Most businesses lump marketing into one big bucket. But it really falls into two categories: paid and organic. While these two can and do work in tandem, it’s important to understand their differences in order to leverage their strengths to the fullest.

To help you do just that, we’ve provided a simple breakdown of both paid and organic marketing as well as some great ideas for how you can effectively use them to drive your business’s marketing strategy.


Organic marketing 101

Natural – Authentic – Value-Based – Over-Time

Organic marketing is best used to develop brand voice, enable authentic interactions with customers, educate and convert blog readers, and drive traffic to landing pages, your website, and other online assets. You may have also heard it by another name: inbound marketing. Basically, it sits at the top or “awareness” stage of your funnel.

People find your business through blogs, search engines, and social media. These all work together as part of your organic marketing cycle. Here’s an example of this in action:

  • Every month, you publish a variety of SEO-optimized blog posts for your website that are closely aligned to what your customers care about, your products and services, your business day-to-day, and even the broader industry in which your business operates.

  • You then share those posts on social media – tagging influencers and brands where appropriate – and also use this content in weekly or monthly newsletter to subscribers.

  • When that’s all said and done, you analyze organic traffic to see which posts are 1)  driving the most traffic and 2) being found organically. These metrics help you identify which blog posts are either the most effective at driving sales and leads or cornerstone content that drives traffic to your site without any additional marketing support.

As you can see by the example above, organic marketing tactics are natural, authentic, and value-based. The benefits that businesses reap from these tactics are cultivated over longer periods of time, ultimately helping you build a brand that customers want to visit regularly. And although you’re doing less “pushing” with organic marketing, when done right you can still generate a steady stream of loyal traffic. Remember, this is about building high-value brand equity and industry authority with your customers. You’re not just attempting to drive sales here; you’re working hard to engage and educate your target audiences.  

With organic marketing, actions are much more intentional and typically focused on things like:

  • Educating customers

  • Optimizing blog content and pages for SEO
    (Which can
    boost traffic by 571 percent when done right!)

  • Moving the needle on high-level company goals

  • Driving authority in your niche or industry

  • Using targeted inbound/outbound linking strategies

  • Building a long-lasting brand


To understand the success of your efforts, you will want to track the following:

  • Traffic: This measures which blog posts are driving the most traffic to your site and/or to specific landing pages (depending on the nature of the blog post).

  • Organic Traffic: This measures how well your on-page SEO is working.

  • Leads or Sales:  This measures how many leads or sales are being driven directly by blog posts and/or on-page SEO efforts.

  • Formats: This measures which formats (blog, social media, email, etc.) drive the highest amount and/or highest-converting traffic to your site or landing pages.



Paid marketing 101

Pushed – Artificial – Quick Results

Paid marketing, on the other hand, allows business to target, reach, engage, and convert their audiences quickly and directly. Instead of waiting – or hoping – for someone to find your blog post in organic search or on social, paid marketing has you “pushing” content – mainly in the form of ads – directly to your target audiences. As such, it’s much more sales-forward and focused on driving specific actions, like making a purchase or attending a webinar. Here’s an example of this in action:

  • You have been given new quarterly goals. In order to hit those goals, you need to ensure that your marketing campaign works effectively. That requires testing and refining 5-10 sets of ads over the course of 10 or so weeks.

  • Once the results are in and you know which ads are performing the best, you dedicate the last two weeks of the quarter to putting money behind those top-performing ads.

  • At the end of the quarter, you review campaign data to determine key success metrics: total amount spent, ROAS (return on ad spend), and so on.

As you can see, paid marketing is most effective in driving quick results or a hard sell. 

Each paid ad will likely point to a product page, a specific landing page, or something that has the potential to drive financial results. As paid marketing would suggest by its name alone, you’re spending money on ads to drive specific actions. You need to determine ROAS beyond vanity metrics alone (like engagement or total leads). Say you drove five leads but spent $5,000 on your paid campaign. Your ROAS would be $1,000 per lead, which is a bit steep (depending on your industry). In this case, you’d want to adjust your strategy to avoid wasting money.

With paid marketing, your tactics must be design to drive specific actions like:

  • Achieving solid ROI and ROAS

  • Driving valuable impressions

  • Obtaining quantifiable results

  • Hitting specific sales goals

  • Optimizing ads in real-time to achieve maximum effectiveness

  • Testing campaigns to identify what works to drive campaign goals

To understand the success of your paid marketing efforts, you will want to track:

  • Conversion Rates:  This measures the traffic driven by ads and, of that traffic, what percentage has successfully encouraged (converted) customers into doing your desired action.

  • Ad Engagement: This measures what optimizable components of an ad (image, text, call-to-action) have the highest probability of encouraging consumers to click.  

  • Platforms:  This measures which platforms drive the most leads and the highest converting leads.

  • Ad Types: This measures which ad types (boosts, retargeting, look-alike audience ads, etc.) drive the highest overall conversion rates.


Where paid and organic fit in your marketing strategy

Paid and organic marketing complement each other well. You may have even noticed that there are some areas of overlap between the two, as both can be used to drive engagement, acquisition, and conversion – just in their own unique ways.

Not all businesses will have the need or even the budgetary resources to deploy paid marketing campaigns. However, every business needs to embrace organic marketing. It’s not an option. Here’s why. A marketing strategy built only on paid is shallow; it won’t help you to build an authentic connection with your customers. If all they see are ads – with no educational content, informational emails, or even engaging social media posts to complement those ads – you lose the mindshare of your customers in two ways:

  1. You lose out creating an emotional connection with your customers, which has become the number one driver of positive brand experience today.

  2. You give consumers fewer ways to connect with your brand. After all, consumers are 131 percent more likely to buy after consuming early-stage educational content.

As you build out your marketing strategy, it’s important to consider how you can best address all of your business goals through a combination of organic and paid marketing tactics. Some goals will lend themselves to one or the other. Other goals may require a combination of the two working hand-in-hand. Either way, both types of marketing will help you achieve your business goals in with impact and efficiency.

When both sides of marketing are feeding your funnel successfully, you know you’ve found the perfect balance. Now, all you have to do is test and fine-tune along the way.

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time freelance writer and content marketing consultant. You can find her work on more than 500 websites worldwide, including Virgin, Forbes, Business Insider, MarTech, and more. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn.