Free Versus Paid Traffic

Free Versus Paid Traffic

Which is Best for Your Online Marketing Campaign?

Free versus paid traffic: which is best for your online marketing campaign? What makes the internet a common destination for most entrepreneurs? Maybe it has to do with the fact that the web connects systems from over 100 countries. Or the many options it offers in terms of scalability and flexibility. In each case, the internet has proved to be home to over one billion users, a number that could turn out valuable to anyone that knows how to make good of an opportunity.

“Opportunities exist where people exist.”- Jack Ma


Online businesses thrive on the number of people that visit their websites and pages, otherwise known as traffic. Any person visiting a site is either looking to purchase a product or service it offers or to acquire specific information. The amount of traffic you receive translates to how effective your online business is at attracting an audience.

man standing at crossroads with caption reading free versus paid traffic which is better for your online campaign?

The 90s were a good time to stand out with your e-commerce platform as web traffic remained the only way to determine the popularity of a website. However, as digital marketers got smarter, analyzing a website’s performance using traffic became more comprehensive.

Instead of just asking “how many people visited?”, analysts devised other metrics to gauge for online success that included additional questions such as:

  • How long the visitors stayed
  • What % of visitors made a purchase
  • How much it cost to bring in a visitor

Today, Google uses these same metrics to determine the relevancy of the visits that you receive to your website, and so should you in deciding the type of visitors you direct to your online platform. This takes us to the next level of website traffic and the primary objective of this article- free versus paid traffic.

Free versus Paid Traffic

Paid traffic, as its name suggests, involves paying to have traffic redirected to your site. Strategies such as Pay per Click generate traffic to your online business by diverting visitors that click on your ad. Every successful click is money from your pocket to the platform hosting your ad. Ad words are one of many forms paid traffic can take.

Free traffic, on the other hand, is in most cases generated through Search Engine Optimization and social media. Search engines have an easy time finding websites, blogs, and content that are SEO-optimized. This simplifies the process that users have to go through before they land on your platform.

Social media is another way to generate organic traffic. Next to building great profiles, including links to your site in your social media platforms enables the people visiting and engaging with you to visit your site should they want to acquire additional information or make an actual purchase.

Below is an all-inclusive guide stating the advantages and disadvantages of free and paid traffic; then you can decide what type of traffic is best for your website.

Paid Traffic


  • Well-targeted- Paid search advertising platforms have targeting settings that let you customize your ads from who to when you want people to see them. How you structure your SEM strategy also plays a role in maximizing the chances of delivering your ads to the right prospects.

Different platforms have different practices. Be sure to know which targeting tools are useful in best capturing the attention of consumers.

  • Gives immediate results- Did you know that searchers see paid ads first on typing in a query on the search engine? We don’t need to spell out how advantageous this front-and-center positioning is creating awareness for your brand.
  • More traffic- Between paid and organic traffic, it’s far easier (although expensive) to rank on the front page when you’re paying to receive visitors. It’s a good way to get some activity going on in your website when you’re just starting.
  • Allows for detailed data analytics and conversion tracking- Paid traffic lets you keep track of your prospects by giving you access to their geographical information, the pages they viewed on visiting your site, and their preferred device for surfing the web.

This information gives you an insight on how well your campaigns are performing.

  • Another advantage of paid advertising is the control it gives you over your overall marketing budget.


  • Search ads lack visual qualities- With today’s consumer being visually oriented, the lack of visual elements in paid ads puts a limiting effect on the number of click rates they’re likely to receive.
  • Paid advertising does not do much for companies that are looking to get their brand image beyond their target audience as consumers have no way of distributing your ads throughout the online platforms. In other words, paid ads have no viral quality to them.
  • Expensive- The fact that you have to make a payment every time a prospect clicks on your ad can take a massive toll off your budget. After all, doesn’t it cost money to make money?

Free Traffic


  • Organic traffic attracts highly qualified prospects- Is the quality of your traffic any good as its numbers? As compared to paid traffic that brings visitors from all walks of the internet, free traffic aims at attracting users that type in a search query with a specific intent. Users with a potential to convert into customers.
  • A sustainable approach- Unlike paid traffic which loses momentum the moment you seize to pump cash into it, free traffic is an evergreen option that takes time to establish but lasts for years after that.
  • A cost-effective option in the long run- Free traffic isn’t as free. It consumes time and money. The difference is, it is still cheaper than paid ads and gives a higher ROI in the end.
  • Organic traffic assures higher credibility-As it turns out, most consumers bypass paid results and proceed to the top and click on the organic results in search of the most relevant answers to their queries.
  • Gives you a more competitive edge- Search engine optimization is non-negotiable in the online space. The fact that you are investing in free traffic means you are utilizing SEO. This gives you a competitive advantage over your other competitors who are using different ways to acquire traffic.


  • While free traffic is a more economical method than paid ads, it consumes a lot of time. If your efforts are to generate any results, you have to get it right with your strategies from scratch. You can imagine how frustrating it can get for you to put in all that work and not get any returns on your investment.

The Takeaway

Before settling on a traffic option, it pays to understand that none makes a better alternative than the other as each is capable of delivering the desired results. Whether you settle on paid or free traffic depends on you. Let your budgetary restraints, time necessities, and some other factors influence your decision to choose either of the two options.

Here’s a tip-

“The magic occurs when you learn to blend both strategies.”

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