Organic Vs Paid Traffic: What’s the Difference for Small Businesses?

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 in-bound marketing?

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

First, Let’s Talk About the SERP

The Search Engine Results Page, aka SERP, this 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.

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

What is Paid 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, they are there for no other reason besides having the budget to buy into mindshare. On average, 27% of website traffic comes from paid search.

It’s not completely unlike renting a home, you pay a recurring monthly fee for your place – that agreed upon amount can rise or fall because of factors outside of your control.

What is Organic Traffic?

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 website to be more appealing to Google, and visiting searchers, 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 [blog for SEO here] 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. Overtime, with the right targeting 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’s going to correspond to a lot more clicks on your website from people that are 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.

Paid & Organic Search for Small Businesses

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 in-bound 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.