Organic Marketing vs Paid Advertising

It’s the question that every business owner grapples with – what marketing approach is best? While organic marketing is more cost effective, particularly for new businesses and startups, it can take time to see the fruits of your labour. On the other hand, paid advertising can put your business in front of eyeballs a lot quicker, but does require ongoing investment for success.

So, organic marketing vs paid advertising – what approach really is best?


Enter the expert

In our Organic Digital Marketing group (you really should join!) we invited Jo Murphy, The Ad Nomad, to answer this very question. An experienced organic marketer and paid ads expert, Jo has been on both sides of the fence and shared a whole lot of juicy tips in the course of our 30 minute live Facebook session.


Join now to watch the Organic Marketing vs Paid Advertising Discussion


If you don’t have a spare 30 minutes to watch the video, here are the key takeaways to help you understand the differences between organic marketing and paid advertising, and how they can both help your business succeed.


The difference between organic and paid marketing

At the most basic level, the difference between organic marketing and paid advertising comes down to cost. Organic marketing is about leveraging your digital assets to reach your audience without having to pay, while paid advertising relies on ongoing investment to reach prospects.

Another way of differentiating each approach is viewing organic marketing as an ongoing conversation with your audience on your page or website. Posting content starts a conversation that you can enjoy without having to pay to reach people.

If organic marketing is having a regular conversation with your audience, then paid advertising is making a special announcement. It’s amplifying specific content beyond your existing audience, so you can share content that’s already working with a wider pool of potential prospects.

While you’ll always share new content with your existing audience, not every piece of content will be worthy of a special announcement. That’s why there’s always a place for organic marketing and paid advertising as they’re designed to do different things.


The most effective organic marketing channels

By far, email is considered to be the most effective organic marketing channel. While this might surprise you, it’s backed up by the numbers – for instance, Shopify reported that email was the biggest referrer to Black Friday sales in 2019.

Email marketing has the advantage of being an asset you own. While you really only rent your Facebook or Instagram account (which could be disabled at any time), you own your email subscriber list, which makes it a powerful and valuable asset for your business.

Facebook and Instagram stories are also great organic marketing channels. Sharing ephemeral content (rich media that’s only accessible for a short time) plays on FOMO (the fear of missing out) to attract immediate interest from your audience and increase organic engagement.


Email marketing tips

Given that email marketing is one of the most effective organic marketing channels, what are the best strategies for making the most of it?

Email frequency – there’s no set frequency, although 1 to 2 emails a week is good practice. You can email people as often as you like as long as your emails are a pleasure to receive.

Focus on content and value – there needs to be a purpose to your emails. If you send random offers every day, your list will quickly tire and start unsubscribing from your list.

Spice things up – mix up your emails with a variety of content. Share a link to a useful article, embed a tutorial or information video, host an email challenge or share info about a new item.

Don’t always discount – while a good discount can be great, don’t do it all the time as your audience will come to expect it and will never pay full price for your products or services.


Organic marketing IS NOT dead

While this is a popular opinion across the internet, organic marketing is not dead. The truth is, content that is relevant and useful can be found without “paying to play”. In some cases, business owners are getting 60 – 80% reach on their organic posts which clearly blows a hole in the “organic marketing is dead” theory!

One reason for this belief is that we tend to prioritise best practice (the rules governing what you should and shouldn’t do) over the human experience, which can affect the impact on the success of organic marketing. There’s no point scheduling posts at the correct word length, or at optimal posting times, if your posts are not inviting people to be a part of real conversations.

If your offer is good and connects with your audience, the quality of your images and your word count length won’t stop people finding you. We need to remember to be social on social media because marketing is about humans talking to other humans. We should never forget that!


The importance of connecting with your audience

For your marketing to be effective, whether it’s organic or paid, you really need to get to know the needs of your target audience. This means thinking about who you are talking to and getting into their head so you know how to best meet their needs.

Start this process by imagining you’re talking to a friend. What words would you use to describe what you or your product do? What would make them care and take action? Create content for your audience as if they are your friend, focusing on starting a conversation and being social. Remember, it’s called social media for a reason!

Take the time to get to know your audience by replying to comments and DMs. Keep the conversations going and get to know your audience better through these interactions. This will increase engagement, start building a community and boost your organic reach.

A great way to build a community is to tag other members of your page who may be able to help, when replying to comments. This encourages more member-to-member interaction, shows that you know your audience and proves you really do want to help solve their problems.


Where does paid advertising fit in with organic marketing?

To get the most from your advertising investment, you need to have strong organic foundations in place. The reality is, if your offer is not up to scratch, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at advertising because you’ll end up paying more for ads and achieve less conversions.

When you bid on Facebook ads, the price you’re willing to pay is not the only determining factor. Facebook also looks at your conversation rate to see if your content is being well received by your audience. If you’re not achieving more than a 10% conversation rate on your page (an average of 10% of followers commenting and sharing your content), you’ll pay more for ads.

Facebook wants to promote a good experience for users. If your rate of organic engagement is low, Facebook knows this will impact on your paids ads and you’ll have to pay more to get them shown. On the other hand, if your organic marketing approach is solid and you’re already engaging well with your audience, Facebook will generally reward you with a lower cost per ad.

So, organic marketing and paid advertising go hand in hand, with organic marketing providing a solid base for paid advertising success.


Organic marketing best practice

While your focus should be on fostering engagement and conversations, there are a few practices you can follow to increase your reach and conversions online.

Consistent posting – regularly add new content to your website (a blog post per month) and look at posting at least 3 times a week on social media (one post a day is best).

Easy navigation – ensure your website is easy to navigate to increase conversions. Look at your site through the eyes of a customer and identify potential barriers to purchase.

Identify engaging content – use Facebook insights and Google Analytics to see what content is resonating the most with customers so you can repeat this success.

Review audience behaviour – use Google Analytics to identify the content getting the most traffic on your site and see what might be behind lower than expected conversions.


Not all social channels are the same

There is an inherent difference between the major social channels. You might think they are all the same and require the same approach but that’s not the case. In fact, this understanding is the key to getting the most out of your organic marketing strategy.

Social media sites, like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube are a place to publish, share and search for content. The focus of these sites is on content and searchability, rather than conversation and connection.

On the other hand, sites like Facebook. Twitter and LinkedIn place a premium on conversations and connection. While you can search for relevant content, the focus on social networking sites is more about building community.

It’s vital that you treat each social channel differently, else it just looks like you’re cross-posting. This can lead to your audience believing that you’re not really engaging with them and undermine your organic marketing strategy.


Your offer is key

When it comes to organic marketing vs paid advertising, your offer is key. Whichever method you choose, you’ll only get interest and traction if your offer is powerful for your audience. This is why your copy (text) could be amazing and your visuals great, but if your offer is not irresistible, you still won’t get any takers. You need to tap into what your audience cares about.

Take an example of someone selling a $80 pair of children’s shoes. While the quality and design justifies the price, you still need your audience to see the value in parting with $80 for an item that a child will quickly outgrow.

So, instead of focusing on quality and design, think about other things your audience will care about. The fact they can be handed down; that they are easy to clean; that they stretch and will fit for longer. It’s crucial that your offer taps into what your audience truly cares about.


Building an audience from scratch

So, how do you build an audience to get the most from organic marketing and paid advertising? Start by leveraging other pages and audiences in your niche or industry. Comment on posts and be active and useful in the community to begin building a profile.

The same goes for groups. Again, show people that you know what you are talking about and that you care about helping to solve their problems. Where allowed, share links and offers in larger groups and on bigger pages to start getting attention and traction.

It’s also important to start building your email list as soon as possible. Create a 5 day challenge, sharing an important tip or tutorial each day to help your audience find a solution to their problem. You can also create a 5 day content cycle on Facebook, where you share a post, tip or link on a topic over 5 consecutive days, to build engagement and grow your audience.


The verdict

When it comes to organic marketing vs paid advertising, both approaches play an important role. Organic marketing will always be the cornerstone of marketing, helping you build a solid foundation of connection, community and conversation. Paid advertising builds on your organic marketing, giving you a boost when you need to amplify your content and reach more people.

It’s crucial that you put time and energy into building an effective organic marketing strategy first, so you can get the most from your paid advertising investment.

Many thanks again to Jo Murphy from The Ad Nomad for sharing these incredible insights. Just so you know, she’s a regular in our Organic Digital Marketing group so make sure you join to soak up more of her knowledge!

Are you still wondering about organic marketing vs paid advertising?

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