Organic search results, also known as natural search results, are based on the relevance to the search terms of the user. High rankings are achieved through free search engine optimization techniques, as opposed to paid search, or PPC.

As mentioned in our last blog post, Paid Search – PPC Basics, paid search or PPC refers to when advertisers pay for click-throughs to their website. But how do paid search and organic search compare? This post, part two in our Paid Search Series, will detail differences between paid and organic search results.

Paid vs. Organic Search Results

The location of each type of result varies. Paid results are typically shown at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and on the right hand side (and bottom). Organic results appear below the advertisements. See a typical SERP below. Paid results are outlined in red, organic in blue.

Paid and Organic Search Locations

While the number of paid results and organic results can vary based on search, location is still important. Typically, organic results (blue) account for just 14.8% of the above-the-fold pixels, while sponsored ads on high commercial intent keywords (people looking to buy) take up 85.2% of the above-the-fold pixels (Source). On a website, being above-the-fold refers to the area of a web page that is viewable without visitors having to scroll; prime real estate for capturing the visitor’s attention.

Paid and organic search also differ in the way that you achieve your ranking. Paid search results are based on the highest bidders. Therefore, extremely competitive keywords may be outside of your budget. On the other hand, organic search results are free and rankings can be improved through search engine optimization (SEO). For more information on SEO, read our whitepaper: Search Engine Optimization – Top Priority for Modern Marketers.

Paid vs. Organic Click-Through Rates

There is no argument that ranking high in search results will improve click-through rates. But how do click-through rates vary between paid and organic search? There is a large variation in data on this across industries or keywords. The general consensus leans towards the 80/20 rule, 80 to organic, 20 to paid, or 70/30. Below are details into how ranks for both paid and search effect click-through rates.

Organic Search Click-Through Rates

53% of organic search clicks go to the first link, 15% to the second, 9% to the third, and so on.

Click Through Rates For Organic Search Results

Paid Search Click-Through Rates

The majority of paid advertisements appear on the right hand side of the SERP, while the majority of consumer clicks occur on the ads located at the top of the SERP. 59% of paid search clicks go to the first link located at the top of the page.

Paid Search Click Through Rates By Position

Paid Search Click Through Rates By Rank

Graphs and data from:

Paid Search vs. Organic Search Speed

An advantage of paid search is the immediacy of results. Organic rankings are built over time by optimizing your website, whereas you can get immediate results without having to do anything to your website with paid search (although, you should improve your website to increase conversion).

Paid search can be used to achieve your short-term results, due to its immediacy, while organic is a more viable option long-term. Consider supplementing your website traffic with paid search while you are building your organic search presence.

Stayed tuned for the remaining posts in our Paid Search Series including, Paid Search – PPC Basics, and Paid Search Advanced Techniques.

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