SEO vs Paid Search Advertising


Search engine marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term encompassing both SEO and paid search advertising. However, it is common to see people only interested in either SEO or paid search.

Historically, research has shown that organic search engine results receive many more clicks than paid results. More recent research however shows that paid search results are starting to receive more clicks (though still does not receive the majority clicks).

So which is a better investment for your website’s SEM campaign, SEO or paid search?

Quick Recap – What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website’s visibility in organic search results. The organic search results are those which appear beneath paid results. More information on SEO can be found here.

Benefits of SEO

One of the largest advantages of SEO is the sheer number of people you can reach. In 2016, it was reported that Google processes roughly 2 trillion searches on average each year. Since this 2016 figure represented a roughly 66% increase from 2012, it can be reasonably assumed that Google processes much more than the 2 trillion annual searches reported on two years ago.

Since organic search result listings are responsible for over 50% of general website traffic, there’s a massive opportunity to reach a lot of people through SEO.

Challenges of SEO

SEO does not come without its downfalls. The primary detriment of SEO is its difficulty.

Over 90% of the users generating those trillions of Google searches annually do not look past Google’s first page. If your website doesn’t rank on page 1, you are missing out on the vast majority of search engine traffic.

Outranking competing websites currently listed in Google’s first page of organic results requires creating better content than your competitors, earning better quality links than your competitors, and optimizing your website’s technical performance.

And even if you are putting in the hard work of consistently adding high value content to your website while consistently building high quality links, it can still take 6 months or longer to earn a precious page-1 ranking.

And if you let your foot off the accelerator after earning your desired organic rank, you risk losing to your competitors and getting knocked off of page 1 again.

SEO is like retirement savings. Only after you make consistent investments over a long period of time do you see results.

Quick Recap – What is Paid Search Advertising?

Paid search advertising is leveraging the paid search results which appear at the top of a Google search result page. The amount of money you spend on this type of SEM directly impacts when and where your website appears in paid search results.

Benefits of Paid Search Advertising

Whereas SEO results can take a lot of time and work to start seeing results, you can get your website to appear on Google’s first page in a much shorter amount of time.

Since paid search advertising is much more pay to play, you don’t need to consistently build several quality links and website content (though SEO keyword optimization can improve your quality scores) to achieve page 1 positions.  

Additionally, through Google Ads, you have much more control over who sees your website in paid search listings. You can use demographics, website visit activity, specific keyword queries, and much more to define the types of people you want seeing your paid search listing.

Challenges of Paid Search Advertising

Paid search results don’t receive as many clicks as organic results (as noted earlier though, paid search clicks have been trending upward). So while you may be able to earn more qualified traffic by refining the audience seeing your paid search listing, the quantity will be lower relative to SEO.

Also, where SEO’s difficulty comes in the form of content creation and link building, finding the right demographic to target for your paid search campaign can be difficult and require trial and error. It may take several months of testing and filtering to find the most fruitful audience to target.

There’s also the fact that paid search requires you to spend money. You don’t need to spend any money to get your website to appear in Google’s organic search results, but your website will never appear in paid search results without spending money. Being truly competitive in paid search can sometimes require a significant investment each month.

Which is Best – SEO or Paid Search?

While some industries and websites may be a better fit for either SEO or PPC, both of these channels should be used to drive the best results. Maximizing an SEM campaign’s performance requires the proper usage of both SEO and paid search.

Even though most search engine users click on organic results more often than paid results, a significant number of people still click on paid results. You can capture much more search engine traffic with both SEO and paid search.

SEO and paid search are two crucial pieces of search engine marketing. Ignoring one of these can lead to a missed opportunity to generate website leads.

Most Important Metrics in Google Analytics

Important Google Analytics Metrics

Google Analytics is one of, if not the most, important tools for measuring website analytics. Whether you work in search engine marketing or email advertising, whether you own a company website or a blog, Google Analytics is crucial to understanding the quantity and quality of your web traffic.

What is Google Analytics? How Does it Work?

Google Analytics is a reporting platform offered by Google. It tracks the number of visitors your website receives, how many contact forms get filled out on your website, how long on average people stay on your website, etc… all in real time.

You install code on your website which allows Google Analytics to start tracking metrics. Once installed, you can access all current and historical data.

The platform tracks a plethora of metrics. The vast amount of data available in Google Analytics can come off as overwhelming, but knowing how to navigate the tool can lead to actionable insights on how to improve your website.

Traffic Metrics

Google Analytics allows you to view the number of visitors your website receives each day.

Did you notice a loss in traffic the same day you made an update to your website? Or, did you receive a traffic surge after your brand was mentioned in an industry blog? Analyzing your traffic trends can reveal valuable insights.

Importance of Google Analytics

Traffic by Medium & Source

You should also pay attention to your traffic medium, that being, where your visitors came from. There are four general categories for traffic mediums:

  • Direct: Sometimes referred to as “(none),” these are the visitors that enter your website’s URL directly into their browser.
  • Organic: These are visitors that come to your site by clicking on your links in the organic search listing of search engine results pages like Google and Bing.
  • CPC: These visitors come to your site by clicking on a paid advertisement in a search engine results page. If you have no paid advertisements running, you won’t see any traffic come from this medium.
  • Referral: These visitors come to your website by clicking on a link from another website. Let’s say and industry blog publishes an article about your company with a link to your website and someone clicks on that link – this would be counted as a referral visit.

Are you noticing that you are losing website traffic in one medium but gaining in another? Does one medium comprise the vast majority of your website traffic?

You can find deeper level insights by analyzing traffic sources as well.

Where traffic mediums will combine all referral traffic into one category, organic traffic into another, etc… traffic sources break out the specific source visitors use to access your website.

Is most of your referral traffic coming from social media sites or business directory listings? Are you seeing a lot of organic traffic coming from Google but hardly anything from Bing? Evaluating your traffic sources and mediums can uncover these types of insights.

Traffic by Device

Google Analytics also breaks out traffic by device, browser, and operating system.

Do you notice that your website traffic is almost all desktop users while hardly any visitors use a mobile device? This could be an insight that your website is not mobile friendly.

Has your website lost a lot of traffic from Google Chrome visitors? Perhaps you need to purchase and install an SSL certificate to comply with the latest Chrome update marking HTTP websites as “Not Secure.”

Engagement Metrics

Engagement metrics measure if/how people use and navigate your website and, generally speaking, the quality of your web traffic. Some of the most important engagement metrics in Google Analytics include:

  • Bounce Rate: This measures the percentage of users that visited one page of your website and left without interacting further (clicking any links, submitting contact forms, visiting other pages, etc…).
  • Average Session Duration: This measures the average amount of time users spend on your website. The longer the session duration, the more interactions you can expect your traffic to be making with your website.
  • Pages Per Session: This measures how many pages, on average, your users click through to during each visit.


Are you seeing high bounce rates on specific pages of your website? Or a low average session duration from organic visitors? These types of insights could inform a poor user experience, or specific pages that can be enhanced.

Engagement metrics also give insight into how qualified your visitors are. If your website has low engagement, perhaps you need to re-think the market you are trying to reach.

Google Analytics and Digital Marketing

Conversion Metrics

Conversions are typically considered the most important metric for businesses.

Google Analytics allows users to set ‘goals,’ which are typically set to contact forms, phone calls, any particular web pages you want users to visit, and more.

When analyzing conversion metrics, you can view how many goal completions took place on a specific page, goal completions by traffic medium & source, goal completions by date, and more to attain deeper level insights.

Analyzing the trends behind your website’s goal completions are crucial for understanding how well your site is generating leads. Digging in to this data can highlight actions you can take to convert more of your web traffic into sales leads.

For example, if you run an Ecommerce website and no goal completions are taking place on one of your product pages, perhaps the order form on that page has not been coded correctly. If none of your paid advertising traffic is converting, maybe you need to adjust your audience targeting.

Google Analytics and Digital Marketing

The subjects we’ve covered here only scratch the surface on Google Analytics’ depth. With so much data available on your web traffic and overall site performance, this platform is a requirement for any digital marketing campaign to be effective.

Of course, the tool is usually seen as complicated and overwhelming. Experienced professionals are best when it comes to interpreting and reacting to the data from Google Analytics. Contact us to learn how we can turn your Google Analytics metrics into actionable insights to enhance your website’s inbound lead generation.