When it comes to digital marketing, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. With so many seemingly similar avenues to choose from, it can be hard for small business owners to know where to put their marketing dollars: paid or inbound marketing?

If you’re sold on investing in digital but aren’t sure where to go, fear not. We’re here to help by breaking down the difference between these two approaches to help you understand what’s right for your business.


The Search Engine Results Page, aka SERP, is the results page of Google, or whatever search engine you use, we all know and love. For our use today, we’ll just refer to Google’s SERP as it holds the lion’s share (86%!) of all search engine use.

When you search a term on Google, in the instant it takes to load your SERP, there’s a whole lot happening behind the scenes.

Take this SERP for example:

Organic Vs Paid Traffic; What's the Difference for Small Businesses

On this page, there’s a lot to look at. First, we have a paid ad up top related to the searched term. However, the company has paid Google to be first in line for search traffic.



  • SERP: Search Engine Results Page
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization
  • SEM: Search Engine Marketing

You can think of paid search engine traffic (also known as SEM, or search engine marketing) as essentially the artificial top echelon of the SERP, there for no other reason besides having the budget to buy into mindshare. On average, 27% of website traffic comes from paid searches.

It’s not completely unlike renting a home in that you pay a recurring monthly fee for your place, and that agreed-upon amount can change because of factors outside your control.


Once you scroll past the 2-5 paid ads at the top of the SERP, you’ve then entered organic search results territory.

For commonly searched terms, this is a highly coveted space.

To understand organic search traffic, one first needs to understand how Google operates. Google’s main goal is to provide the highest quality, most relevant search results for their users.

The exact specifications and algorithms of how they rank websites are pretty tightly held trade secrets to deter others from trying to game the system. However, we know a few key quality indicators Google uses to understand your website and rank it among other relevant websites.

Curating your site to be more appealing to Google, and site visitors, is what we call Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO. There is a lot that goes into SEO, so we can’t cover it all in one brush stroke (check out our small business SEO guide for a more in-depth look into SEO for eCommerce businesses). However, to give a quick overview, here are a few things Google likes to ‘see’ on your site:

  • Keyword-Focused Landing Pages
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Frequent Optimized Blog Posts/Content
  • Videos/Infographics
  • Other Websites Linking to Yours

Google is a meritocracy. If you create relevant, quality content, you should expect to see your website slowly rise in the ranks. Over time, with the right content marketing strategy and some diligence, you’ll have the opportunity to meaningfully engage with your audience and bring in more qualified leads to your website. In the grand scheme of things, that will correspond to a lot more clicks on your website from people already interested in your product or service.

We should warn you: organic traffic is no ‘get rich quick scheme’, so don’t expect to see immediate results. Earning a top spot on the SERP organically takes time, patience, and a bit of trial and error. However, once you do start to gain traction and the clicks begin to roll in, Google will only reward you further by increasing your ranking.

We deep dive into how and why relevant organic content is beneficial for your business in our white paper.


Ready to take the plunge into the world of digital marketing for your small business? We’re here to help. At Boxwood Digital, we are experts in all things digital, specializing in the art of inbound marketing. Whether you’re looking for guidance on content strategy or a partner for paid marketing, we have the skills and experience to help cultivate your online presence and increase your conversion rate.

Give us a call today or schedule a free consultation to see if we are a good fit for your SEO needs.