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Is Traffic from Organic Search better than PPC Traffic?

Submitted on 6/27/2008 by Max Thomas

Although not new news, I still encounter folks who question if traffic from organic search or ppc is more valuable. In general, I find that people believe that traffic from organic search results is higher quality than traffic from ppc. In fact I’ve even heard folks says things like “studies show people trust organic search results 70% more than ppc ads”. I have yet to read any empirical studies that prove this, but overall I wouldn’t find it surprising if close to true.

From managing ppc and seo campaigns, I believe that in most cases there’s an optimal mix of both traffic sources. However, I find the following stats from a b2c service site supportive of the claim that organic search traffic is higher quality. Consider:

Source/Medium Pages/Visit Avg. Time on Site % New Visits Bounce Rate
1 google/cpc 2.62 1:32 92.54% 51.24%
2 google/organic 4.14 4:53 72.09% 37.21%
3 direct 6.84 11:39 46.33% 27.68%

Organic search traffic looks at more pages than cpc traffic, stays on the site almost 3 times as long and has a lower bounce rate than cpc traffic. Direct-to-site traffic views the highest number of pages, spends (by far) the longest time on the site and has the lowest bounce rate.

Is this conclusive? No. In fact, taking things a step further, it doesn’t include conversion data. But based on time-on-site factors alone, it’s another example of the higher quality of organic search traffic over that from ppc. And, it also illustrates that traffic from customers/referrals as reflected in ‘direct traffic’ is the most stickiest of all.

2 Responses to “Is Traffic from Organic Search better than PPC Traffic?”

  1. i see very similar numbers on our campaigns. something these numbers don’t take into account are new ppc visitors who come back as direct/organic traffic later.

  2. Max Thomas says:

    @matt mcinvale
    Great point. Thanks for bringing that up. Aside from using an enterprise system like Omniture, it would be great to account for that kind of data. On a related point, we don’t don’t handle ppc campaigns, but when clients ask about their ppc traffic, I always remind them that they’re not necessarily buying ‘one click’, but rather a client who has the potential to be a repeat customer – in other words, paying for that ‘one click’ can lead to ‘many clicks’. Again, without adequate tracking, it’s hard to track the repeat clicks.

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