There’s a lot of focus on achieving balance these days. From juggling personal and professional lives to mastering complex yoga poses, balance seems to be the answer. But in the realm of marketing, one thing we’re often asked is: “How can I balance paid and organic marketing?”

And one thing we typically ask back: “Do you need to balance paid and organic?” The answer isn’t always clear. For a long time, our focus was solely on achieving growth through organic marketing while neglecting paid. And when a campaign went off-kilter, we tried to right the balance by incorporating (sometimes grudgingly) paid. 

What we’ve come to realize is that there is no “perfect balance” when it comes to organic vs. paid marketing. Yes, you need both. But, depending on the circumstances, you will also likely need one more than the other. And the one you need will evolve over time. It isn’t about doling out your marketing tactics in equal measure – it’s about finding that perfectly imbalanced balance that works for your brand. Here’s how:

How To Know When You Need More Organic Marketing

You’ll never get to a place where you’re spending your marketing budget dollar-for-dollar on both paid and organic campaigns. And if you are, you probably aren’t doing it right.

Blunt? Yes.

True? Also yes.

See, both organic and paid marketing will help your brand grow, but they do it in completely opposite ways. 

So, how do you know when it’s time to ramp up your organic marketing efforts?

You have the time and resources to invest in building a comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
• You have a backlog of content you can refresh and repurpose over time.
• You want to beat the competition organically.
• You’re ready to play the long game of SEO and content marketing.
• You want results that are consistent, reliable and sustainable.
• You’re thinking of the success of your brand in the future.

If that’s where you are, you can probably start to pull back on paid marketing and ramp up your investment in organic. It doesn’t mean you’ll never need another paid campaign (you will), but it does mean you’re in a great position to shift your focus to growing your brand organically.

The Downside of Organic Marketing

Organic marketing is typically cheaper than paid, and it often has a higher ROI. So, what’s the catch? Well, you’ve probably figured it out by now. Organic takes time. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time. In fact, you’ll likely be waiting 3-6 months (or more) to see any results from your SEO strategy.

Organic marketing
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There’s another caveat here: This is the time it takes from the moment you launch your SEO strategy. So that doesn’t include the research and time it takes to craft that strategy, create enough content to back it up, conduct technical SEO and content audits – and the list goes on. 

So yes, organic marketing (SEO and content in particular) is highly effective and generates long-term, sustainable growth. But you’ll have to wait for it.

How To Know When You Need More Paid Marketing

And sometimes, you can’t wait for it. Or you need something to keep your brand growing while you’re waiting. In that case, you may be ready to consider bumping up your focus (and your budget) on paid marketing.

Paid marketing can include any type of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, like paid search ads, display ads, paid social and more. It can be pricey, but when it comes down to it, paid marketing works. It will move the needle for your brand…up to a point. 

So how do you know when it’s time to ramp up paid marketing?

You need a quick win to get immediate results.
• You’re a startup with an unestablished brand that can’t compete with the big dogs.
• You’re getting ready to launch a new product or service.
• You have an exclusive offer or deal, and you want to get traction on it.
• You’re looking for a big uptick in traffic.
• You have a lot of interested visitors to your website and want to retarget them.

Paid marketing will get you traffic, but it’s up to you then to ensure you’ve designed a journey that moves all those visitors through the funnel toward conversion. That includes optimizing your landing pages, perfecting your offer and delivering an effective CTA.

Paid marketing works instantly, and you’re able to see results and track metrics right away, so you can A/B test and make informed decisions about your campaigns.

The Downside of Paid Marketing

Okay, this one stings a little. Because paid marketing works. It delivers results and a fantastic ROI. And if you’ve put in the effort with your UX, it’s going to deliver conversions as well. But the sad truth of paid marketing is that the results only go as far as your budget can carry them. Once the dollars dry up, so do your sales. 

So, if you’re wondering whether to invest more in organic or paid marketing, the answer isn’t all that cut-and-dried. Because there’s also this to consider:

We Need To Talk About the Elephant in the SERPs

When looking at click-through rate (CTR) for organic and paid marketing, there’s one thing that blows both out of the water: zero-click search.

google search click-through rate
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It’s only been in the last couple years that zero-click searches have taken over both the CTR for paid and organic marketing. If you aren’t familiar, zero-click searches are exactly what they sound like: When a user searches for something, the results that appear provide enough information that nothing in the SERPs gets clicked. 

So, instead of fretting over the balance between paid and organic marketing, here’s something else to stress over. But before you start to panic, take a breath. You can balance both paid and organic marketing to snag zero-click searches and position your brand on top. Here’s how:

How To Get Seen With Zero Clicks

Here’s where you really do need to find the balance between paid and organic marketing because doing so will help you hit the search sweet spot, so you can take “position zero.”

Ad Extensions

Extensions are added to your paid ads, and they often can provide the information someone needs without clicking through. You can add extensions with your phone number, location, hours, featured deals and products, just to name a few. Local brands shouldn’t sleep on ad extensions, but even larger brands will benefit from adding the right ones.

Snag Rich and Featured Snippets

Rich snippets are search results that offer more than standard organic results, including photos, ratings, FAQs, and more. Rich snippets are influenced by your site’s structured data, so you’ll need to put some effort into your schema markup.

Featured snippets are a bit different in that they might include answers that fulfill a user’s search intent, such as a paragraph explaining what feng shui is or a numbered list of steps on how to make sushi. You can improve your chances of getting a featured snippet by writing content that answers the “People Also Ask” questions for your keywords.

Rich snippets and featured snippets can’t be bought, so you’ll have to be on your organic A game if you hope to get them.

Why Aim for Zero?

Zero clicks means zero traffic, right? And isn’t that the antithesis of both paid and organic marketing? Yes and no. According to Ahrefs, most zero-click searches actually do get clicks — but it all depends on how you answer questions and fulfill search intent.

Your paid ads and featured snippets should leave your audience wanting to know more — so much so that they have no choice but to click. So what you really want to aim for is position zero — the very top spot (even above ads) on SERPs. While some users will be zero-click, others will click through to your site, and because you’ve fulfilled their search intent, will be that much more likely to convert.

Bottom Line: Growth Is a Balancing Act

But the good news is, you don’t have to do everything in equal measure. Experiment until you find the mix of paid and organic marketing that works for your brand and your goals. Neither is a slam dunk on their own, but when combined strategically, they can work together to deliver both short- and long-term growth for your brand.





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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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