Paid Versus Organic Marketing and How to Decide on a Budget

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There are two sides to every coin, and this time, it’s the endless debate on paid marketing versus organic marketing.

The core difference between organic versus paid is goal alignment. To build trust, an audience and engagement, organic always wins. To get conversions and retention in place, paid is your best bet. They both run in parallel, and it’s up to the team to decide budget and resource split.

While we’ve focused on getting eyeballs, conversations, conversions and retention, the pandemic taught us one thing: Brand building is the need of the hour, and that only happens by building true loyalty. Brand builders survived the pandemic, because their customers supported them. And, if it’s evident by now — you need to build relationships and have conversations to build a stable and sturdy brand.

So, what’s the right way to handle a marketing budget? Always start with the goal in mind, and then choose methods/channels for your brand. Do this all while remembering that brand building cannot go amiss!

Here are some goals that many marketers follow:

  1. Spark conversation: This is best done on organic channels by putting out thought-provoking content while creating a space for unbiased conversation.

  2. Share core brand messages: This is best done with a healthy mix of organic and paid, because the best way to check if the audience is resonating is via organic, and a paid boost will help it spread like wildfire.

  3. Build an audience: This is best done organically, since the goal here is to build not just numbers but an engaged audience of real people.

  4. Find like-minded people: Hyper-targeting allows you to pick people who will see the ad and then follow the brand.

Related: 3 Ways to Drive More Organic Search Traffic Without Spending a Fortune

The goal always precedes the channel and method. But if the goal is not clear, the lazy way to “test” is to go the paid route — but the easiest isn’t always the best. Imagine spending on paid marketing on Instagram without uploading anything on the feed. That’s an instant turn-off for a viewer!

How marketing leaders can use the same channel for paid and organic in 2022

Both activities take place in tandem, as established above. Here are some guidelines on utilizing Google, the largest paid and organic channel, to grow your brand:

Google search (organic):

The only way to beat the algorithm is to start with SEO when it comes to organic. In the recent Google algorithm update, they emphasized the EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) of a website.

To follow in their stride, two major things marketing leaders have to think of are:

  1. Video and text content: Google understands snackable content and research-driven content; they both play a part in how Google sees your site.

  2. Mobile responsiveness: For years, Google has emphasized the importance of load time, security certificates and other things, like a ranking factor.


Within Pay Per Click on Google, technology is developing rapidly every day to help marketers. Two things to be aware of are:

  1. AI + smart bidding: This is new, but it will help maximize and push for the highest ROI possible on every ad while understanding trends and movements. This will enable marketers to leverage data to make more informed decisions.

  2. Voice search leading to paid results: You can talk to your phone, saying “What is the best charger to buy?” and Google will respond. This means you have to find the right long-tail keywords that your audience is looking for and ensure your site is mobile-friendly for this to be leveraged.

While 80% of all companies focus on Google Ads for PPC (WebFX, 2020), organic is not forgotten! The first five organic results account for 67.6% of all the clicks on the first page alone (Impact, 2020). Imagine all that traffic for free if you’re in the first five searches!

Related: Should You Use SEO or PPC Marketing?

How to budget a marketing mix between paid and organic

There is no set formula to follow. Some brands just have an inert need to skew towards paid, for example, ecommerce. However, here are some things the brand needs to keep in mind before deciding on a budget:

  1. What is my industry doing? Some industries are just more skewed towards one kind. For example, D2C is purely a paid-first play, since it relies on conversions and speed to grow a business. Organic happens as a necessity, but it’s not the prime focus.

  2. How does my funnel look? It’s important to understand how many touches it takes for a prospect to convert. For example, if you say seven, how much can be done organically, and how much is paid? Where is traction needed to get them to the next stage? Looking at your funnel will give insights into how your purchase path looks.

  3. How much time do I have? SEO will always be a long game and has proven to work with patience. Most brands start with SEO and then build on with paid on Google. This is the best way to do it, because organic allows you to not come off as “salesy,” and there are ways to beat the algorithm with hyper-optimized pillar content pages.

Related: PPC vs. SEO: What’s Best For Your Business?

As you’ve realized, there is no one right way to create a budget. Every channel has its nuances and downsides. As a marketing leader in 2022, you need to be aware of the toolkit you have, how much you can experiment with, what resources you have to make campaigns a success and much more — to be able to make the smart calls.

Marketing is like being a pilot. Every day, there’s a new update, a new and better way to do something, and a new technology that’ll enable you to get closer to your audience. What will you pick? The wise choice is never to put all your eggs in one basket!

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