A travel marketer’s guide to organic vs. paid search


Organic search rankings take longer to build, but last longer.

New research sheds some light on the effectiveness of organic versus paid search.  But there are good reasons to use both.

Search engine optimization has become a key weapon in every travel & leisure marketer’s marketing arsenal.

But  many travel marketers are asking the same questions: “What are benefits of paid versus organic search? And what’s more effective?”

There are at least 4 reasons to consider organic search:

  1. If you’ve got the time and staff hours to create quality content, you don’t pay extra for your search rankings.
  2. Organic listings generate more click-throughs because they offer unbiased information.
  3. Organic results tend to last longer. Your rankings can last for weeks or months.
  4. Organic search can offer a better ROI because of the limited expenses associated with it.

There are at least 5 major benefits of paid search:

  1. The search engines don’t charge you a fee to place or run your ad.  So you only pay for users who click through on your ad.
  2. Pay per click ads can level the playing field for small businesses because your ad can run alongside a much bigger brands’.
  3. You can set up and run a pay-per-click campaign in a few days. By comparison, it can take months to raise your organic search rankings.
  4. Advanced metrics allow you to alter your campaign in real-time to respond to either good or bad performing ads.
  5. Pay-per-click campaigns utilize geo-targeting, effective keyword research and demographic site selection allow you to target your viewing audience much more precisely.

User experience research firm User Centricrecently released a study that sheds new light on the effectiveness of organic versus paid search:

  • Organic search results were viewed 100% of the time.
  • Participants spent an average of 14.7 seconds on Google
  • They spent an average of 10.7 seconds looking at organic search results on Bing.

But when it came to paid search ads, fewer people looked at them:

  • 91% looked at center paid search ads for Google, and 90% looked at center ads on Bing.
  • Only 28% looked at right-side ads on Google, and  21% looked at right-side ads on Bing.
  • Only 17% looked at upper left side ads on Google, while 18% looked at them on Bing.
  • Users spent less than a second look at center paid search ads for both Google and Bing.

Hitwise’s latest numbers also shed some light on success rates:

  • Google may do more searches, but Bing’s success rate is 16% higher.
  • 81% of all Bing and Yahoo searches resulted in a click.
  • 66% of Google searches resulted in a search.

When travel & leisure marketers should use paid versus organic search:

  • If you’ve got the time and staff to write quality, relevant content for your blog and social sites, organic search works great.
  • If you’ve got to deliver results immediately, and can invest the time to test and adjust paid search may be your best bet.
  • Bottom Line:  organic search takes a lot of time and effort to build, but lasts longer.
  • Paid search has more hard costs associated with it, but you can get it up and running faster and it can deliver a quicker ROI.

How are you using search?

What kinds of results are you getting?  What have you learned? Talk to us.


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