Organic vs Paid Search: Which Gets the Most Clicks?
April 11, 2023

Organic vs. Paid Search: Which Gets the Most Clicks?

Businesses hoping to optimize their digital marketing efforts often look to two major strategies: organic SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 

Is one better than the other? While both have advantages, it helps to know how these two strategies differ if you want to maximize your marketing spend. 

Most importantly, before someone can convert, they first need to click through to your site. So, is there a difference between organic vs. paid search clicks, and how should this impact your marketing efforts moving forward? 

The CTR of Organic Search Results

Anyone who’s worked in SEO understands the importance of being “first” in Google SERPs. 

After all, the higher you rank, the more traffic your website stands to gain.

Despite the differences between organic vs. paid search, one thing remains clear: When it comes to driving long-term traffic to your website and gaining a competitive edge in Google Search, organic campaigns overwhelmingly come out on top. 

In fact, a recent study by found that the top position in Google Search receives an average CTR of 27.6%.

When looking at the second and third positions, the drop-off is fairly steady, with the number-two spot receiving a CTR of 15.8% and the third position receiving 11%.

As you would expect, the CTR disparity between positions continues to grow as you move further down the results.

Searchers are almost trained to expect the top results to be the most credible and relevant to their searches, and if they don’t see what they’re looking for, they might instead enter a different query and start over. 

However, believe it or not, people do venture below the top few results, and with recent Google innovations, you might expect more clicks from these positions than in years past. More on this in a second. 

How Do Branded Terms Affect Organic Search CTRs?

The same recurring theme appears when looking at the above CTR data for branded search terms and homepages: Users overwhelmingly prefer to click on the top three results, but with a much higher disparity. 

The top result receives 60.4% of clicks, while results two and three receive 21.5% of clicks and 14.2% of clicks, respectively.  

This makes logical sense, as these types of searches are usually navigational, meaning the searchers are trying to find a specific brand URL or website from the very start. 

This data means targeting branded terms in both organic search and PPC campaigns is even more important. The last thing you need is a competitor outranking you for your own brand in search. 

There’s Still Value in Other Organic Search Positions

The above numbers might suggest that the lower positions of Google Search results aren’t all that worthwhile. 

That’s not quite accurate, as lower positions can still be valuable, mostly thanks to the recent Google search continuous scroll desktop update

This latest update does away with the traditional paginated results we’ve all come to know. 

Rather than clicking to page two and beyond for results outside the top 10, users can view these results in one continuous scroll. This has huge implications for the CTRs of these lower results. 

For instance, since the rollout of continuous search to mobile devices in October 2021 and desktop users in December 2022, it’s become clear Google continuous scroll has impacted organic traffic. In fact, one study found the collective CTR after the sixth position has doubled from 2% to 4%.

While those may sound like small numbers, double the clicks can mean tons of new revenue for those businesses. 

It has always been the case that for every position a link raises in the SERPs, the more traffic it stands to gain. 

With the CTR doubling for the lower spots in the top 10 since the continuous scroll rollout, however, climbing that SERP ladder looks to be more profitable than ever.

This means that now more than ever, you should be doing everything you can to optimize your website and content for SEO

This means taking a good look at your content marketing strategy and ensuring your web content is engaging and relevant to your target audience. 

Likewise, this means being smart about your link building strategy so you can boost your site’s authority. While these are just a few of the basics, they’ll go a long way toward boosting your brand’s online visibility. 

Paid Search Results and CTR 

Every second, thousands of people are searching Google for information about products, news, services, and much more.

Even if a majority of searchers prefer clicking on organic results, that still leaves a sizable portion who will click on ads that feel relevant to their interests and search intent. 

When debating organic vs. paid search, these PPC benefits stand out:

  • PPC campaigns provide virtually immediate visibility, while organic campaigns can take months. 
  • PPC ads appear above the organic search results. It’s hard to understate the importance of this visibility.
  • PPC campaigns can be tailored for precisely targeted populations. Target your ads based on age and region, interests and hobbies, and even details as granular as marital status.
  • PPC provides an opportunity for real-time A/B testing. Fine-tune what copy, campaigns, and demographic targeting works for your company and what doesn’t.

With that in mind, CTRs for ads can vary, especially given the target keywords, how relevant your ads are to searchers, and even your industry. 

Top PPC CTRs by Industry

Looking at the top clickthrough rates by industry, the highest CTRs were for paid searches related to Arts & Entertainment (11.43%), Travel (9.19%), and Sports & Recreation (8.82%).  

As a digital marketing agency, we work with brands in a wide variety of industries beyond these three, including fashion, jewelry, B2B, and more. 

Given we work with a variety of clients, all with different marketing budgets and concerns, the above data helps us devise a strategy that works for them, with tools and methodologies to identify unique revenue opportunities along the way. 

Industry is just one factor that can affect PPC CTRs, however. Demographics play a large role as well. 

Paid Search and Demographics

While CTRs vary by search position and industry, they also vary based on demographics, and it helps to know who is clicking ads when planning your campaign or deciding your budget. 

For starters, age is a factor worth considering, as Gen Z consumers, though they wield significant financial clout, aren’t inherently impulsive with their buying habits. 

Businesses hoping to capture Gen Z clicks first have to earn their trust, and paid ad content has to be transparent and authentic above all else. 

As with any target demographic, brands hoping to connect with younger audiences have to be mindful of how intrusive their marketing efforts may appear. 

In a report titled “Ad Blockers and Advocacy: Why Gen Z is Blocking Paid Ads in Favor of Real Voices,” the research firm Bulbshare found that 75% of Gen Z consumers do their best to avoid ads altogether, with 99% of Gen Z-ers ready to hit the Skip button, and 63% opting for ad blockers whenever possible. 

How do you overcome this? It starts by understanding your searcher’s intent and targeting your ad to thoughtfully answer their query or provide a clear solution related to their search. 

This involves a ton of experimentation and A/B testing, not to mention the technical know-how to keep your PPC campaign on budget. We’ve mastered it, and are happy to help answer your questions or help take your PPC campaign to the next level.

Organic vs. Paid Search: Which Is Right for You?

With all of this in mind, deciding between organic vs. paid search can be difficult. 

On the one hand, paid provides instant visibility and is proven to generate clicks. However, it’s costly, and once you pull the plug on the campaign, your ad disappears. 

Meanwhile, SEO can take time, and it seems that most of the value is found in the top few organic search results. With that in mind, the continuous scroll update has benefited the CTR of those lower results and could signal a shift in search engine usage in the future. 

The answer: Invest in both. 

Intelligent SEO and PPC strategies can help get your brand in front of the right people at the right time while also cementing your brand’s dominance in the top results in SERPs. With both paid and organic working together, you can help achieve your brand’s short- and long-term revenue goals. 

Increase Your Organic Search Traffic with VELOX Media

You don’t have to navigate the organic vs. paid search process alone. The best way to climb the ranks of the SERPs is by partnering with VELOX Media, an award-winning digital marketing agency.

As a Google Premier Partner with years of experience in SEO and PPC across a variety of competitive industries, we can provide your B2B or B2C business with an ROI-focused strategy designed to help you outrank competitors faster and more sustainably. 

Reach out to VELOX to learn how we can help optimize your digital marketing efforts today.  


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