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Organic vs. Paid Search Results: What’s the Difference?

Suhani Purohit
Written By
Suhani Purohit
Published On
Oct 30, 2023
Close-up of a hand tapping on an overlay of a search bar

If you’re a business owner or marketing professional interested in boosting a business’s visibility on SERPs (search engine results pages), chances are you’ve heard of search engine marketing and search engine optimization. The main difference between organic vs paid search results is which of these two they’re connected to. There are also differences in terms of where organic search results and paid search results appear on SERPs. 

This article covers the following points: 

Let’s begin!

A Google SERP diagram showing organic vs paid search results

Organic Vs. Paid Search Results: Their Differences

1. Paid Search Results = SEM; Organic Search Results = SEO 

Paid search results are connected to search engine marketing (SEM), while organic search results are connected to search engine optimization (SEO). This seemingly small difference involving their last word is not a small difference at all. In fact, SEM and SEO are considered separate (yet synergistic) digital marketing pillars. 

2. Paid Search Results are Ads and are Labelled That Way

Whether a paid search result appears as a text ad or shopping ad, Google makes it clear that these are ads. You will find a label, typically on the upper left, stating “Ad” or “Ads.” Though these elements blend well—aesthetically and experience-wise—on the search engine results page, more discerning users will still know that they are paid ads rather than organic search results. 

3. Paid Search Results Appear at the Top or Bottom of the SERPs 

Paid search results can be text ads or shopping ads that look more like tiles. The paid results in text ads are typically shown at the top of the results page before the organic results. They can also appear at the bottom of the page. 

Meanwhile, paid search results that take the form of shopping ads are usually at the top of the SERPs. 

4. Paid Search Results Visibility Depends on the Highest Bid

To display your website content on ad spaces on the search engine results page, you need to bid on keywords. Whoever has the highest bid wins the ad space for a search. This auction happens each time a user puts in a relevant search term on Google’s search bar. 

5. Organic Search Results Involve Website Ranking 

Marketers use various SEO tactics to enhance a website’s ranking and thereby have their business’s page show up as an organic search result. This process takes time and requires a good strategy. 

Though the ranking parameters are never fully divulged by Google, many experts agree that optimizing a website’s UX/UI, enriching content on the website, and targeting strategic keywords for the website’s content are helpful in securing top spots for organic search results. 

6. Organic Search Results Can Be Featured Snippets 

If paid search results can take the form of text ads and shopping ads, organic search results can also take on different forms. 

Aside from the traditional organic search result format that we’re all familiar with, organic search results can be featured as snippets. Featured snippets can be at the top of the page, on the right (usually only appears on desktop environments), or as answers in the section labelled currently as “People also ask.”

A screenshot showing the “featured snippet” section on SERP

Why Do You Need Paid Search? 

Paid search allows your company to appear at the top of the search engine results pages. This is the biggest benefit of including a paid search campaign in your digital marketing strategy.  

Even though you can always improve your organic search strategy (in an effort to rank highly on SERPs), this could take time. Using paid search will allow you to gain visibility in a shorter amount of time, as long as you’re willing to put in the marketing budget for it. 

Why Are Organic Search Results Important?

After employing search engine optimization (SEO) improvement strategies, you will show up higher on the search engine results pages. Through time, your website’s content may also be featured in a top snippet, in queries, or on the side of the SERPs. After putting in the work to achieve and maintain great SEO (and thus, higher ranking organic search results), this all just happens by itself, like an ongoing free campaign.

In time, having higher-ranking organic search results for your business will increase user trust and drive high-quality traffic to your website. This then has the potential to increase sales, bring in new customers, and more. Organic SEO provides long-term and stable results.

Take The Next Steps Toward Immense Visibility 

Now you know the details of organic vs paid search results and the unique roles of SEM and SEO in improving your business’s online presence.

Ready to take your business’s search engine marketing and optimization to the next level? The experts from The Influence Agency with years of experience are here to help you achieve your brand goals. As a leading digital marketing agency in North America, we’ve helped a ton of brands gain immense visibility in online spaces. Contact our team today to get started!

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