B2B Lead Generation: Organic Search vs. Pay-per-Click

You have a limited marketing budget and a team with limited capacity. So, should you focus your resources on search engine optimization or pay-per-click? Choosing the right answer can have massive gains for your B2B lead generation... but choosing the wrong one can cost you both time and money you can’t afford to waste. 

The bad news is, this is a question that does not necessarily have a simple, black-and-white answer. The good news is, with the correct information, you will be able to make an informed decision about what approach is right for your company and team. That’s where we come in. 

At Lean Labs, we know that B2B growth marketing strategies are not one-size-fits-all. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of pay-per-click and organic search so you can gain a better understanding of which approach is a fit for your current campaign.

Pay-per-Click vs. Organic Search: What are the Differences Concerning B2B Lead Generation? 

Before we get into the pros and cons of each approach, let’s explore the differences between these two approaches to traffic generation. 

The first difference is the most obvious: pay-per-click is, well, paid. To be fair, no marketing solution is entirely free. Still, pay-per-click requires a constant investment over the lifetime of your campaign, whereas taking an organic search approach relies on an upfront cost in time and resources but doesn’t require additional cost to continue getting search results. 

Essentially, pay-per-click is buying your search engine ranking, whereas organic search relies on search engine optimization alone to achieve your desired rank in search results pages. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, which we will explore in more detail below. 

Advantages of Pay-per-Click

Ad Spend Flexibility 

Since you pay for pay-per-click, you guessed it, by click, you can decide to back off certain months and push more funding into the campaign during others. Since the cost is continuous rather than upfront, you can “pull the plug” on an effort at any time. 

Click-Through Rate (CTR) Data

With modern data analytics tools, it’s possible to see where your traffic is coming from no matter what approach you use to drive that traffic. However, examining the CTR of a specific pay-per-click ad can give you targeted data on the effectiveness of that particular effort.

Testing a Landing Page 

Using pay-per-click is also a great way to test the conversion rate of a new landing page on your website. Instead of waiting for organic leads to find the page slowly, you can allocate a set amount of funds to drive leads to that page through pay-per-click. This method will allow you to see the conversion rate of that landing page quickly, so you know if you need to adjust it before pursuing more traffic. 

Advantages of Organic Search 

One-Time Upfront Cost 

As we mentioned above, pay-per-click will cost money the entire time you use it. When investing in organic search, however, you pay someone to create the content upfront (or invest the time and resources to develop that content in-house), and that’s it. The content will continue to drive traffic, but you are done paying for it.

Compounding Results

Not only will the content continue to drive traffic as long as it is up, but if you have produced high-quality, valuable content to your target market, that traffic will build organically over time. Blogs or other resources in your industry may link to your article, or leads may share your content on their social media. The more attention your content gets, the higher you will rank in search results, and the cycle will continue.

Higher Credibility 

Consumers are skeptical. Think about it: as soon as you see the word “ad” on something, you trust that source just a little less, don’t you? In short, if you’re using pay-per-click, your leads know you’re buying your placement in their search results. That makes you less trustworthy than an article that has made it to page one organically. 

Disadvantages of Pay-per-Click

Constant Cost

This is essentially the first advantage we listed under pay-per-click, just examined through a different lens. Yes, you have flexibility in ad spending with this approach, but that is only because of the ongoing cost. 

Increasing Cost 

Not only is the cost constant, but in all likelihood, your pay-per-click campaign is going to get more expensive over time. Why? Because there are always new companies joining the market. As the market becomes more crowded, there will be bidding wars for traffic, meaning the cost per click will go up. 

Temporary Results 

The only reason you are getting traffic from a pay-per-click campaign is because of the search results positioning for which you are paying. As soon as you turn off those ads, you turn off all your traffic from that source. If pay-per-click is your primary source of website traffic, it could spell trouble down the road.

Disadvantages of Organic Search 

Slower Speed 

There’s no way around it; creating content takes time, as does building up your reputation as a trustworthy, valuable source in your industry. Depending on how competitive your target keywords are, you may not even start in the top three search results pages. The long-term payoffs might be worth it, but organic search may not produce the results you are looking for in the short term. 

Regular Upkeep 

While it’s true that there is no ongoing cost per click for an organic search approach, it does still require investment over time. You and your team will need to keep an eye on how your content is performing, possibly updating it over time to ensure it keeps up with the marketplace, the search engine’s algorithm, and users’ current search habits. 

Requires Specialized Training 

The last bullet point dovetails neatly into this one. To get results using organic search, you will need to work with a team trained in search engine optimization (SEO). If you don’t have those experts in-house, this may require partnering with an outside team.

Organic Search vs. Pay-per-Click: Which is Best For Your B2B Lead Generation?

There is no simple right or wrong answer to this question. For many companies looking for a quick turnaround and flexible cost, pay-per-click may be an option worth exploring. But if you are looking for a solution that has more longevity, more credibility, and a traffic-related gift that keeps on giving, perhaps organic search is the path for you. If you are interested in learning more about organic search and its benefits in B2B lead generation, check out the Lean Labs Lead Generation Resource Pack.

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