Organic Search vs Paid Search
Selling advertising space is one way the search engines make money. Website owners wishing to ensure their websites receive search coverage will often pay to have their website shown in the search results, even if the search terms do not match exactly what the search engine user was looking for. For a search engine user who is aware of the advertising, noticing that some results are actually advertisements isn’t hard. Others may not notice.
In either case, searchers looking for something specific may click on a search result if it appears the result closely matches what they are looking for. This type of search result is one way that a website owner can get their website placed at the top of the search results when it probably would not receive placement on the first page at all.
NOTE: A common myth that continues to perpetuate among website owners and SEO service providers is that paid or inorganic search skews search engine ranking. The major search engines do not skew their results (to give better organic ranking) based on paid advertising or paid search.
Organic Search and SEO
When a search engine returns web pages in their results pages based on how those websites are indexed, the results are called organic or natural, because they appear naturally based on the search engine’s placement algorithm. Most of the results seen on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) are organic. They show up naturally because the search engine determined they were the best match for the words or phrase the users entered into the search box.
SEO is mainly about tweaking websites and web pages in order to make them appear in the organic search results. Savvy search engine users realize that paid placement doesn’t equate to a best match for the search phrase entered, and thus may ignore the paid advertisements at the top of a SERP. This is often the case, but not always.
The ability to appear at or near the top of a SERP for specific keywords or phrases is important. It is cheaper and an indicator of relevance.
Advertising networks offer one method of advertising on the Internet, and search engines often often offer paid search results as another method. When a search engine user types a search term and the results are returned, the engine often provides a number of paid results either at the top or bottom of the page, or mixed in with the other results.
The paid results are based on a different algorithm, but are still matched to the search terms. Finding a paid search item for stuffed animals when the search user asked for baking supplies would be unlikely, but showing paid results for baking pans or muffin pans is likely.
How search engines show paid results differs from engine to engine. There are also differences in advertisements and paid results. Usually, advertisements are clearly marked, while inorganic results are sometimes allowed to blend in, but are still discernible from organic results.
Search Results for Websites
Especially for new websites that may not yet have good ranking or are relatively unknown, purchasing some inorganic placements provides exposure and click-through visits. Different search engines provide different methods, but usually a website owner can choose geographic areas, number of impressions, and provide a budget based on cost over a given period of time. Costs are usually based on clicks or impressions, and also by keyword in some cases.
Even when paying for impressions, it is still important to work on SEO and provide a good reason for search engines to place website pages highly in their results. Not every search may result in inorganic placement, just as not every search will result in organic placement. Using a combination of the two will provide higher exposure rates and increase traffic.