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Organic Versus Paid Traffic: How to Find a Good Balance

By Sandy MooreNov 7, 2016
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Every business needs traffic to their website, and search engine traffic tends to be one of the highest performing channels for many.

But what if you’re paying for the majority of that traffic? What if little is coming from organic search? Does this mean you’ll have to continue to spend increasing amounts on paid traffic while your organic traffic stays the same, or even declines?

Finding the balance between organic versus paid traffic can be tricky. What we can say is that both are important and necessary.

Here’s what you need to know to find a meaningful balance.

Building Organic Traffic Takes Time

It’s important to recognize SEO initiatives take considerable time to take effect.

First, the basics. Do you have a documented content marketing strategy? Have you defined your target audience? Are you actively publishing new and valuable content?

These components are worth revisiting, even if you’ve already done your homework. A lack of alignment in content and audience is one of the main reasons content programs fail. Not having a unique voice within the industry is another common problem. Ongoing testing should be par for the course.

But another key factor is that content marketing takes about six months to start working. So even if you have a clearly defined strategy and a good understanding of your ideal customer, if you don’t take a long-term approach to publishing content, your marketing won’t have a chance at succeeding.

Paid traffic may prove particularly invaluable in the first six months—perhaps even longer depending on your industry and your strategy—while your SEO strategy gains traction. But the six-month mark is a good time to evaluate your traffic sources, and to determine whether you can safely reduce your investment in paid traffic without losing leads and conversions.

But don’t forget that no matter what kind of traffic you’re building, you’re going to have to spend money. Content programs may require investments in resources, whether you’re executing in-house, or outsourcing the work. It’s the long-term payoff that you’re after, and some patience will be required in getting ROI.

Paid Traffic is Great For a Quick Boost

There are a few different benefits to paid traffic.

One is that you can generate a lot of interest in your website quickly. And since you can target audiences relatively effectively, getting the right kind of traffic is within reach, but not necessarily easy (it usually requires ongoing experimentation and optimization).

Second, paid traffic is great for giving your website a boost. Building your organic traffic will take time, and it will not happen overnight. But the moment you start spending on ads is the moment you’ll see traffic building from paid traffic. And even if you do have some organic traffic, paid traffic can amplify its effects.

The main difference between the two forms of marketing is that advertising is essentially an “old guard” marketing technique. It’s a form of push marketing. Not that it won’t generate interest for your business and offerings, but you will have to quickly and effectively create trust with people who land on your website from ads, or they will bounce. It doesn’t make sense to spend droves of money on traffic that isn’t converting, so this is a key point.

By contrast, SEO and content marketing are pull methods. As result, you’ll get traffic from many different places, and your reach will also extend into new demographics—those who might have a casual interest in your business or product, all the way to those who are ready to buy now.

Ultimately, getting an immediate audience for your content and business is difficult, and this is where paid traffic can make a huge difference.

Driving Organic and Paid Traffic In Tandem

Paid traffic is a lot like a tap. When you turn it on, it starts working immediately. When you turn it off, it stops working almost instantly. Content marketing, on the other hand, is a long-term strategy, but the longer you stay at it, the better it tends to work, and the more trust it builds with your prospects and customers.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both traffic strategies. One is strong where the other is weak, and that’s what makes them the ideal pairing.

Your initial investment in paid traffic might be more early on than compared with later. But since most platforms let you determine how much you want to spend on any given ad, costs tend to be predictable. And even if you’re planning a special promotion or marketing campaign, you can easily plan and adjust for that. Since you will likely be looking to cut through the noise, paid traffic can also help you achieve that end.

Likewise, the costs of content marketing are fairly stable, assuming you’ve determined the scope of your program and you stick to it. You may end up needing to make some changes along the way, however, at which point the costs will also change a little.

Finding Your Balance

In building your audience and customer base, you will need both organic and paid traffic. Both strategies are effective and valuable. But it’s the mix of the two that really does wonders for a business.

Finding your balance may not happen until you’re six months into your SEO initiative—and it’s entirely possible that it will take even longer. It largely depends on your business objectives and how your traffic strategies are helping you reach those goals.

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The Author

Sandy Moore

Sandy Moore, a lead strategic accounts manager, brings 15 years of marketing and advertising experience to Kuno and has extensive knowledge and experience in marketing, promotions, public relations and advertising sales.
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