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Which SEO Strategy to Adopt: Natural or Paid?

To attract qualified traffic to a website, it must ensure a right SEO strategy that presences the web page in the first page of the search results in search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing and on social networks. To do this, there are two techniques: natural referencing (SEO, or Search Engine Optimization) or paid search (SEA, Search Engine Advertising). What are their principles, strengths and weaknesses? Should companies favor one or the other to obtain an ideal indexation generating a good conversion rate?


Natural referencing (SEO) refers to all practices that improve the positioning of a website in search engine results. Thus, the contents of the website must be designed so that they are in line with the requests of Internet users.

Paid Search (SEA) is the creation of advertisements that appear on search engines when a user makes a request containing a keyword chosen by the advertiser.

SEO vs. SEA: how to distinguish them?

SEO and SEA are two components of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) in other words search engine and social media marketing. What are their specificities?

The principles of natural referencing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the set of techniques and actions implemented to increase the visibility of a website in the pages of search engine results (SERP) in response to requests from users.

An SEO strategy is organized in several stages:

1. The SEO audit of the website

It establishes an inventory of the technical aspects of the site, its content, but also its positioning in the search engines. It will help identify its strengths and weaknesses in order to identify areas for optimization. It can be done by an external service provider or internally.

2. The SEO “On page”

The website must be technically flawless so that Google can read the content easily, judge it as a quality site and position it well. HTML code, page loading speed, mobile compatibility (Google’s Mobile First Index), HTTPS transition, ergonomics, tracking and elimination of duplicate content are to be checked.

The contents of each page of the website are optimized for search engines by taking into account keywords defined: SEO titles, metadata, tags, URLs, internal links, images, editorial content, etc..

3. The SEO “Off page” or maintenance of the popularity of the web

This is mainly about acquiring relevant external links (backlinks) on other websites directing to one’s own content.

The principles of paid referencing

Search Engine Advertising (SEA) is the purchase of advertising solutions from search engines or social networks (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook …).

Google offers the Google Ads system. The advertiser puts on keywords then buys promotional links which are positioned at the top of the SERP and distinguished by a green insert “Announcement”.

These links can be billed in different ways:

  • the number of clicks made on the ad (CPC or cost per click)
  • or for 1000 views (CPM or cost per thousand impressions).

The higher the CPC, the better the ad is positioned.

In B2B, an advertising strategy on LinkedIn Ads can also be interesting. The audience is ultra-targeted (choice of functions, geographical areas, interests of the target…).

This type of campaign can be set up on an ad hoc basis to promote an event, the launch of a new product/service or a high added value content. Advertisements can be highlighted as an image or video.

Here, too, the bid is cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM).

Good practices in natural and paid referencing

A successful SEO or SEA strategy involves knowing a few rules. Following are the four essential elements of SEO.

1. Choose keywords

They designate the requests that users enter in the search engines. They are fundamental to optimize the SEO of a website. Their choice must result from a careful study including the analysis of the activity and specificities of the company, the positioning of the competition and the keywords sought by your target.

It should be noted that the development of voice search involves finding more conversational keywords and thus favoring phrases (the long train). The site able to respond to a query in the most relevant way will be favored. Those appearing in the zero position (featured snippets) are generally chosen by Google. As a result, it is important to identify the keywords that trigger search engine position in your area of ​​activity.

2. Look after the tags and the content structure

To be well referenced, a web page must correspond to a keyword. For Google to associate the two, it studies the hot zones of the pages: the URL, the elements HN (H1, H2, H3, etc.), the metadata (or tags contained in the HTML code). For the latter, the title tag and the meta description are very important. It is essential to insert the relevant keywords defined.

3. Optimize images

In order for the images to participate in the proper referencing of a web page, they must be understood by Google. For this, the alt (or alternative text) attribute makes it possible to describe them.

4. Work on internal and external links

Internal links associate the pages of a website presenting content with similar themes.

External links (backlinks) are located on other sites that point to the website or vice versa and thus increase its traffic. They must come from ideally popular and famous sites. Providing quality content helps to achieve naturally. It is strongly discouraged to invent his own backlinks (SEO Black Hat), because the website may be penalized by Google.

Both types of links allow Google to correctly index a website.

Optimize your SEA campaign

To succeed in a SEA campaign, the sponsored ad must be optimized, especially if its content is textual. For this, a user must find what he is looking for at the right time. Relevant keywords are included in its title and description. The content of it is neat and call-to-action formulas are integrated.

Creating multiple ad variations (content, geography, audience, etc.) scheduled at different times allows you to test the one that works best and get the best ROI.

Natural or paid referencing: which one to promote?

In the long run, SEO

Most people favor SEO links. They inspire them more confidence. As a result, their click rate is higher than those of the SEA. However, to be successful, an SEO strategy is to be implemented in the long term.

An impact on traffic is generally noticeable after six months. Moreover, the results are long-lasting and consistent if they are regularly analyzed using relevant tools. This work makes it possible to adapt to changes in the behavior of Internet users, but also to Google’s SEO criteria. It is a progressive strategy that emphasizes the expertise of the company in its field of activity.

For more instant impact, paid search (SEA)

The SEA is ideally used to attract more visitors to a special moment: a promotional offer, the launch of a business, an event, etc. Its cost is more beneficial for long tail keywords that are often less competitive. A thorough search of the most interesting keywords and a simulation of the cost of the companion must be made prior to the launch of a campaign. And of course, a maximum budget must be defined in order to control its budget.


To improve the visibility of a website, the SEO and the SEA are not opposed, but complementary. The choice of their implementation depends on the objectives of the company. A long-term SEO strategy accompanied by a SEA ad-hoc marketing campaign makes it possible to position oneself ideally on search engines and on social networks in order to maximize the points of contact.

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