There’s a great debate raging over whether organic results or paid results are better—especially as it relates to digital advertising efforts.

While it’s long been assumed that web visitors tend to avoid clicking on search “results” they know to be ads or that are sponsored, the reality is nowadays it’s getting harder to get search results that aren’t paid for in some way (or influenced by advertiser dollars) and even more difficult for consumers to discern what’s an ad versus what’s organic.

As long ago as 2005, Pew Research reported that only about 1 in 6 search engine users could “consistently distinguish between paid and unpaid search results” (and things have certainly gotten even more sophisticated since then), while a 2011 study reported on by, clearly showed a consumer preference for organic results vs. paid ones “on Google and Bing by a margin of 94 percent to 6 percent.”

While consumers still hold on to that preference, it may not be as important a distinction as it used to be.


Over the years, Google has continuously experimented with its secret sauce of search engine relevance, much of which has de-emphasized organic traffic in favor of paid results. In fact, in Q1 of 2017, Google’s showed a 53 percent increase in paid clicks—much of it at the expense of organic results.

Similarly, Facebook’s algorithms controlling what gets seen and when—whether that’s on a personal feed or a business page—has changed as well. These days, Facebook serves up what users see based primarily on the popularity of a post, not it’s chronology.  So organic business page posts don’t get nearly as many views as they used to get, even to audience members who are subscribed to a business page’s feed. Paid results, or what Facebook likes to call “boosted” posts, are what get all the attention.

As marketers and business owners, we shouldn’t be shocked by these trends. Search engine and social media platforms make their money through paid advertising, not organic results, and clearly companies—even the likes of Facebook and Google—need to make money to stay in business!


At Barrel O’Monkeyz, our vision of digital marketing success consists of a combination of organic posting plus paid advertising.

  • Organic posting ties in with inbound marketing strategies designed to turn strangers into customers and “brand fans” eager to promote a business. Businesses and marketers do this by generating excellent content that consumers want and value, and by delivering it on a routine and consistent basis through websites, blogs, and relevant social media platforms.
  • Digital advertising consists of pay-per-click ads (such as Google AdWords, where advertisers bid on the perceived value of a click and accrue costs only when the link/ad is clicked); display ads, and banner ads on various websites.
  • Retargeting advertising strategies involve serving up your targeted ads on websites through the use of cookies derived from the browsing and purchase histories of visitors to your website after they have left it. The idea is if visitors don’t make a purchase when they first visit your site, they may decide to later when they see your ad again elsewhere.

The bottom line is that your bottom line depends on not just one approach to marketing (traditional or digital), nor does it depend on one approach to search marketing (paid vs. organic). It’s a blend of these approaches, one that’s right for you brand, that can achieve the desired results.

Wait for organic results to drive your web page up the search rankings, and your product or service (or even you!) could get “old” waiting to see the kinds of returns you desire. Sure, consumers might prefer organic results to paid, but the reality is that most of the results they see these days are the results others are paying to make appear near the top of Google’s page one . . . and those are the search results and links that get clicked.

Where do you prefer to be, on Google’s page one or somewhere further down the list?

Paid placement, in concert with a strong inbound marketing strategy that yields valuable organic results, is the sweet spot for today’s online brands.


Let Barrel O’ Monkeyz provide a free assessment of your current website and/or inbound marketing strategy to help you answer the question, “Am I set-up for success?”

You can also check out Barrel O’Monkeyz white papers on a range of topics, from inbound marketing and website development, to digital marketing and design. Each white paper is full of ideas and steps you need to take to turn your ideas into reality.