What is Organic Search (Paid vs Organic Search Results)

This guide explains organic search and the difference between paid search and organic search results with examples.

You'll learn what is organic search and see examples of organic search results that appear on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. You'll also get an explanation of the difference between organic search and paid search traffic so you'll know how each method applies to your website for search engine optimization (SEO).

By the end of this page, you will understand the definition and basic concepts of what organic search means for SEO and digital marketing.

What is Organic Search (Paid vs Organic Search Results)

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What is Organic Search?

Organic search results are the unpaid search results that appear on a search engine results page (SERP). These results are based on factors such as relevance to the user's query, inbound links, search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, and domain authority. Organic search results do not contain ads and differ from paid search results, also known as pay-per-click advertising. Advertisers cannot buy organic search results.

In contrast, strategies to follow SEO best practices -- sometimes called ethical SEO or organic SEO -- are designed to improve a website's position in the SERPs without the site owner paying or resorting to unscrupulous practices. These unsavory practices can include techniques such as keyword stuffing, which is also called unethical SEO.

The placement of a link on a search results page is important. Depending on the search term, organic search results are often only a small portion of the page. Because search ads are at the top of the results page, on a device with a relatively small screen - such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone - the visible organic search results may have only one or two items.

Organic search is the unpaid search results that appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). Organic search results exclude paid ads, which means they are the free listings in search engines that appear because they are relevant to a user's query.

Why is Organic Search Important?

While paid advertising provides instant results, organic search strategies can provide long-term results. Organic search traffic is the number one source of visits for most sites and can be a crucial part of the buyer funnel, leading to higher conversions and ROI return on investment.

The following are attributes that emphasize the importance of organic search results:

Provides a competitive advantage. An organic search strategy promotes a company's visibility for targeted keywords. If pursued aggressively, organic search traffic can help outperform competitors on search engines without having to invest in paid or digital marketing strategies. For example, a business that improves its organic search traffic will rank higher in the search engines, which ultimately pushes competitors down the list.

Cost-effectiveness and scalability. Organic search offers businesses a cost advantage. While pay-per-click ads guarantee that a company's website will be seen by potential visitors, over time, these ads can be prohibitively expensive. Organic traffic is free, especially if a company invests in effective SEO techniques. An organic strategy is also more scalable because it doesn't require an upfront investment or high maintenance budget. Businesses can continue to grow without having to continually increase their marketing spending.

Provides long-term results. Organic search strategies optimize a company's presence on search engines over a longer period of time because they don't rely on cost-per-click or monthly spending.

Highly targeted. If a business invests in effective SEO strategies, its website will likely appear when consumers are actively searching for keywords closely related to the company's industry. Websites that rank for relevant keywords receive regular targeted traffic, which helps create new leads and long-term customers.

Organic Search vs Paid Search

Organic search is different from paid search traffic because the results come from natural search engine rankings based on on-page SEO and off-page SEO signals. You cannot pay to increase a website's visibility in organic results. These rankings are determined algorithmically by search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

However, you can use paid search methods to get your website ranked above the organic search results. This marketing strategy is known as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. You will pay a cost for every click on the ads on your site.

Organic Search Results Examples

When a user performs a search on Google or another search engine, the search results page is displayed. While a SERP consists primarily of paid and organic search results, it can also include a variety of features, such as shopping ads, featured snippets, video results, knowledge graphs, and top stories. SERP results vary among users, even if they use the same query or search engine because they are customized based on each user's search intent, interests, and a multitude of ranking factors. Google calls these search results features or search features and is constantly testing and improving them to provide a user-friendly experience for website visitors.

Below are some of the most common SERP features that can be found on Google.

Featured snippets. These are displayed above the normal organic traffic results. A portion of text or video from a top-ranking website is highlighted to provide users with a direct and brief answer to their query.

Video carousel. A video carousel displays videos related to the user's search query. It can link to a video hosting platform, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or a page with embedded videos. The entire video carousel occupies an organic position. 

Top Stories. This is a carousel of newly published stories or breaking news that users are currently interested in. It usually appears in organic search results for news topics. Google also highlights the date the article or story was published and its author.

People also ask (PAA). These are automatically generated questions from Google that users commonly search for and can be linked to a user's query. PAA boxes are linked to answers with a short snippet that users can click and expand to read. This gives users an answer to their initial query without having to click on other results.

Image carousel. Also known as image packs, these appear when Google feels that the visual content or images provide a more complete results page. An image carousel presents images in a row or block of related images; once clicked, users are directed to the Images search tab, from which they can access the website that hosts the image.

What is Organic Search (Paid vs Organic Search Results)

Organic Search Results - Summary

This was an overview of what is organic search and the difference between paid search and organic search results with examples, and I hope you enjoyed it.

As you've discovered, organic search refers to the unpaid search results that are displayed in the SERPs of search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Organic search results are beneficial for SEO because they are free listings that exclude paid ads and appear in different ways (as the examples have shown) that are most relevant to the user's search query.

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