Everybody loves free, right? Web traffic is no different. Why pay to be found in Google’s search results if you can be found there for free. But is it really free?

When we think of search engine results, we tend to break them out into two categories – the paid results at the top and the organic results further down. Naturally, they get simplified even more into the “paid” and “free” listings. It makes sense. The paid listings are clearly marked as an ad; the advertiser pays each time their link is clicked on. The free listings are displayed naturally based on the site’s content and the searched keyword. No money exchanges hands… but does that mean it’s free? Not quite. First, let’s look at the difference.


Paid traffic is just that, search engine traffic that you pay for. In Google, it’s called AdWords. You specify a list of keywords that you want to be found for. When someone “Googles” one of your keywords, your ad may appear. The ad is shown for free, but you are charged each time someone clicks on it. It could be 5 cents, could be fifty bucks. The cost varies based on a number of factors including the industry, your audience, web content and competition for that keyword. Factor in your time to create and maintain your AdWords account, and it is evident that this web traffic costs money – cold hard cash.

It’s easy to get your website at the top of the page if you are willing to throw enough money Google’s way. The organic results are a different story. Google, and Google alone, has the final say on where you will fall in the organic search results. They look at things like user experience, page content, site history and five million (give or take a few) other things. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any control.   There are a ton of things that you can be doing to woo the Google gods. But, they are all things that take time, effort and a great web strategy. It is an ongoing process. Is your site responsive? Is your content clear and relevant to the users? Is your site loading quickly? Have you optimized your page titles and descriptions? The list goes on and on, but that’s the point. The organic search results are a direct result of continuous hard work, hopefully no blood, and maybe a few tears. Maybe a click on your site doesn’t cost you any cash, but that doesn’t mean it’s free.

You website craves attention. It wants – no, it needs – traffic. Why have a website if nobody visits it?   Every day, there are 6,586,013,574 internet searches worldwide. That number represents billions of opportunities to be found online. Is it worth paying for those opportunities? In reality, you are paying either way. Whether it’s with money, time, elbow grease, or a dedicated web team, you have to invest in your site to get readers. You just have to determine how to invest and what combination of strategies work for you.

Perhaps a more important question; what’s the cost of not being found on google? Low visibility, less readers, and no leads. And that’s a price that nobody can afford.

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web developer / interactive marketer / bringer of infectious joy