Organic Traffic vs Paid Search: What’s the difference?

Organic Traffic vs Paid Traffic

For a long time, digital marketers summed up the properties of direct and organic traffic pretty simply. To most, organic traffic consists of visits from search engines. Direct traffic differentiates as it’s made up of visits from people entering your company URL into their browser. However, these two serve the same purpose of bringing you traffic.

Many businesses use paid traffic because it’s simple to use and not much work needs to be put in to get traffic to your website. The only investment needed to up your website visitors is your money.

On the other hand, organic traffic is mostly free. The only thing needed for it is your time.


I know that for good organic traffic, it also takes very good SEO which means investing a little bit of money here and there. As a leading digital marketing agency, we can help you out to improve your online presence. Get in touch with one of our experts to kickstart your digital marketing strategy for the upcoming year!

Or alternatively, read this article, where you will learn about the difference between paid and organic traffic and also which one you should concentrate on the most.

Traffic Sources

Beyond organic and direct traffic, it is useful that you understand the difference between all of your traffic sources.  Most web analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, utilize an algorithm and flow chart based on the referring website or URL parameters that determine the source of traffic. Here is a breakdown of all sources:

Organic Search

Organic search traffic used to just mean the amount of traffic that came to your site via someone who found your site using a search engine. For example, we might learn that someone came to by searching the keyword phrase “ SEO services “. This is important to know because it helps businesses understand which keywords are driving the most traffic, leads, and customers so they can develop better-informed content and keyword strategies.

Things got a lot more complicated when Google introduced SSL encryption.

In other words, businesses have much less visibility now into which keywords searchers are using to find them, making it much harder to understand which words and terms are working or not working.

Paid Search

When you run a PPC campaign — whether through Google or some other PPC provider — you can track how much site traffic it drives in this part of your sources report.

Direct Traffic

Direct traffic refers to traffic you receive to your website that doesn’t come through any other channel. So, when you type into your search window and hit ‘Enter,’ you’re accessing via direct traffic.

To conclude, there is no referring URL when someone reaches your site via direct traffic. So if your direct traffic is rising up every month, it means that more and more people know you by name.


When you run an email marketing campaign, we hope you’re including links in that email that lead recipients back to your website, to read more content. If you take a look at email marketing as a source of traffic, you’ll be able to see how much traffic is sent to your website due to email marketing campaigns you’ve sent out.


Traffic that occurs when a user finds you through a site other than a major search engine.

Social Media

Incoming traffic stemming from social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram is classified as social media-generated traffic. This encompasses visitors directed to your site through shared links across these platforms. This spectrum of sources encompasses diverse scenarios, from individuals sharing links through tweets to you disseminating links on your Facebook page. Cognizant tracking of this facet provides insights into the efficacy of your social media outreach, gauging the impact of each link shared.

 Other Campaigns 

If traffic does not fit into another source or has been tagged as “Other” via a URL parameter, it will be bucketed into “Other” traffic.

Now that we have covered a general basis for all web traffic sources, let’s move to the next stage.

When to use Paid Media?

Often marketers will sing the praises of organic traffic, after all, who doesn’t love free traffic? But paid media has a very real and powerful position in the digital marketing mix.

Take for example a small or start-up business that has no foothold in the current market. Often with these types of businesses speed is key and growing organically can take a very long time. Using paid media can give these businesses a quick and easy way to access audiences previously unimaginable for a start-up. This is equally applicable for any established business launching a new product, service or campaign. Using a paid method will allow you to reach the right audience in a shorter amount of time.

Paid media is also much more consistent and predictable than organic. This allows businesses to plan exposure rather than relying on luck or ‘going viral’.

When to use Organic Traffic?

The answer to this question is… always.

Organic traffic should be your priority from the get-go, always slowly and steadily increasing your organic reach. This can be done through consistent audience interaction and providing value through published content.

The ultimate goal for businesses is to have such a massive organic reach that there is a very limited need for paid media.

Try using tools such as blogging, video recording and growing your social media following.  It allows you to consistently build your organic reach, which can then be leveraged to the benefit of your business.


Undoubtedly there are some major differences between paid media and organic traffic. They both take an investment, with paid being financial and organic being a big-time investment of time.

The choice isn’t about selecting one over the other, but rather about synergizing their potential to forge a robust marketing strategy. Nurturing organic traffic provides a dependable foundation for promoting your business consistently. Concurrently, the strategic integration of paid media injects substantial impact and triggers a self-sustaining momentum, ripe for catalyzing sales and propelling business expansion. The dynamic interplay of these two forces amplifies your outreach, fostering an environment primed for sustainable growth and market dominance.



The marketing environment is constantly changing.  Having a successful digital marketing strategy does not come easy.  There is a constant need to be on top of all industry trends and most importantly the traffic that is driven to the website.

Understanding your audience is the key to create more interaction and engaging content. Learning about what and when brings people to your website can be very beneficiary as it can help you improve or upgrade your strategy. Hopefully, this article gave you enough insight into two of the most important traffic types.

If you’d like to arrange a meeting with our Manchester SEO team or our Liverpool SEO team please drop us a line or click below!






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