What are the Two Main Forms of Online Advertising, and Which One to Start With?

Time vs. money.

When looking at the two primary forms of online marketing, that is essentially the choice you will have to make.

Are you prepared to wait weeks, or even months before seeing a return on your marketing efforts? Or do you prefer investing money upfront for faster results?

Before answering these questions, let us briefly explore the various online marketing options and what we classify as the two main forms of online advertising.

There are dozens of online marketing platforms, networks, and strategies, with new ones appearing every other week.

So what are the two main forms of online advertising?

Classifying the ‘Main Forms’ of Advertising

They range from online advertising platforms like YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google, to ad strategies such as Facebook Ads, SEO, and email marketing, to name just a few.

Although the options are almost endless, we feel they can all be classified into two primary forms of online advertising – Paid advertising and organic advertising. And that is the topic of our discussion today.

What is Organic Advertising?

Organic advertising is when you publish your written and visual media online, which then generates traffic to your business. This traffic generation occurs naturally (organically) over time without investing in any form of paid advertising.

Examples of organic advertising include:

  • The search results in Google and other search engines
  • A video appearing in YouTube search results or related videos
  • A Facebook post being shared by others
  • Re-tweeting a Twitter post

Generating traffic organically is unpredictable as it can occur in short bursts (when a piece of media goes viral) or last consistently over several years.

Paid traffic, on the other hand, is more predictable.

What is Paid Advertising?

Paid advertising is precisely as the name implies. You are paying an online platform or advertising network to receive relevant traffic to your products or services.

As soon as you stop paying, your ads and their resulting traffic stop. It is a pay as you go system.

Examples of Paid Advertising include:

  • Facebook ads
  • Google ads
  • Native ads
  • YouTube ads
  • Advertising banners on websites

With a clearer understanding of both organic and paid online marketing, where do you start?

Both are incredibly effective and lucrative for a business, and planning should go into implementing both strategies.

However, we recommend focusing on paid online advertising as your first strategy.

Here are the main reasons why.

Why we recommend paid marketing first

Paid advertising guarantees you traffic. And you will not be standing around hoping for search engine positions to improve for your main keywords, or begging people to share your posts on social media.

Instead, with pay-per-click advertising, if you spend $200, you will get $200 worth of clicks.

Paid marketing gets you relevant traffic fast.

Although it is not instant, you can be sure that soon after your paid campaign starts, traffic will be flowing in. Unlike organic marketing, that can take months of waiting to see an improvement in your search rankings or social media campaign traffic.

Most importantly, a paid advertising campaign gives you invaluable data to help you implement a successful organic marketing strategy.

For instance, when running a paid advertising campaign using Google Ads, you will see which keywords are converting and which ones are not working. Resulting in a more refined organic search campaign where you are targeting keywords already proven to convert for your business, and saving resources by ignoring the keywords that do not.

When it comes to paid social media campaigns, instead of keyword data, you are getting valuable insight into your audience’s demographics. This means you can determine which age ranges and genders respond best to your marketing efforts and use that to create more targeted organic campaigns that appeal specifically to those demographics.

Has it always been this way?

This was not always the case.

There was a time when organic marketing campaigns were far more profitable, reliable, and faster than a paid marketing campaign.

Back then, it was possible to achieve top positions in search engines in a matter of days. Whereas now it can easily take over six months.


There are many categories of online advertising. However, you can fit them all into either paid or organic marketing. For more differences between the two, please read this article.

Organic marketing is when content and media you create receives traffic naturally. Without you having to pay for the visits or running ads.

Paid marketing is like traditional advertising. You pay to have your advertising assets displayed on a network to acquire traffic.

Between the two, it is best to start with paid marketing as it will generate traffic and results faster. It will also give you insight into profitable keywords and demographics, which will prove invaluable when creating your organic search and social media campaigns.

What next?

Keep in mind that while it may appear to be easy to create paid advertising campaigns, it requires advanced knowledge and experience to ensure they are profitable, which is why it is wise to hire a paid marketing specialist.

Now that you are aware of the benefits of running paid advertising campaigns, it is essential for you to learn more. There is an infinite number of resources available online that explores paid advertising in more detail. So it is advised that you invest time in learning more next.

Irrespective of our recommendations, or that of anybody else, you know your business and circumstances best.

Time or money?

That is what you will have to decide.