• March 1, 2023
  • 8 min. read

Paid vs Organic: Should you optimize or pay for traffic?

content writer

Anush Bichakhchyan

Content Writer

Paid vs Organic: Should you optimize or pay for traffic?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This question is as existential as the question, “Which one is best, organic or paid marketing?”. 

In today's digital landscape, businesses have a multitude of options to increase their online visibility and drive traffic to their websites. Two popular methods are paid marketing and organic marketing. While both can be effective in their own ways, each has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the business goals, budget, and target audience. 

In this article, we'll explore the differences between paid and organic marketing and help you determine which approach is best for your business. 

To understand which one is the holy grail of success (or understand there is no clear formula for success), let’s first define organic and paid marketing. 

Organic marketing


Organic marketing focuses on naturally attracting your customers through non-paid marketing channels such as content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and word-of-mouth marketing.

For businesses, organic marketing can be a highly effective way to reach and engage with customers, as it tends to be more authentic, trustworthy, and sustainable than traditional advertising methods. However, it can also require a significant investment of time and effort, as it relies on consistently creating high-quality content and building customer relationships over time.

Everything sounds cool and straightforward, but organic marketing takes time and, most importantly, persistence to not slow down your commitment. 

The objectives of organic marketing

Organic marketing aims to create valuable content and build relationships with your potential customers to raise brand awareness, trust, and loyalty over time. Its strategies do not rely on paid advertising or promotion but instead leverage the power of unique content, search engines, and social media. 

Marketing teams evaluate organic marketing initiatives by monitoring page ranking, organic traffic metrics, and content-driven leads. 

Advantages of organic marketing

  • Creating a long-term relationship with customers and long-lasting results
  • Building loyalty and brand awareness through success stories
  • Engage with users at marketing funnel’s every stage
  • Boosts business credibility
  • Drives stable traffic to the website

Disadvantages of organic marketing

  • Requires dedication, time, and patience to have results 
  • Organic marketing is resource and time-consuming
  • High competition for visibility and engagement
  • Dependence on third-party platforms and ever-changing algorithms
  • Uncertainty about predicting how your audience receives your content

Examples of organic marketing

  • Content Marketing: blog posts, guest posts, videos, social media posts, infographics, and other forms of media.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email Marketing: regular newsletters and promotional emails
  • User-generated content
  • Digital PR
  • Community Building


Unlike organic strategies, paid marketing refers only to promotional strategies you pay to display for the target audience. This can include ads on search engines, social media platforms, display networks, or other websites, as well as sponsored content or influencer marketing partnerships. 

Paid marketing can effectively reach a large audience and generate immediate results for businesses with the budget and resources to invest in advertising. However, it can also be more costly and may not be sustainable over the long term. Still, paid marketing is not the starting point of your marketing strategy. It should be incorporated with other marketing strategies to create a well-rounded marketing campaign.

Generally, the success of a paid marketing campaign is measured by the ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) revenue measuring metric that compares your ad expenses with profit. 

The objectives of paid marketing

The main objectives of paid marketing can vary depending on the specific goals of the business but generally include increasing brand awareness, generating leads or sales, targeting specific audiences, promoting special offers or promotions, improving search engine rankings, and gaining a competitive advantage. Still, paid marketing is effective as long as you pay for it. Once you turn off the tap, results will vanish. 

Advantages of paid marketing

  • Better audience targeting based on search behavior, demographics, interests, etc. 
  • Gaining increased brand visibility and larger audience outreach
  • Immediate results for short-term goals
  • Measurable results with clear metrics and data
  • Easily and timely adjustable campaigns

Disadvantages of paid marketing

  • High costs for campaigns targeting competitive industries
  • The risk of ad blindness by customers
  • Limited reach and poor results with a small ad budget
  • The risk of being blocked by ad blockers
  • Short-term results with no lasting relationships

Examples of paid marketing

  • Search engine advertising: PPC on search engines
  • Social media advertising: sponsored posts, promoted content, influencer partnerships, and other forms of paid advertising on social media platforms
  • Native and contextual PPC
  • Display and programmatic 
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Printed ads, banners

When should you choose organic over paid marketing

As a general rule, keep in mind that the choice depends on your goal. Organic marketing aims to serve information and capture intent from a long-term perspective, as well as be present where the potential customer is looking for answers or solutions. 

Organic marketing can be identified as more customer-centric, prioritizing personas, building dialogues, and not simply tracking data. So, first of all, organic marketing should be appreciated as a way to boost brand credibility. If your content meets customers' needs, part of your job is done. 

One thing to know as a rule is that organic marketing is not an add-on to something else; it is the core of marketing efforts, and cutting back on resources for organic marketing is generally not a smart decision. 

Your audience also determines your choice. For example, if your target audience is very specific, organic marketing can help you reach that audience without spending a lot of money on paid advertising. By targeting relevant keywords, it will be possible to reach your ideal customers even without running ads. 

When should you choose paid over organic marketing

In general, paid marketing aims to create purchase intent and plant an idea in your target audience’s mind before they realize they need to do or think about something. 

Paid marketing can be a good option when you need to reach a larger audience quickly, want to promote a time-sensitive offer or have a bigger budget. One of the most common reasons to choose paid marketing would be promoting a new product or service by targeting specific audiences and using eye-catching ad creative. Thus, you can generate buzz and drive traffic to your website. Paid marketing will also give you measurable results and detailed tracking of customer-new product interactions that can later be used for decision-making. 

Finally, don’t just rush into paid marketing. Investigate your target audience to ensure that it is ready to make purchases/decisions (if that is the goal of your campaign) and that you have clearly defined goals for which KPIs you are attempting to improve, as well as the means and infrastructure to track and analyze the results and apply the learnings to future initiatives.  

Organic or paid? Or both?


The worst thing you can do to your business is to prioritize one thing while absolutely ignoring the other. Unfortunately, in reality, businesses often bet on paid marketing, tempted by quick results. However, because quick means short-term, and there is no strong organic marketing or solid presence to support paid marketing initiatives, these short-term results may leave you with nothing. 

Organic and paid marketing are like a burger and French fries—they make a perfect combination and are much better together than separately. 

Implementing them in combination also requires strategies to have a balanced marketing mix and maximize ROI from both. To pull out the right approach, answer the following questions.

Take a quiz and get a guide

SEO Goals

If you are planning to outsource your marketing initiatives, these questions will definitely help the agency build a strategy. 

Even if we cry our lungs out, proving that marketing is individual and there is no universal strategy working for everyone, we do admit that the best thing businesses can do is to embrace organic marketing at a minimum before starting any paid marketing initiative. A solid foundation with a small but loyal audience and quality content paid initiatives will be twice as effective when you already have a foundation. 

Start implementing the right marketing


What is organic marketing?

Organic marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on building brand awareness and driving traffic to a website or social media account through non-paid, natural methods. This approach emphasizes creating valuable and relevant content that engages and educates the target audience rather than relying on paid advertising.

What is paid marketing?

Paid marketing is a marketing strategy in which you pay for the ads to be displayed on various platforms, such as search engines, social media, websites, and mobile apps. Paid marketing can help you reach your target audience more quickly and effectively than organic marketing, which relies on non-paid methods.

Why is organic marketing better than paid?

There is no right or wrong, good or bad between organic and paid marketing approaches. As a marketer, you should first define your goals and objectives and match your approach with the goals. 

What are the main differences between paid marketing and organic marketing?

The major difference between organic and paid marketing is that organic marketing uses strategies to reach the goal for free, while paid marketing involves paying for the traffic and user interaction.  

What is an example of organic and paid marketing?

One of the classy examples of incorporating organic and paid marketing is running a blog, posting articles regularly, and launching a paid social media campaign.