Organic Traffic versus Paid: Using Old School Thinking Today

Chris Hawkins

Written by Chris Hawkins on Wed, Dec 18, 2013

Website TrafficFor some businesses, online advertising is essential. Pay-per-click ads can drive quality prospects in the thousands to a site yielding a healthy ROI. But if you’re relying only on PPC campaigns, you are missing out on a larger, far more essential element of your business — organic traffic.

Getting organic traffic is about having your site optimized for search with keywords, acquiring stellar backlinks and having a user-friendly website. It’s also much more than that. Think of being organic as being human because we are all in the people business.

Internet. What Internet?

Before Google, e-commerce and content marketing came into existence, I managed a large furniture store. The web was around but mostly for email; e-commerce was likely just a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye. My store advertising and marketing was traditional — newspapers, mailers, radio and TV. And while I considered these media as a means to hitting my numbers, I didn’t rely on them.

Attracting a potential customer into my store, though important, was such a small part of converting them to a paying customer. There was so much to get right, and potentially wrong, once they were in the door. I wanted their entire experience — from the moment they walked up to the front door and were greeted, until their furniture was delivered — to be so beyond their expectations that they would become a repeat customer. And in the process, tell their friends what a marvelous experience they had.  


For us, this was an organic experience, and it’s no different than thinking organically about your website. If you’re following a search engine’s recommendations such as Google’s Webmaster Guidelines then you’re building a strong organic foundation for your site now and for the future.

Most of the practices I implemented to make my store successful nearly 20 years ago can be related to good practices in the online market — practices that will provide a solid foundation for your organic rankings and for your business.

Make a Killer First Impression

A clean storefront and appealing interior designed with your visitor’s experience in mind makes a great first impression. A sales associate always greeted you when you walked in and asked questions. Furniture was polished, dusted, tagged, and arranged for prospects to “try out.” And we carried the merchandise our clientele wanted — not what corporate said they should want.

Think about your site’s storefront. What is the likely first impression? Is it designed with the user in mind? Is it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for? As good as the web will allow, can they “try out” your products or services? Are your current promotions highlighted on the home page? Do you have clear calls-to-action? What is your value proposition and is it easy to find?

Make your site so appealing to your visitors that they want to stay even after they’ve found what they’re looking for. Provide quality, compelling and relevant content — the kind of content they’ll want to share and the kind that will keep them coming back for more. 

Ask, Listen, Repeat

Yelp and other review sites weren’t around back then. We had to rely on comment cards, personal interaction and most importantly word-of-mouth. Sales associates followed up with customers after deliveries to find out about their experience. Did they have friends who might be interested in our products? Drivers handed customers comment cards to fill out after a delivery was made.

Word-of-mouth advertising is free. Are your customers talking about you on Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets? Are you giving them a reason to? And are you giving them easy ways to talk about you? Do you ask them how you’re doing? Do you ask for suggestions and ways to make their experience better? Think about how often you look at customer reviews of products or services online before making a decision.

It's all about Your Peeps

I realized early on that my success depended on the people I hired. Hire good people and let each know how their roles affect the success of the organization. Ask for feedback and ideas often. Share wins and share losses. Most importantly, share goals and results.

Who you employ, whether it’s a content marketing firm or your company’s online customer service reps, can make the difference between a great customer experience and a lousy search engine ranking. Google has penalized “bad merchants” in the past and looks set to do it again.

Happy, effective employees look for ways to improve the business because they know what success looks like to your organization, and they have a sense of ownership. Who would you rather hear feedback from about your site’s usability, your IT administrator or the person talking with customers every day?

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