When it comes to advertising and online marketing in particular, there has always been a big emphasis placed on the concept of “traffic.” A business needs customers and/or clients in order to function and now with the advent of the Internet reaching out to very targeted demographics is fairly easy. However, many argue over which method of acquiring online traffic is better: paid or organic. Paid traffic consists of paying for various ad campaigns such as pay per-click, media buys on websites, running FaceBook ads, and other similar methods. Organic traffic is when visitors reach a business’ web property through unpaid method such as search engines or in some cases social media. Let’s go over the strengths and weaknesses of each method.
The best thing about paid traffic is that it allows a company to have much greater control over their advertising. Instead of leaving their company’s fate in the hands of Google or Yahoo! who’s search algorithms could push their web properties back into obscurity, paid traffic will always yield predictable results if a company carefully plans their campaign and monitors their results closely.
Paid advertising will of course cut into the overall profits of a company however. In some cases paid advertising can even be seen as a high risk/high reward method due to the fact that initial efforts can be expensive and may not produce an acceptable ROI immediately. The most popular and well known paid advertising that you will find online is Google Adwords. The ads that you see at the top of search results are run from the Adwords program and anyone with a credit card can buy-in. But, buyer beware. Google Adwords campaigns can be extremely complicated to run profitably and they require a high degree of practice to master. The number 1 rule is do not spend money you CANNOT afford to lose.
Organic traffic is an excellent way to target very specific demographics using specific keywords and phrases. This allows businesses to advertise with near pinpoint accuracy in many cases. Organic traffic is also free if you don’t count the time/money cost of getting the campaign set up and running. It is for this reason that many businesses place a huge emphasis on SEO (search engine optimization) for their web properties.
The main drawback to organic traffic is the fact that it relies on third parties (search engines) which are completely out of a business’ control. Google may rank a website at #1 for years then suddenly kick it back to page 50 due to an algorithm change that comes without warning. It should also be noted that the initial set up of SEO requires a lot of time and/or money to implement due to the complexity of it. That said, a well executed and maintained organic traffic campaign can achieve the highest return on investment of any online marketing tactic.
Ultimately it’s clear that paid traffic is the way to go for businesses that have the budget to allow campaigns to run until they perfect them. The fact of the matter is, with all of the changes Google makes to their algorithm, there is no reliable way to be sure that your website will rank for the long-term. At least with paid advertising, you know where your company will show up. That being said, organic traffic should not be neglected. Consistent effort and following Google’s webmaster guidelines can take your website a long way and provide you with a log of organic traffic, which after all costs you nothing.