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Paid vs Free Traffic - Which Is Better?

One of the great debates of digital marketing is whether paid or free traffic is better.

I'm sure we can all agree that getting things for for free is usually better than paying for them. However, this truism is not quite so true when it comes to digital marketing.

Here's why: There's no right answer.

On one side, you have paid traffic (think Google Ads, Facebook Ads etc). Now paid traffic clearly costs money (boooo!) but the flip side of the coin is that there are a few solid advantages:

  • Paid traffic is faster. You can have a Google Ads campaign up, running and delivering you qualified leads and customers in no time at all. Creating a site and trying to rank it organically takes far more time in most normal circumstances. 
  • Paid traffic is more scalable. Let's say you spend $10 per day on Facebook Ads and make $100 back in sales. Provided you haven't already maximised the potential of the audience you're targeting, you may well be able to up your budget to $20 and make $200 in sales (and so on). Eventually you hit a point of diminishing marginal returns, and scaling doesn't always work in a linear fashion, but it is much easier to scale paid traffic than organic traffic - which tends to require investing lots of time for a model that does not scale in a linear fashion.
  • Paid traffic is often more targeted. With free traffic from organic Google searches, you are basically limited to targeting people based on what they search. You can't know anything about the person behind the screen in terms of demographics, exact location etc (this can be implied based on what keywords you're targeting, but not that precise). However, with platforms like Facebook ads it can 

However, don't be fooled into thinking paid traffic is better than organic/free traffic. There are so many great benefits of pursuing free traffic that cannot be overlooked:

  • The amount of traffic you get isn't tied to the amount of money you spend. Need I say more? What could be better than free? 
  • Organic search traffic often converts better than paid traffic. This has certainly been the case with many projects that I have worked on. Organic traffic from Google searches just seems to convert better.
  • There is often a 'compounding' effect with free/organic traffic. Just take a look at the organic traffic stats from one of my sites to see what I mean:

So which is best for your business? Ultimately, this will depend heavily on the type of business you run, and the "state" your business is in. What I mean by this is that some businesses have a surplus of time and not a lot of money to spend on marketing. This means you need to focus more on free traffic generation strategies.

On the other hand, some businesses have plenty of money to spend but are overloaded in terms of time commitment. This means you might be better suited to paid digital advertising.

Ultimately, it is better to try and do a blend of both. But my experience is that during different phases of a business' life, different types of traffic generation are more important than others.

To help you decide whether you should focus more on paid traffic or free traffic for your business, I've put together a detailed video covering the pros and cons of each approach.

Let me know what you think. And feel free to email me on info@samfrost.co.nz for more advice.

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