SEO

Organic vs. Paid Search: (66 Astonishing) Statistics for 2021

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July of 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Let’s just come out and say it: this is not the first “search statistics” article ever written.

But a quick glance through the top results doesn’t give you what you need.

You’ll see posts covering organic search statistics, resources covering PPC statistics, or a walk-through for how to succeed with an SEO strategy.

But none of these articles will give you an understanding of both organic and paid search, with up-to-date numbers and the actionable ways you can use those statistics to inform your business strategy.

This article will do just that.

We’ll cover it all in the following sections.

Organic search statistics

1. Google processes approximately 70,000 search queries every second.

2. 53% of website traffic comes from organic search.

3. Almost a third of consumers search for local businesses on a daily basis.

4. Over 99% of all searchers click on one of the links in the first SERP.

5. Organic search drives over ten times more website traffic than organic social media.

6. The first result on a Google SERP has a 28.5% click-through rate. By the time you get to the 10th result, the CTR has fallen to 2.5%.

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7. Searches with four or more words have a better chance of giving your business clicks —  especially if you’re not in the top position. Four-word keywords in the fifth position, for example, have a CTR over twice as high as one-word keywords.

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8. 95.88% of Google searches are four words or more.

9. Google owns 96% of all mobile searches and 92% of all desktop searches.

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10. Bing, as the second-largest search engine in the US, controls 3.9% of overall searches and 1.4% of mobile searches.

11. 49% of marketers believe organic search is the most profitable channel they use.

12. 67% of content marketers say SEO is their most efficient tactic.

13. 73% of content marketing teams use an SEO tool.

14. 49% of shoppers use Google to discover a new item or product.

15. 27% of the global online population uses voice search.

16. It’s estimated that 75% of households will own a smart speaker by 2025.

17. After listening to music, search is the #2 and #3-most frequent use case for smart speakers in a typical week.

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18. Google’s answer box is triggered by 16-20% of all searches.

19. A 3-second increase in “time on site” correlates with ranking one position higher.

20. The top-ranking website has an average of 3.8 times more backlinks than positions #2-#10.

21. The average Google first page result contains 1,447 words.

22. Rich results have a 58% CTR, compared to 41% for non-rich results.

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Mobile organic search

23. 2017 was the first year where the majority of searches came through a mobile device.

24. 83% of US shoppers search online before going into a store.

25. Mobile devices account for 56% of organic search engine visits.

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26. 72.6% of internet users are expected to access the web solely via smartphone by 2025.

27. 53% of shoppers would search for deals on their mobile devices before speaking with an employee.

28. The average web page takes 87.84% longer to load on mobile than desktop.

29. 45% of consumers abandon any piece of content displaying poorly on the device they are using.

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Organic search case study

Backlinko.

Normally, we’d choose a lesser-known business case study to show how businesses just like yours can achieve organic search results.

But the fact of the matter is that Brian Dean’s case study covering on-page site optimization offers actionable takeaways for any business, and it’s a powerful example of how search engine optimization can drive serious traffic.

He’d written a post (an SEO checklist), but it had failed to perform. To improve it, he focused on two main changes.

Address user intent:

Brian was writing a checklist post, but hadn’t formatted his content to match the title.

After all, if he was focused on people who wanted a checklist, why was his post called [Case Study]?

Google is extremely savvy when it comes to matching user intent to relevant content, so giving your prospective readers exactly what they’re looking for is key.

He also changed the content to be more inclusive, because people searching for a checklist are unlikely to be advanced SEO experts.

Optimize for user experience:

  • He added a table of contents (to help readers navigate his monster post).
  • He added video (which has shown to increase time-on-page).
  • He shortened his short introduction, as he knew long introductions increase bounce rates.
  • He increased the number of examples and added subheadings (to better organize the content on the page).

These two strategies helped Backlinko increase the traffic of that post by 652%.

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Related reading

For a complete guide to SEO, check out our “What is SEO Guide” For a guide to ecommerce search engine optimization, check out “E-Commerce SEO Best Practices.”

30. 27% of website traffic comes from paid search.

31. In 2020, Google’s ad revenue amounted to $146.92 billion US dollars.

32. Advertising accounts for about 81% of Google’s total revenue.

33. Advertisers are predicted to spend $99.22 billion on search annually by 2024.

34. The average CTR for Google Shopping Ads is 0.86%.

35. The average CTR for Bing Shopping Ads is 1.25%.

36. The average return on ad spend (ROAS) for branded ads is twice as high as non-brand in most industries.

37. People encounter approximately 6,000 to 10,000 ads every day, on average.

38. The Google Display Network reaches over 90% of internet users.

39. Google Ads display on over 650,000 apps.

40. 500+ hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

41. The average CTR for Facebook ads is 0.89%.

42. 66% of CMOs expect to increase spend on paid search in 2021.

43. The average click-through-rate is 3.17%.

44. The highest CTR is found in the dating industry, at 6.05%.

45. The lowest CTR is found in the technology industry, at 2.09%.

46. The average cost-per-click is $2.69.

47. The highest CPC is found in the legal industry, at $6.75.

48. The lowest CPC is found in the e-commerce industry, at $1.16.

49. The average conversion rate on the Google Ads search network is 4.4%.

50. The highest conversion rates are found in the vehicle industry at 7.98%.

51. The lowest conversion rates are found in the apparel industry, at 2.77%.

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52. The average cost per conversion is $56.11 on the Google Ads search network and $90.80 on the display network.

53. The highest cost per conversion is in the computers and electronics industry at $101.40.

54. The lowest cost per conversion comes from the auto industry, at $26.17.

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Mobile statistics:

55. 71.5% of clicks on Google search ads are from mobile. Only 27.4% of clicks from Microsoft Advertising come from mobile devices.

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56. Online shoppers using tablets have the best conversion rate at 3.32%. Desktop (2.1%) and smartphone (2.01%) shoppers convert at similar rates.

57. The highest CTR for mobile search ads was in the travel industry at 5.36%.

58. The lowest CTR for mobile search ads was in the Internet and Telecom industry at 3.06%.

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Organic vs. paid search statistics

Arguments for organic search

59. Organic search drives 53% of website traffic, while paid search drives only 27%.

60. B2B and technology companies generate twice as much revenue from organic search than any other channel.

61. Roughly 25.8% of internet users use ad blockers.

62. 11% of search ad clicks are fraudulent or invalid.

Arguments for paid search

63. 74% of brands say that PPC ads are a huge driver for their business.

64. Even with a healthy SEO budget, it’s extremely rare to see organic traffic increases within the first three months of optimization.

65. Out of people who click search ads, 75% say the ads make it easier to find what they’re looking for.

66. 93% of marketers are investing in search ads.

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Organic vs. paid search case study

It can be extremely difficult to find good paid search case studies, as most of them are built by PPC agencies who want to guard their strategies carefully, or by Google themselves.

And their case studies come from Fiat, Intel, and the Washington Wizards.

None of whom are particularly relevant to you and your small business.

So we dug a little deeper. We (along with less than .5% of other searchers) headed to the fourth page of Google’s search results.

Gasp!

We found GrowDigital.

GrowDigital is (as you might expect) a PPC agency, but their reporting is legitimate and valuable.

Their campaign revolved around whether your business should bid on your own brand name.

This question is at the heart of the organic vs paid search conversation.

Here are their findings:

    • Bidding on your brand name increases the total real estate you control on the SERP.

For example, if you Google “Unbounce,” their paid search ad (plus their organic result) means they control everything above the fold. This leaves no room for any “Unbounce Competitor” or “Unbounce vs. [Competitor]” pages to rank above the fold.

    • Bidding on your brand name is extremely cheap (as your quality score is going to be through the roof).

Your competitors may also be bidding on your brand name (usually with a “Why [Your Brand] Isn’t as Good as [Their Brand]”-type page).

But your search ad will appear above theirs, and you’ll get a cheaper PPC than them, simply because of the quality score.

The results

GrowDigital tested removing brand search ads for a client over a two-week period: one week without brand ads, and one week with them.

“During the one-week period before shutting it down, the campaign achieved $1,268 daily revenue, while organic searches with the brand name included resulted in a magnificent result of $241 daily.

During week two, after shutting the brand campaigns down in Google Adwords, organic results improved to a stellar daily revenue of $757. This suggests that paid ads indeed cannibalized the results of organic results.

But once we looked at the whole picture, we realized the ugly truth: this huge improvement still could not fully replace the paid channel’s performance.

Simply put, […] Without brand ads in Adwords, a loss of $750 daily [meant] 50% less revenue [for the client.]”

(Source)

This is the value of search ads, even if you’re already ranking organically.

Organic and paid search relevant tools

  • Ahrefs, SEMRush, or Moz: These tools all offer a powerful insight into what keywords you should target for both SEO strategy and paid search strategy.
  • SpyFu: SpyFu gives you insight into the strategies of your competitors, both for PPC and SEO.
  • Google Trends & Keyword Planner: These free tools are essential for every organic search optimizer as well as every PPC expert. They give you insight into the competition, cost, and likelihood your brand will be able to rank (paid or organic) for each search term you’re going after.
  • Unbounce, Instapage, or Wishpond: If you run paid search ads, you need to send the people who click to a landing page (otherwise, you’ll be wasting your ad budget). These three landing page providers make it easy.
  • Optimizely, VWO, or Google Optimize: Whether you’re optimizing your website for organic traffic or paid, a good A/B testing tool is crucial.
  • Woopra or Mixpanel: Without analytics, every marketing and advertising strategy is a stab in the dark. These two tools are the industry leaders when it comes to buyer path tracking — an essential part of determining your organic or paid search strategy’s success and ROI.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these organic and paid search statistics have given you a better understanding of the sheer power of search.

We hope, as well, that you now realize that neither organic nor paid search is inherently superior.

While PPC does have a cost, your business should be trying and testing both (with organic search optimization, you’ll have to test for at least six months, by the way).

Try them both, and see what works for you and your business.

And if you have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to ask the experts.

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