Organic vs Paid Marketing: What You Need To Know


Written by Luke Glassford

organic vs paid marketing

For most business owners and start-up founders, the first online marketing decision they have to make is whether to pursue an ‘organic’ or ‘paid’ strategy – or a combination of both.

Both of these strategies can get results, but how do you know which is best for your business?

In this guide we’ll explain exactly what organic marketing and paid growth marketing are, the differences between them and how you can incorporate them into your overall strategy.

What is organic growth marketing?

In simple terms, ‘organic' growth marketing is any form of marketing that is focused on bringing traffic to your website naturally and gradually over time – rather than the ‘quick hit’ of paid ads.

This includes content marketing, social media marketing and SEO to gradually build up an audience, drive traffic, increase brand awareness and get more customers. Traffic from organic marketing is often seen as ‘free’, as you don’t pay for it at source like you do with adverts, although there is an investment required in terms of time and resources.

When it’s done well, organic marketing can have tremendous benefits for businesses – bringing a gradually increasing amount of targeted traffic to your website. The effects of a well-executed organic marketing strategy can also bring benefits long after your initial investment, which is why it is such a popular online marketing approach.

So much so, that 86% of organisations are planning to increase their organic marketing budgets over the next 12 months according to Search Engine Journal.

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Get real-time, face-to-face SEO advice from our SEO expert Luke Glassford.

What is paid growth marketing?

‘Paid marketing’ involves using paid tactics such as PPC ads/Google ads, Display ads and Facebook ads to drive traffic, leads and sales.

While they may work slightly differently, all forms of online ads require you to pay immediately for the traffic you receive. With Google PPC – or ‘Pay Per Click’ – ads you are charged when someone clicks on your ad after searching for something on Google. Facebook ads can charge on a PPC basis, or on a CPM (cost-per-1000 impressions) basis.

Either way, you are effectively paying ‘up-front’ for the traffic your website receives. This can work very well if your campaigns are set-up correctly and the ads deliver highly-targeted traffic.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of both organic and paid marketing…

Pros and cons

Both approaches can be successful and can help grow your business, however there are also drawbacks to both which you will need to take into account when developing your marketing strategy.

Pros of organic growth marketing

  • Organic marketing is cost-effective. Aside from the investment in SEO tools, content writers and human resources, it doesn't involve any high costs.
  • Organic marketing's growth compounds. Content serves as the solid base of organic marketing, the more consistent you publish your content on the web and social media, the more your ROI grows.
  • Organic marketing is a highly sustainable marketing approach. You can maintain it in the long run with an evergreen process.

Cons of organic growth marketing

  • It takes time. How much time depends on your business and the market you are in, but as a guide you can expect to see meaningful results from SEO and organic marketing after 3-6 months.
  • Can be resource/time heavy. Particularly early on, you will need to invest a lot of time and resources into developing and promoting content.

Pros of paid growth marketing

  • Instant results. As soon as you set an ad campaign live you will start bringing traffic to your website.
  • Complete control over traffic and lead generation. You have the choice to increase your budget or stop your ads whenever you want.
  • Expand into new areas quickly. If you have a new product/service, or want to attract customers from a new area, you can quickly set up new ads and target these areas straight away – rather than waiting to gain traction with organic marketing.

Cons of paid growth marketing

  • Paid marketing has proven to be more expensive in terms of investment of ad spend and ROI (return on investment). It takes a level of skill and experience to run effective ad campaigns, and mistakes can prove to be very costly.
  • No ‘compounding’ effect. If you are not running, and paying for, ads, then you are not receiving any traffic.

Combining organic and paid strategies

If you are at the stage of developing your marketing strategy and are unsure whether to prioritise organic or paid marketing channels, a popular approach is to combine the two.

Think of it this way: organic marketing is an investment into the future of your business, while paid marketing is an investment into the present.

Many businesses invest into paid marketing channels to start getting instant leads/sales, while they build up their organic presence in the background. When organic marketing starts to deliver results after a few months, they can then revisit their ad spend and take into account the amount of traffic, leads and sales coming from organic channels.

Talk to us about how we can help you with your online marketing strategy:

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Written by

Luke Glassford

Marketing Director at Gambit Partners