Organic vs Paid Content, What is the Difference?

In marketing, we use acronyms like they are pop-corn: SEM, SEO, PPC, PPI, ROI, as well as vague sounding terms like page rank, no-follow, canonical tags, metatags, and so on. If this content seems a little overwhelming for you, stick around. I will be exploring the meaning of various acronyms, abbreviations, and marketing speak each Monday on this site for a few weeks.

This post is about the difference between organic and paid content.

Organic Content

Organic content is content that you design to teach, to inform, to entertain, or to satisfy people’s curiosity. Organic content is therefore designed to have something that viewers (both readers and watchers alike) will want. Organic content can be evergreen, like this post about organic vs paid content, or newsie, like a post about Google algorithm updates.

When you are marketing your business, you want organic content to reside someplace that people will be able to access it later even if you no longer spend any money on ads for that content. I have a product review of an online marketing company on one of my sites that gets 30 or more views per day, every day. This is organic growth, driven by organic content: a blog written to inform people about both the value and risks of an online company.

Paid Content

Paid content is content that you pay for people to see. Paid content is usually designed differently from organic content. Paid content should question, convince, or pique people’s curiosity, depending on who your target is for the paid content. Since paid content is an advertisement, it rarely ever exists in a long-term format, especially with modern tracking that charges per click on an ad.

Another thing about paid content is it is designed with the sole purpose of getting people to take action. When I run ads for my clients, they focus on a known product that has a clear reason for individuals to respond to the ad. While many large brands can pay for ads to build their brand, I recommend my small business clients focus their paid content on copywriting and other sales-oriented writing and videos. This reduces the cost of the ad because it produces more rapid turnaround for the marketing.

When to Use Each

Organic content needs to be the backbone of your branding and your marketing to people who are not ready to make a decision in the buyer’s process yet. Paid content needs to be the backbone of your sales cycle because it helps you find the leads who are ready to make a purchasing decision. For example, my tax preparation clients use paid content throughout January, February, March and April to target people who need to do their taxes (almost everyone) and give them a reason to come into the client’s office that day.

Paid content is more easily trackable while organic content gives you tools for tracking larger trends in your business and industry.

I recommend that beginning businesses focus solely on organic content until they have a sense of who their customers are and how to serve them. For established businesses and experienced business owners, I recommend that they use organic content to educate and build relationships with their leads, and use paid content to convert leads into customers.