The Oldest Dilemma – Paid Traffic or Free/Organic Traffic?

Many small businesses wonder whether to invest in paid traffic or work on their SEO to gain better organic results. Some will even come with arguments about how one is better than the other. Practically, none of the sources gives “better” traffic.  It is true each has its benefit against the other. However, both can be applied to give businesses optimum results. So, how should you decide whether to use paid traffic or free/organic traffic – or even both? Here is a quick guide:

paid vs free

The Timeline of Your Goals

It is important to consider your website traffic goals. If you are looking for a quick boost to your website traffic, then a PPC (Pay Per Click) ad will do. Basically, you will begin enjoying results immediately after your ad runs. Nevertheless, you’ll have to pay more to sustain it for long if you are to enjoy long-term benefits. This is where organic traffic comes in.

When thinking about long-term benefits, organic traffic is your best bet. As mentioned earlier, this form of traffic relies on Search Engine Optimization. Proper SEO practices involve coming up with quality content, adopting a stellar linking structure, and writing precise meta descriptions. If you work on an effective SEO strategy, it may take longer to deliver results, but will definitely give you valuable traffic and audience in the long run.

The Kind of Traffic You’re Looking For

This is a question of quality vs quantity. The SEO practices mentioned in the previous points are focused on giving you loyal followers of your website in the long run. This is because, through the practices, you build trust and relationships with visitors. Such can be very valuable assets of your business in the long haul.

On the other hand, PPC traffic is comprised of people who are ready to buy and go. So, for a website focused on quick conversions, like with product tests or sales, this should be the kind of traffic to opt for.

Your Budget

The amount of money you want to spend on search engine marketing will determine which kind of traffic you end up with. It goes without saying that paid traffic will cost you some money to get people to your site. So, if you do not want to spend anything in SEM, stick with organic traffic.

Marketers rely on search engine optimization to drive organic traffic to their websites. Now, with an inexpensive option, why would one consider paying for traffic?

  • Paid traffic could be a cheap experimental option: SEO practices take some time to drive traffic to your website. When trying a new product or platform, it is not convenient to rely on organic traffic. The good news is that you can put in some little money, watch how your pages perform, or get the desired data within a short time.
  •  Fast results: with PPC, your website could be up and running within a few hours after you’ve made your first move.
  • Immune to algorithm changes: as search engines keep updating their algorithms which affect search results, your paid ads will not be affected.

In a nutshell, you will have to look at your circumstances keenly before choosing whether to invest in your website traffic or not.

paid vs free/organic traffic

The Cost Per Click (CPC) in Your Niche

Each industry has a different level of competition which influences the price of ads. In most cases, PPC platforms don’t charge fixed prices. On the contrary, marketers bid their price for a single click of their keyword. If the keyword you are interested in is very expensive, then you should consider SEO. You can always come back when you think the cost is reasonable.

Your Competition for Keywords

Just like mentioned above, some niches experience a cut-throat competition for the target keywords. You will find that only industry leaders clinch the top slot in search engine results. It is hard to beat this when relying on SEO only. Consider paid traffic if you are to stand a chance in such a competitive field.

Is Paid Traffic or Free/Organic Traffic Right for You?

Any good search engine marketer cannot rule out one kind of traffic as better than the other. What influences your choice is your marketing goals. Some scenarios will fit one better. However, there are times you may consider both traffic sources to give you optimum results.


This guest blog was contributed by Andrew Lowen.  Andrew is the CEO of Next Level Web, a trusted marketing agency based in San Diego, California. He has three lovely daughters and the most patient wife of all time. They specialize in Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, PPC Advertising, and Email Marketing (The Agency – not the daughters… yet). See case studies & results of happy clients at

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