To acquire customers for your online store, there are two main strategies you can use: organic marketing and paid marketing. Both methods can create a flood of traffic, but the best approach for a particular store will depend on its specific needs and goals.
In this article, we’ll compare organic vs paid marketing and show you why deploying both methods may be the most potent strategy.
Organic marketing: Pros and cons
Basically, every marketing strategy that acquires visitors without directly paying for them (through ads, for example) is considered organic marketing. For an e-commerce store, this largely falls into two buckets: search engine optimization (SEO) and social media.
If people are searching for your product on Google, you’ll want to invest in organic search marketing. While pay-per-click (PPC) ads put you at the top of search engine result pages, the vast majority (75 percent) of clicks go to the top three organic search results, says Adam Rogers, senior content marketing manager at Shopify. “With that in mind, it’s far more impactful for your store to be one of the top organic results that appears when customers search for your product.”
Because you don’t have to pay to play, using both SEO and social media for your marketing efforts can be extremely cost-effective if you do it well. They’re also excellent long-term strategies because they focus on delivering value to and building trust with your audience.
SEO isn’t a silver bullet, though.
While you don’t have to pay to appear in Google, you’ll have to invest time and money into creating content that puts you there. This can be a very long process, says Sajjad Shahid, manager of strategic marketing initiatives at hosting platform Cloudways. And since everyone else is doing it, the competition is fierce.
“Every company in the world is trying to target a single keyword,” he writes. “Therefore, only the best ones get to reach the top. There is no guarantee that your website will rank higher on search engines.”
Paid marketing: Pros and cons
Any form of marketing where you pay for exposure is considered paid marketing. The biggest paid marketing strategies for e-commerce stores are paid social media ads and paid search ads.
Unlike organic marketing, with paid marketing, you really don’t have to wait around to see results. You can create an ad for Google and start seeing visitors within an hour. This type of marketing is also highly targeted, meaning you can drill down to find your audience’s specific demographics and location.
When you use a paid marketing strategy like PPC, you guarantee that users will see your ad, says Christina Perricone, who managed content marketing at HubSpot for four years before moving to early education platform Brightwheel as director of content marketing. While “you’re paying Google each time a person clicks on your result, the payoff to you should be high,” she writes.
That’s why many e-commerce entrepreneurs choose to promote their product pages with paid search. “The campaign puts searchers right in front of the business’s product when they click on a paid result, increasing the likelihood that the searcher will make a purchase before leaving the business’s website,” Perricone explains.
Ultimately, the biggest limitation of paid advertising is the cost. Smaller brands usually can’t afford to run ads for highly competitive keywords, and even big brands need to work hard to optimize their ads to make them profitable in the long run.
The choice between organic vs paid marketing
So, which is better for your online store when comparing organic vs paid marketing? The answer depends on your specific business goals and resources. Businesses with limited budgets may want to forgo paid ads in favor of organic marketing. Those with budgets that allow paid ads and want to see fast results may opt for paid marketing.
Ideally, though, you should be investing in both organic and paid marketing to take advantage of both channels.
One of the easiest ways to do that is to use paid ads to boost the reach of organic content, says Dmitrii Kustov, founder of and marketing director at Regex SEO. “If a particular post works well and attracts the attention of your target audience, you can increase it with PPC,” he writes. “When you promote organic publications, not only can they reach a wider audience, but they can also provide data about your audience that you may not have had before.”
Choose the marketing strategy that works for you. Then look for ways to combine organic and paid marketing to drive more traffic to your online store — and ultimately gain more customers.