This article was updated on August 7th inline with Google’s rebrand of “Google Adwords” into “Google Ads”. The information within this blog hasn’t changed, but the nomenclature has been updated. Thanks for reading!

In the world of online content, strategies are typically split into two categories: Organic and Paid. While this is a little bit of a misnomer (implying that organic won’t cost you anything) the two marketing methods both vie for your time and money and as a business owner it can be hard to know which one to focus on.

Advertising is something we are very familiar with at Pixel Press Media, and we have learned the ins and outs of both organic and paid reach, as well as which one suits a given situation better. Keep reading to learn about each and to determine which one is best for you! We’ll give you insider secrets for each method and tell you what the advantages and disadvantage are for both avenues.

Paid Reach

Paid reach (paid advertising) is exactly what it sounds like. You give an advertising platform money to show your content to its users. You encounter these ads all day, every day, if you spend any time online. The top recommendations on Google searches are ads, every 10th post on Facebook is an ad, and the sidebar and headers on your favorite forums are most likely made up of ads. For better or worse there is no escaping online advertising, even if you’re using an adblocker. To compound this, some paid ads are even harder to notice. Sponsored content is being disguised as “Top 10!” lists, or as original content in places like Instagram. Have you ever seen a post that says something like “OMG, just found the most AMAZING sweaters!!! Thanks so much [company name], #bestsweaterever”? That’s an ad and ones like that are becoming more prevalent by the day.

So let’s look at the pros and cons of paid reach.

The Pros

When it comes to paid reach, or paid advertising, there’s a lot to love. It’s fast and flexible, there are a lot of options, and results are easily measured.

Online ads are a nimble way to advertise. Your ads are put live quickly after staging the parameters, and results can start coming in the very same hour depending on your budget. This means it’s very easy to generate some results, and change targeting, creative, and keywords if you see something that’s not working, or if you think of something different that may work better.

There are a TON of platforms to advertise on directly and indirectly. Some direct platforms include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google Ads (Formerly AdWords)
  • Waze Advertisements
  • Google Display Network
  • Bing Ads
  • Mobile Ad Networks

A few examples of indirect paid advertising are

  • Privately Sponsored Instagram posts / Facebook posts / Tweets
  • Co-written or guest written blogs
  • Sponsored blogs
  • Product placements
  • Social shoutouts

    An example of a brand purchasing posts through an Instagram influencer in the Jagermeister #BeTheMeister campaign

While the direct ones are controlled by you and your team, the indirect ones are sourced to a person or platform with a large following that you want to reach. You might pay an Instagram market leader to post 3 stories of them wearing your sunglasses with a shoutout on each one or create a video with your branding prominently featured.

Results are often very easy to calculate for all of these paid ads. Direct advertising platforms will have reporting that is capable of linking to your website and providing exact number on leads, conversions, engagement, and so forth. Indirect ads will be a bit harder to tabulate, but providing these sponsors with a referral link should tell you where the leads are coming from and what the potential customer is doing once they land there.

The Cons

Cost. The biggest drawback of paid reach is, of course, the money it takes to put this content out there. Ads can run you as little as $5 a day, while Instagram shoutouts can easily cost $10,000+ for a series of posts. This leads us to our next con.

The sheer scale of paid reach. Yes, the same thing we like about paid reach (the options) is the same thing that makes this category tough to tackle. With paid reach, there is such a wide net that you can cast and so many different ways to capitalize on newer emergent trends. Because paid reach is so accelerated and the tools update so frequently, you need to be in command of many different things all at once or decide which one or two of the many options you want to commit to. This can be overwhelming to begin with, but over time you can gain a solid grasp on what works best for you and your brand.

To recap – Breadth of usability and upfront cost are the two biggest inhibitors to using paid reach for your advertising.

Organic Reach

Organic reach is the big talking point whenever it comes to making new websites or increasing your online presence. Despite its juxtaposition to paid reach, “Organic” does not necessarily equal “free.” Organic reach comes from when your content is served THROUGH unpaid methods to an audience, be it a social media feed to your fans or a Google search. Here’s an example:

You write a blog called “Top 10 Hiking Boots For The Money” laden with related keywords and give your store a shoutout at the end, plug it on your website, share it to social media, and use it in future hiking boot campaigns. Over the next few years you go back to it and update it to include newer and better brands, remove sold and discontinued items, and upload a few new photos. This blog contains links out to other blogs you’ve written, and other blogs (beyond your own) link into it because it’s a well written and maintained source of information.

This is the heart of “organic reach” or “content marketing.” You create and update pieces of content that are topical, relevant, and contain high amounts of proper keywords.

An example of organic marketing. Oh wait, is that our blog?

The Pros

Organic reach is all about the long-term goals of your content strategy and getting eyes on your content over time. The focus is to build a large and diverse content base that gets served to people looking for it. This can be blogs, YouTube videos, photos, articles, galleries, landing pages, or anything that is created with longevity in mind.

Having a good organic reach strategy does two important things for you:

  1. It increases the number of people going to your website
  2. It cements you as a thought leader or market leader in your industry or area

When choosing a content strategy, going for organic reach means that over time your average user base will increase in proportion to the content you’re putting out. Here’s an example from a blog we run for a client that publishes about 3 blogs a month. The data is from August 1 to Dec 30, by week, and year over year.

blogging trends over time

When we look at this data, we see two things:

First is the overall trend, i.e., are things going up or down. Sometimes you can tell right on the front end if the initial data point is lower than the endpoint. If so, you improved! If it’s not, you did worse… Either way it gives you a quick idea of how you’re doing.

The second thing we look for is something we call valley trends. All data will have peaks and valleys (look at early November 2017 for a peak, vs September 2017 for a valley). Looking at how far down your valleys dip is a good indicator of how well your content is performing. If the valleys are getting higher and higher, then you can typically attribute a higher organic reach to an increase in visitors. Valleys usually occur when content is not being promoted, talked about, or otherwise hyped online.

Paid traffic may give you short bursts of traffic, but organic content will keep the baseline higher and higher for your website. This passive stream of consumers on your site increases the odds of having conversions just by nature of having more people there to convert.

By continuing on an organic reach content strategy you are also cementing yourself as a thought leader in your industry. People will begin to recognize and associate your name with the industry, certain products, or just as someone who is generally trustworthy. This is important as it builds brand authority and brand trust, which increases a lead’s chance of converting on your website.

The more a consumer can trust you, the more likely they will purchase from you over the other guy. This kind of brand authority can take your business from “just scraping by” to “market leader” if you keep with it!

The Cons

Organic content takes time. Not just time to plan and create, but to distribute and rank. A new blog won’t be picked up by Google’s algorithms right away, and even when it does it’s going to have to fight tooth and nail to get up above other websites. Your business’ website might take months to show up on the front page, and years to overtake that coveted #1 spot. If and when it does though, you can be sure that your spot is as good as secured as long as you keep the content coming. Google doesn’t just care about 1 great blog, it cares about a string of good content being released regularly and a website that is updated often.

It’s not free either! You might have to pay someone to write your blogs, make videos, take photos, etc. You can do this all yourself if you have the time and skillset, but if you don’t the organic content strategy can cost just as much, if not more, than a paid strategy! The obvious advantage here, however, is that organic content will continue to bring in leads long past it’s “pay by” date. In other words, it keeps working for you.

Wrap up

So which one is for you? Hopefully this (not so quick) guide gave you some insight into what it takes to win in either one of these advertising worlds and will help you as you move forward with your content strategy. If you need help with this, remember that we at Pixel Press Media are here to give a hand! Just give us a quick phone call or head over to our contact page and give us a shout! We’ll be happy to get a plan set up for you and help get you the leads your business needs and deserves. Thanks for reading!