The Differences Between Organic and Paid Marketing

There are many ways in which businesses can get the word out about their products and services – in fact, the advent of globalization has made advertising bigger than ever before. Today, all of the strategies and marketing mediums fall under two main umbrellas – the organic marketing umbrella and the paid marketing umbrella.

You might be wondering what organic and paid marketing actually are and why these differences matter. Is one form of marketing more effective than the other? 

Together, we’ll explore what organic and paid marketing are all about and their main differences help you better decide which to use and when to best use each. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is Organic Marketing?


Organic marketing, also known as inbound marketing, is focused on content creation and search engine rankings. Companies engaging in organic marketing create content that is optimized for search engines. This includes media such as blog posts, infographics and guides which are then promoted online via free mediums such as social media platforms.

The goal of organic marketing is to develop stable sources of traffic for your website. By engaging and educating their audience and providing consumers with information-based content that draws attention and provides value, organizations and businesses can drive traffic coming to their site and promote their products and services free of charge.

Comparing organic marketing vs paid marketing In a nutshell – organic marketing is earned – not bought. 

It’s coined as “organic” because it happens organically, without coercive advertising. That is to say that organic marketing attracts potential customers through attracting and enticing them.

Organic marketing falls within the attraction or awareness stage of the sales funnel where consumers are looking for informative and interesting information that tells them more about a product or service. Therefore, the focus of organic marketing should be placed on educating consumers with optimized digital content. 

To Learn more about the stages of the sales funnel, read our guide Types of Content Marketing That Turn Customers Into Advocates.”

Benefits and Costs of Organic Marketing

There are many benefits that can result from an organic marketing campaign. The most notable include:

  • Permanent traffic – a well-written, educational blog post or guest article has the potential to provide website traffic indefinitely.
  • Low cost – organic content offers a free (or very low cost) source of traffic.
  • Builds trust with customers – content created for an organic marketing strategy is often educational and helpful to audiences and feels less like a coercive sales-pitch.

However, organic marketing also has its downsides. There are considerable costs to this type of strategy, the most prominent being:

  • Results take a long time to see – search engines can take weeks, months and even years to rank an article, making this strategy potentially a very drawn out one.
  • Effort – in order to create successful content, marketers must invest considerable time and effort into researching, creating and promoting content.

What is Paid Marketing?

organic marketing vs paid marketing

Paid marketing is exactly what it sounds like – advertising that’s paid for. 

With a paid marketing strategy, a company buys website traffic rather than earning it “organically.”

Paid marketing is a quick way to get eyes onto your product or service. Companies can use social media advertising (e.g. Facebook ads) and/or other pay-per-click platforms like Google Ads to buy online advertising that is delivered directly to a target market.

The goal of paid marketing is to get website traffic and convert viewers into customers immediately, rather than having to wait for search rankings to improve and for customers to find a website themselves.

Benefits and Costs of Paid Marketing

For many organizations, paid marketing is an effective way to reach their target audience. Some benefits include:

  • Quick results – as soon as an ad account is set up and ads are created and published traffic will start coming into your website and the word will get out about your product or service.
  • Traffic can be bought at any time – you don’t have to be a large organization with to pull off a great paid advertising campaign. Anyone, at any time, can pay to get traffic and eyes on their product or service with the help of social media ads, Google Ads, Bing Ads, etc.
  • Direct advertising – companies can reach their specific target market directly with the help of targeting tools provided by online advertising services.
  • There is no limit – With sufficient financial capabilities, you can buy a lot of traffic. Organizations with large advertising budgets can buy potentially endless amounts of traffic and get their product or service in front of millions of customers.

Like organic marketing, however, paid marketing also has its downfalls. Some costs include:

  • Unstable traffic – website traffic that comes from paid marketing isn’t stable. If you stop paying for ads your traffic will stop (or at least decline significantly).
  • Inauthentic and highly saturated – consumers often ignore paid ads on social media and search engines because the content is often coercive and forced upon them. In addition, more and more companies are utilizing paid marketing online, creating a very saturated playing field that is constantly covered with ads.
  • Monetary cost – the larger your financial capabilities, the more traffic and results you can buy. However, not all organizations have large marketing budgets. This can be detrimental towards organizations who lack the same financial means as large corporations. 

The Differences: Organic vs Paid Marketing


The biggest difference between organic vs paid marketing is the means of persuasion. Organic marketing attracts through attracting and enticing its audience with content that consumers want to consume. Paid marketing is coercive and at times forceful – relying upon bright, flashing visuals and forced pop-ups to drive traffic. 

Another thing to consider is the cost of these 2 different strategies. Organic marketing is essentially free with traffic being earned through the development of helpful and read-worthy content, while paid marketing is traffic and attention that is the result of paid advertising.

In addition, organic marketing builds upon itself while paid marketing is static. By creating valuable content as part of an organic marketing strategy, a company can see the benefits grow for years to come. 

Paid marketing, on the other hand, results in traffic and attention that is only as steady and steep as the marketing budget a company has. Once the payment stops, so does the traffic.

Regardless of the differences between organic vs paid marketing, they both work well in tandem. In fact, most companies engage in both at the same time. 

Together they result in a comprehensive and effective marketing strategy that provides immediate and direct content as well as that which has been crafted to educate and earn attention. The goal of this unison is to eventually have organic traffic sources provide a high enough level of traffic that advertising budgets can be reduced.

Key Takeaways on Organic vs Paid Marketing

Organic marketing refers to marketing that is earned through the publication of educational content and note-worthy information on free online platforms. On the other hand, paid marketing is traffic that is paid for by buying ads through social media or search engines. The main difference between the two is just that – one form of advertising is paid and the other is free.

Organic marketing is helpful to businesses because it is less costly and more permanent than paid advertising. Valuable content developed for an organic campaign can provide website traffic indefinitely, while paid traffic will cease to exist as soon as the paid advertisements are stopped. 

However, paid marketing is a much quicker approach. Organic marketing takes an extensive investment of time and energy to be successful and can take weeks, months and even years to be beneficial. Paid marketing, on the other hand, is nearly instantaneous, with paid ads being delivered to a target audience at the click of a button.

Overall, a combination of both organic and paid marketing is advisable for businesses to undertake. This allows customers to see the sales-type ads that directly result in leads and sales as well as experience the helpful, value-added content created for an organic strategy.

Written By Thea Christie

Thea is the Content Marketing Lead at Advesa and possesses a strange love of grammar, syntax and punctuation. In the past, she’s worked as a content specialist for publications in the startup, SME and tech space. When she’s not storytelling, she’s busy being a travel junkie. @theachristie