“Want more visitors to your website?”
If you answered “Yes,” pay attention.
As you probably know, there are two ways to get traffic.
The free way (organic traffic), and the paid way (advertising).
Now, I won’t deny some people are great at getting “free” website visitors. Just look at Derek Halpern and Neil Patel.
However, there are “hidden costs” behind all that “free” traffic. Both financial and otherwise.
Which begs the question: Is organic traffic really better than paid?
Let’s take a look.
#1 – Organic Traffic Is Never Ending
Because organic traffic is almost entirely based on manual labor – writing articles, building links, networking with social media “influencers” – it is never ending.
If you or your employees stop putting in work, your traffic will eventually dry up. Period.
On the flip side, while paid traffic does require a media buyer or ad manager to stay on top of things, the process is much less time consuming. Why?
Once a paid traffic campaign becomes profitable, you can literally step back and let it run on auto-pilot. Will it take work? Yes, which we will discuss in point #2.
However, once a paid traffic campaigns reaches profitability, all you have to do to keep it that way is tweak and split-test a few things. A few hours per week, max.
Winner: Paid Traffic
#2 – Organic Traffic Is VERY Time Consuming
My second problem with organic traffic is that it is VERY time consuming.
I know this because I worked in the SEO industry for 7 years.
Writing all those articles.
Updating all those social media channels.
Emailing all those bloggers for guest posts.
Oh, and let’s not forget: you can never, ever stop (as outlined in point #1).
With paid traffic, this isn’t a problem.
While reaching profitability with paid ads will take real work, even that process isn’t as time consuming as most organic traffic strategies.
Instead, you set up a campaign and let your ads run. Next, you look at the results.
Not happy? Make some small changes, run the ads, look at the data again.
Then rinse and repeat until you’re profitable (at which time you can let the campaign run on auto-pilot or continue making small changes to increase profitability).
With SEO, the process of going from zero to 100 visitors per day can take weeks.
With ads, you can have 100 visitors per day by tonight.
Winner: Paid Traffic
#3 – Organic Traffic “Teams” Are Expensive
SEO has become so complicated it’s near impossible for one person to handle. Instead, you need a small army.
A content writer. A link builder. An onsite optimization expert. A social media person (since social is now a large part of Google’s algorithm). A manager to make sure everyone is working towards the same goal.
And yes, you could have just one SEO employee doing all this stuff. But there are only so many hours in a day, and last I heard employees are expensive.
Or you could outsource to an SEO company, which still isn’t cheap. Why?
To do SEO on a large scale, you have to have one if not multiple people doing all the things I just listed above.
Once again, employees are not cheap. If you’re working with an agency, you may not be paying for all that staff directly, but you’re still paying for it.
With paid traffic, however, you only need one person to get up and running. In fact, most pay per click agencies now handle both search engines (AdWords / Bing) and Facebook ads (which now include Instagram).
Further, media buyers handle all the above and more.
Which means, once you have a system (aka marketing machine) that turns paid traffic into profitable leads and sales, you need way less staff to turn traffic into profits.
Winner: Paid Traffic
#4 – Scale
One of my biggest problems with organic traffic is how hard it is to scale.
If you’re getting 40,000 monthly visitors and want to double your traffic to 80,000, it can take months.
And if you’re trying to overtake a highly trusted, mega authority website for a big keyword? Years. In fact, it might never happen.
With paid traffic, doubling your traffic comes down to increasing your ad budget (one mouse click) and watching your metrics to make sure they stay in line.
And if your numbers fluctuate when you increase your budget – which they almost surely will – your ad manager will know how to handle it (assuming they’re a pro).
All in all, the process should take no more than a week to two weeks max.
Winner: Paid Traffic
#5 – Organic Traffic Platforms Want You to Fail
From Google to Facebook, most organic traffic platforms do not make a penny when you get “organic” distribution.
If you don’t advertise, they don’t make money.
Given this, they have zero interest in helping you get free exposure. In fact, they have teams dedicated to stopping you!
We saw it with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, and we saw it when Facebook’s EdgeRank update limited Page Reach.
With paid traffic, this isn’t an issue. Yes, you have to follow their rules about the kind of ads you can and can’t run.
But, assuming you don’t break the rules, you can drive traffic ‘til the cows come home.
Winner: Paid Traffic
#6 – Attribution / Tracking
Ever since Google took away keyword reports, attributing sales and tracking ROI on SEO has become impossible.
It is literally impossible to know EXACTLY what keywords have driving EXACTLY which clicks to your site. While Webmaster Tools may show broad estimates of which keywords are driving how much traffic, “broad estimates” don’t let you track sales or profits.
To highlight this point, let’s say 40% of your revenue comes from Google.
The question becomes: what 40% of those sales actually came from the money you invested into SEO?
And did it come from what your SEO team did last month, this month, or three months ago?
On top of that, you don’t know what percentage of that organic traffic you would have got if you were doing nothing.
For example, did that $5,000 contract come from a keyword you targeted with your SEO campaign? Or, did they Google your name and your website appeared in the #1 spot, in which case you would have got the sale anyways?
Paid traffic, however, is all about tracking and attribution. Aside from the fact you can see exactly how much money you spend to drive X amount of traffic to your site…
…things like advanced conversion tracking and in-depth analytics allow you to monitor you ROI down to the penny.
Winner: Paid Traffic (by far)
#7 – Cost
Ok, so I guess I have to let Organic win one category: cost.
When it comes down to it, you can in fact run organic traffic campaigns for “free.”
My question to you is: what do you value more?
Your time or money?
If the only thing you care about is maximum exposure for as little money as possible, then yes, organic traffic is the way to go.
However, if you value your TIME, and want something that can be automated and scaled without you having to slave away in front of your computer or manage a bunch of people, paid is the way to go.
When it comes to online traffic, time really is money.
If you want to get your business in front of potential buyers, you can put in the hours or you can spend some moolah.
I personally value my time more than cash. But more important, I like systems and automation.
I don’t like slaving away behind a computer screen, and I definitely don’t like managing a bunch of vendors and freelancers. Here’s how I look at it.
The problem with organic traffic is there is no end game.
Sure, you can outsource processes and systems to staff so you personally don’t have to sit behind the computer…
…but how much is that going to cost when all is said and done?
If I have to choose between investing $10,000 into paid or organic over the next three months, I’ll choose paid every time. Here’s why.
I personally would rather put in some good old fashion elbow grease to build an automated traffic system I control and can scale at the click of my mouse.
On the flip side, that $10,00 you put into SEO will only last a few months before the results plateau and die off.
But that’s just me.
Winner: Tell me your choice in the comments section below : )
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