link because more often then not it’s for a friends birthday when I am looking for gift ideas and by having this keyword clearly visible in the page’s title I’d be drawn to it first. It just does to show that although it’s a simple concept, keywords are vital for SEO.

    Looking forward to you next post!
    – Elysse


    1. Hey Elysse, thanks for leaving a response, it’s always good to hear your feedback! I think it’s often easy to forget about the users interacting with the website, and it’s easy for SEO marketers to become too concerned with keywording to really look at what might motivate or increase the CTR.
      – Amber

      Liked by 1 person

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