Robert Caruso
February 27, 2018

Paid Media Versus Organic Traffic – When and Why To Use Each

Paid Media Versus Organic Traffic – When and Why To Use Each

In this article, Robert Caruso discusses paid media and organic traffic generation. Do we need both? When should each be utlizied?   It is another in our “Great Articles You may have missed” series.

Paid Media or Organic Traffic?

This isn’t a black and white question for any brand. In fact, let me start out this post by telling your that it shouldn’t ever be paid media vs. earned media. It should be understanding when and why to be using each and at what levels to use them. Paid media and earned media are both tools that need to be used effectively at the right times within a digital marketing program.

The difference between paid media and organic traffic

Paid media is digital advertising that utilizes various platforms, devices, channels and websites to display certain advertisements to users. This can be in the form of text, graphics, videos or a combination of all three.

Earned media aka organic traffic, however, is clicks and/or web traffic that is routed to your website, online property, article or landing page without the use of paid advertising. Earned media traffic typically comes through organic search, social media posts and email marketing lists that you have earned the right to communicate to.

It is extremely important that we understand a couple of key data points about paid media advertising. And there are some related organic search numbers that are crucial to understanding the current digital marketing landscape:

First, Google and Facebook lead online digital ad revenues by a long sway. These two digital ad companies now make up about 60% of all U.S. digital ad spends. Furthermore, the combined Google and Facebook ad revenues were over $56 billion in 2017 alone (source eMarketer). In addition, mobile search comprised of both smartphone and tablet searches, now reportedly makes up more than 57% of all searches done online. The impact that this has on organic search traffic to many brands big and small is not to be underestimated.

When Is Paid Media Traffic Best?

It is important to point out that those “sponsored ads” on Google, Facebook and other platforms are the main source of income for the search engines and social networks that promote them. Digital ads offer a highly targeted way of getting your offer, brand and products in front of the right audience quickly. And they provide a scalable and more predictable source of traffic volume at a measured cost.

A Few Great Examples of When To Use Paid Media:

Use digital ads early in your digital marketing efforts.

It can be very effective to front-load your new digital marketing efforts using digital ads. Paid media ads provide a great solution for startups or brands that have previously floundered online. Utilizing digital ads while your organic earned media and content marketing are maturing, is a highly advised tactic to getting traction in the marketplace now.

Supplement with paid media to scale and grow.

Used in conjunction with your effective earned media marketing efforts, digital ads offer the ability to scale traffic, reach and online exposure in a calculated fashion. It is relatively easy to track digital ad campaign results and determine the effectiveness, clicks and ROI from your paid media efforts. From there you can do simple math to calculate the costs of scaling clicks and traffic to obtain the desired additional results through paid media.

When Should You NOT Use Digital Ads?

There are several reasons to not use digital ads in your marketing. But I am going to focus on the two that I believe are most relevant to this discussion.

You’re Not Ready For Paid Media Yet:

Before embarking on a paid media advertising campaign, you must have the following in place:

  • Infrastructure
  • Strategy
  • Website
  • Landing pages
  • Lead funnels
  • Email capture

Without these, your campaign cannot be effective.

If you’re not ready to maximize traffic that you gain from digital advertising, don’t do it yet. To do things right, make sure everything is properly in place, then move forward with strategy, testing and scale.

Exclusively Using Digital Ads Can Be Damaging:

Another big problem we have seen is that they have bet everything on paid media for their digital marketing efforts. Though this can be effective short-term, it can more often than not lead to diminishing returns. And it can make your business dependant on the paid formula for some time to come. A proper strategy that integrates value through content and relationship can better work together with a strategic paid media program over the long haul.

When Is Organic Traffic or Earned Media Best?

In my professional opinion, there is hardly ever a time that a company wouldn’t want or need organic traffic. However, everything must be done strategically if you’re going to achieve the best results. Part of that strategy may or may not be incorporating paid digital ads. But for many of our clients, we use little to no paid media with integrated digital marketing programs. Therefore organic traffic that is earned had better be done effectively, or you will quickly be in trouble.

A few great examples of when to use organic traffic:

Use organic traffic early and often

Obtaining organic traffic through content marketing is something that you should be doing early. And it should be the foundation of your digital marketing efforts. Using it as a way to build “now” traffic to new content is a must to gain brand recognition and value. This means starting early in your digital marketing strategy development and consistently creating both blog and top-level page content on your website. Early and often is also a crucial component that works with the next example below.

Long-term organic traffic focusintegrated digital marketing is half art and half science

To effectively build organic traffic, there must be a long-term strategy in place to achieve that goal.

The strategy that looks toward the future and builds to that end must include:

  • Blog posts
  • Top-level website pages
  • Social graphics
  • Videos

Consistently creating content that your audience wants to consume develops trust, search rank, brand recognition and relationship opportunities. All of which, when done correctly, results in targeted organic traffic to your properties online.

Digital Ads vs. Earned Media

At the end of the day, the argument between paid and earned media isn’t an either/or discussion. Every company is different and requires a tailored strategy. However, there should always be a thoughtful inclusion of the paid digital ads and organic traffic components. And each should constantly be adjusted based on the data.

Do you use both paid and earned media? Please share any aspect of your strategy that you feel can be of benefit to your fellow readers.


Originally titled “Paid Media Versus Organic Traffic – When and Why” and published on  It is republished here with permission.

Additional reading: 3 Ways To Attract More Leads With Magnetic Content Marketing

Take Your Facebook Ads To a New Level

Robert CarusoAbout Robert Caruso: Recognized on Forbes list of top 40 social media marketers, Robert Caruso is a social media, digital marketing and technology professional with over 20 years creating, planning and executing strategies within various industries. Robert was the co-founder of Bundlepost and holds multiple internet technology patents.

Robert writes, speaks and consults on social, relationship and digital marketing

Featured image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo
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