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Organic Leads vs. Paid Leads: Which is Best for Your Business?

Organic leads vs. paid leads

There are two main types of lead generation — organic marketing and paid advertising. Both can be highly effective. And both typically have a place at the table of strategy, as businesses of all shapes and sizes can use them. 

But at the end of the day, brands will place a bigger focus on one or the other. For this post, we’ll break down the differences between organic leads vs. paid leads and provide examples so you’ll know which is right for your business. 

Organic Leads vs. Paid Leads: What’s the Difference?

Let me start by saying that both types of leads are, in many ways, designed to be used in conjunction with one another. Using one doesn’t render using the other redundant or obsolete. In fact, organic and paid leads often complement one another and can cover “holes” in online visibility coverage to create a more robust campaign to reach the largest percentage of your demographic. 

That said, there are some key differences between the two. So let’s zoom in to see how they vary. 

Organic Leads

Organic marketing mainly involves SEO, but can also include social media. This can revolve around numerous activities but typically focuses on content marketing, on/off-site SEO, link building, blogging, case studies, and other forms of inbound marketing. 

The ultimate goal of organic marketing is to create valuable content that appeals to your audience at different stages of the sales funnel and drive targeted traffic to your site “organically.” From there, you deliver various forms of messaging that caters to the specific needs/interests of different lead segments and nurture them until they’re ready to make a purchase.

Here’s an example. Say a business owner is interested in creating their first lead magnet, such as an eBook, whitepaper, or toolkit. They go to Google and type in “how to create your first lead magnet.” In the results, this pops up — a blog post we wrote a while back that breaks the process down step-by-step. 

Organic leads vs. paid leads

Once visitors land on the page, they can learn all about it and get pointed to other helpful resources to delve even deeper into lead magnets. This is a win-win because visitors can gain a base level of knowledge on the topic, and it gives us a chance to establish trust and credibility, while also converting visitors into leads — many of which will later go on to become customers.  

Organic leads vs. paid leads

While it takes time to select targeted keywords, create content, get the content indexed in Google, and so on, organic marketing like this can be highly effective for driving a steady stream of qualified traffic to a site. 

Organic marketing/SEO typically takes much longer than paid ads (sometimes 6-12 months), but the lead volume is essentially free and lasts a while. Therefore, it often makes more sense to companies who have a sensitive bottom line in terms of cost outlay and who canplay the “long game.” Their efforts can pay dividends in the long run by building a robust marketing machine and online visibility built around showing up in Google around high-value targeted keywords. 

The main drawback, however, is that it usually takes time to see tangible results. 

Paid Leads

Historically, the term “paid advertising” has referred to traditional advertising mediums, such as radio, print, and billboards. But within the modern context, it usually includes social media ads, LinkedIn ads, Google ads, and so on. 

Say, for instance, a business owner is interested in buying a meeting scheduling software platform and they type “meeting scheduling software” in Google. The top four results that appear are all paid ads where companies pay whenever a user clicks on one of their ads.

Organic leads vs. paid leads

And the remaining Google search results below that are organic where the websites rank through SEO as I mentioned in the first section. 

Organic leads vs. paid leads

Paid advertising is known for its ability to produce a high volume of leads in a relatively short period. It also gives you more control over target keywords, and the evolution of search means it’s more present and necessary than ever. So paid can beat organic in the sense that the results can come quickly if the strategy is conducted well. 

The two main drawbacks are that it can be expensive and the leads only last while the ads are on, active, and being paid for. So once you stop a campaign, you immediately cease to generate new leads, whereas with organic marketing, you can keep sending fresh leads your way for months or even years later. 

But if you have the budget and run an effective campaign, paid ads have the potential to bring in plenty of quality leads right away. 

Which Option is Best for Your Business?

Let’s recap. Organic marketing/SEO, relies on creating content around high-value targeted keywords in order to rank in Google. It typically takes 6-12 months to get palpable results, but is essentially free and will last longer. At its core, organic marketing requires more of a time expenditure than a financial one. 

Paid marketing, on the other hand, is just as it sounds. You pay to get featured in targeted ads on platforms like social media, Google, and LinkedIn. It requires more of a financial expenditure rather than a time-based one and gets results much quicker. 

So how do you know which strategy to focus on?

The main objective with either organic or paid is producing results, whether in the form of leads or closed sales, and thereby to measure ROI. Paid ads will show ROI quicker, but SEO will show it longer. 

If you want results right away, don’t want or don’t have the time to create a body of content, or have a sizable marketing budget, then you’ll likely want to focus on paid ads. On the other hand, if you’re willing to play the long game, don’t mind putting in the time to create a body of content, or lack a significant marketing budget, then organic marketing will probably be the better approach. 

Note that using a mix of the two is usually ideal. In fact, 60% of all trackable website traffic comes from a combination of organic marketing and paid search. But your core approach will depend on your unique circumstances and what you’re looking to achieve. This brings me to my final point. 

How a Professional Agency Can Help

Whatever choice you make between organic vs. paid leads, one of the best ways to maximize your chances of success is to work with a professional partner like 3.7 Designs that knows the ropes and has achieved strong results for clients time and time again. By looking at the circumstances that exist in the market, demand, competitive landscape, and the particulars surrounding the strategy and timeline of what you’re looking to achieve, an agency can help you choose the optimal marketing mix. One that fully aligns with your goals and gives you the best ROI.  

Organic marketing is labor-intensive and paid ads carry financial risk, especially during the learning curve. But the process can be made infinitely easier by working with an agency. And it’s our sincere belief that every client will see a strong ROI if they run their campaign correctly and/or long enough because they will optimize enough to see “winner” keywords or conversion flows and be able to invest purely in those with the highest return on ad spend (ROAS).

Wrapping Up

Both organic leads and paid leads are part of a healthy marketing mix, and you’ll likely want to use both to grow your business. That said, you’ll usually want to place a bigger focus on one or the other. Knowing what to prioritize mainly depends on your timeline, budget, and the overall direction you’re looking to take.