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Organic Placement vs. Paid Ads

Organic Vs. Paid ads translated by a Designer

Our Digital Director Eric is the first to admit that not every technique that we use for for-profit clients is applicable to digital marketing plans for nonprofits. The question of organic placement (when searching Google results appear lower on the page below the results that have “Sponsored” over them) versus paid ads (the results with “Sponsored” over them) and where a nonprofit should invest time and budget when looking at digital marketing goals can be a difficult decision.

Search engine optimization (SEO) to achieve organic placement is like a solid foundation for digital marketing, providing brand recognition and long-term benefits, but it has the drawbacks of taking a long time to fully take effect and being subject to the ever changing Google algorithm changes. Paid ads provide immediate and consistent results, but can require a large investment, especially in peak periods for donations (ie. Year End or Day of Giving) or when promoting fundraising events.

There are many studies out there, including a Google study that is now almost 10 years old, but still valid, showing that 89% of paid search clicks are incremental, the current economic conditions demand that every business get the most out of their ad spend. The most common questions are as follows:

Paid ads show up first, doesn’t this make them more valuable?

Studies show that when plentiful and robust organic search results are present, paid ads receive fewer clicks. Why? Searchers distrust ads and have more confidence in organic content. 

Do searchers click on organic and paid ads for different reasons?

Organic search results are more valuable for those doing research and looking into reliable information on a subject, such as the background and the accomplishments and goals of a nonprofit.  Because of this, high quality organic search results generally have a higher conversion rate than paid ads.

Do searchers more often click on organic results or paid ads?

It depends on the quality of the organic content available and how close a searcher is to taking an action (ie. Making a donation or attending a fundraiser). For a solution to a problem, searchers will most often bypass ads when quality organic content exists. However, paid ads are favored when organic search results are weak.

Do organic results and paid ads work together?

In my experience, and according the study by Google, when paid ads and quality organic search results are close together, ad clicks and organic clicks are both likely to increase. This is simple psychology. When your brand is seen multiple times on a search engine results page, a searcher is more likely to perceive you as prominent in your area and therefore, more likely to click on your ads or organic results.

So, how do you design an effective and cost-efficient digital marketing campaign?

I would recommend the following strategy for campaigns designed to promote online conversions:

Keyword Analysis: Cross reference your organic and paid keywords. If you can, maintain both paid and organic presence for your top converting keywords, usually 5-20 keywords for most advertisers. Even if the clicks on the paid ads are not impressive, the presence on the page is valuable.  

Fill in the gaps: Consider purchasing ads for valuable keyword streams that do not have prominent organic rankings. Create valuable landing pages that will support conversion from paid ads and support future organic rankings. If your keywords are low traffic, consider using a grant from Google to fund paid ads.

Search Intent: Are your searchers looking for an immediate action or doing research? Are the intents different for different keywords? For immediate action keywords, paid ads can be very effective, for the research, organic listings are more valuable and promote more conversions.

Long Tailed Keywords: Many search terms are not good for paid search because of low search volume, but convert at high rates for organic listings. Be sure to do thorough keyword research to pursue these opportunities for high conversion organic listings.

There are no hard and fast rules for effective and cost efficient management of paid and organic listings. The search landscape is in constant flux, and the best strategies are built around an understanding of what your web users want and the goals of your non-profit organization. Understanding the keywords that address the objectives and services that you offer will create a profitable digital marketing campaign.