When To Use Paid Search and Organic Search Together

We’ve come a long way from the smoke-filled boardrooms of Mad Men advertising. Today, getting your brand seen and heard is a digital process, and it requires understanding the different routes of online advertising, and how those pathways can crossover.

Take paid and organic search.

An organic click is when a user clicks on a non-paid web listing to get to a website. 

An example of organic search listings

A paid search click is when someone clicks an ad in the search engine results.

Example of paid search ad

Both approaches start with a query in a search engine like Google and even target the same end action (a person to click on the link to visit a website) but go about it a slightly different way. So combining the two approaches—rather than viewing them as separate—can optimize your reach, conversions, and ultimately, your ROI.

With that in mind, we have put together this guide explaining how organic and paid search work together, so you can develop a modern and competitive advertising strategy. 

What scenarios do paid and organic search best work in?

SEO comes first

To improve the performance of organic search results, you’ll need to first perform search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Before you consider utilizing paid and SEO at the same time, you need to have your SEO ducks in a row. Because SEO is as much brand marketing as it is performance marketing, SEO improvements will improve the content and UX on your website. This will improve paid performance. 

Your site should be organically ranking on page one of search results for branded search terms because you’ve finessed things like copy, internal content, backlinks, domain authority, and even likely have a branded domain name. You should also invest in your organic search strategy to appear and own the top spots for many of your non-brand search terms. This performance will be easier to attain in some industries and verticals than others and is even dependent on how unique your own brand name and products or services are. Regardless, investing in these efforts can yield more organic traffic sessions to the site and improve the performance of paid advertising because of boosted relevance.

Layering in paid search

Once you have this base in organic search performance, you can begin building atop of it and explore new realms of advertising with paid search, including:

  • Custom messaging: Unlike organic search where it’s not recommended to change your title tags or meta descriptions often, paid search ads can target different user groups with tailored copy. Test what wording gets the most traction and run a campaign with messaging outside of your typical tone of voice.
  • Custom landing page: While you likely only have one main product page ranking organically in Google, creating custom landing pages (based on target audience, keywords, etc.) to send page traffic to can significantly improve performance. 
  • Increased tracking: Ranking organically in search engines can take months. However, paid ads give you immediate performance metrics with more granular metrics like impressions, click-through rates (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and quality/relevancy score for specific keywords and target audiences. This data can then be used to improve your organic search strategy. 
  • Audience/demo specific approach: Organic search can’t be limited to particular audiences beyond what that specific audience might search. However, for paid search, you can bid only on users in a particular audience, location, demographic, or other characteristics like users who have/haven’t converted. 
  • Building customer trust: When users see your paid ads and see that you rank high on the first page of search results organically, this serves as double validation for your brand credibility.

Applying organic search and paid search together

Research shows, the more your brand dominates a page, the more likely you are to win a click by a higher margin. Embracing both organic and paid searches, therefore, means you have a significantly stronger chance of bringing people to your website. Simply put, you own more SERP (search engine results page) real estate.


On top of that, organic searches are more of a slow burn in terms of results, compared to paid ads that provide insights in a shorter time frame. Yet, the most comprehensive understanding of your advertising performance comes from applying both strategies because paid search can fill in the gaps from organic (e.g. people who don’t see the listing on the organic search results), while organic search can be the anchor in your marketing strategy to drive brand and performance marketing (which in turn improves paid performance). It’s a win-win.

When do paid and organic search not work well together?

The best partnerships function by acknowledging that there are certain occasions where the pairing simply isn’t suitable. There are undeniable benefits to combining paid and organic search, but it’s also important to recognize when the two are strongest on their own. 

Looking for immediate results

If you’re still in the early days of building your brand and have a short runway and are seeking immediate ROI, paid search is going to be your best bet. Now, remember that a solid website foundation still needs to be present to perform well for paid search too. Organic, meanwhile, simply takes time to brew.

Saturated and competitive industries

The space you’re operating in, as well as your budget and goals, should all play a part in your advertising strategy.

If your industry is crowded (for example, insurance or healthcare) or if you have a small budget but a long runway, focus on organic search first. Paid search can become expensive very fast, with CPCs (cost per click) ranging from $50 to $75; and you’ll likely be going up against big players who have deep pockets. Think of it as trying to talk to new people in a crowded bar. If you try to shout, you’ll be drowned out by the noise. A better option is to tighten your conversation skills, make a great impression, and persuade people to come to you of their own accord.

Alternatively, if you’re in a niche industry, have a sizable budget, and a long runway, paid search makes sense. In this scenario, you can experiment with A/B testing in your ads, and because you’re up against fewer competitors, your results will be statistically significant and show you exactly what people respond best to.

Still, in both these cases, organic and paid search don’t have to be an “either-or” situation. SEO will always need to be taken into consideration to lay a solid foundation for your website, meanwhile paid advertising can do wonders to promote your brand beyond traditional search terms. In the end, you should tailor your advertising strategy relative to your business priorities at the time.

What metrics should you track? 

To confirm that your paid and organic search combination is going well, there are a few metrics you should keep a close eye on. 

  • Click-through rate: The ratio of users who click on a page, ad, email to the number of users who view that same link.
  • Keyword ranking improvements: Trends of how many keywords your site is ranking for, as well as keywords that are trending upwards in rank number. 
  • Website engagement metrics: These metrics can include statistics like views, bounce rate, time spent on a page, etc.
  • Conversion metric improvement: Every site should create and monitor conversions. These can be metrics like sales from an ad, email sign-ups from a piece of content, or a traffic increase from a video campaign.

Once you’ve launched the two strategies, it won’t take long for you to see the results but bear in mind that there may be a delay among organic search metrics because of the time needed for SEO changes to come into effect.

Can paid search and organic search cancel each other out?

Some people take a paid search vs organic search mentality because they worry that the two campaigns can cannibalize one another and spoil any chances of receiving clicks. However, this simply isn’t true.

Let’s set the scene: you have a blog post that’s ranking in the first organic position for a keyword phrase. This keyword is also included in your paid campaign and you have to choose what URL will be the destination page. The two aren’t competing, they’re actually complimenting each other. You aren’t charged for a paid ad unless somebody clicks on it, which means that up until the point a user visits your website via the organic link or the paid link, the two are co-existing and simply boosting your visibility. 

In fact, we highly recommend spending some time researching keywords that trigger this kind of scenario, where the paid and organic results are shown. Even if your organic link isn’t in the top position, exposing people to your company twice over is very powerful. 

Why it doesn’t need to be paid vs organic search

So, when is the right time to use paid and organic search together? In short, there is no time like right now.

Remember: two heads are better than one and paid and organic searches are quite the advertising mega brain. Get in touch with Booyah to discover how we can support your advertising growth, and prevent SEO from becoming a headache.

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