The difference between SEO, Paid Search and Web Analytics


I have been meeting many small business owners lately and after I share with them that I'm an Analytics Specialist, who specializes in web analytics. Once they hear this, they get all excited and ask me -- "Do you do SEO?".

This is where I go into an explanation of the differences between SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Google Analytics (or any web analytics tool really) and we have a very in-depth conversation (usually me geeking out) and hopefully, they leave the conversation with a clearer understanding of the two.

So, what exactly is SEO? And how does it differ from Google Analytics?

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Fear not, this is what this post is all about!

I want to give you simple definitions and examples of each, in order for you to have a better understanding of how to utilize all three to grow your business.

Trust me, you will need all three to grow your business.

Ok, let's start with SEO.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, what this means is the optimization of your website so that it can be discovered by search engine bots.

Your goal as a business owner is to ensure your site is set up properly to make it easy for the bots to find you and to go through your site, gather the information they need to make a judgment on the quality of your content. This is what gets you ranked higher on the search results page in the various search engines (Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc).

The search engines are interested in making sure that when a user does a search, they are serving up the most relevant sites/content that will answer the question asked.

This is why content is key!

But not just any content, you have to be careful that you are providing valuable information and that you're not just throwing content for volume sake.

Your content should always provide information that is of value to your audience. If you sell customized dog collars for dogs, your content should be about dog collars for dogs. You don't want to go and start talking about bird cages.

Something else to remember is that just like with social media, you need to update content on your site often. Not as often as social media, but at a minimum (and I mean minimum) once a quarter. The bots like to see that you're adding value, they will then go and judge you on how much value you're adding, but the key is to keep engaging with your site.

How do I get my SEO game on?

In this article, I'm not going to go into the details of the different things you've to do to get your SEO game on. There are both technical things you have to do, in addition to the content creation.

My recommendation is to do research online on SEO tips, there're many many people/books/Youtube channels devoted to this and they will walk you through it all.

My one big recommendation is to not get overwhelmed. SEO takes time and you will only see results if you're consistent with your efforts.

Now on to Paid Search

Here is where it's important to define the difference between Organic and Paid Search listings. Organic search listings are the listings shown by the search engines in the search results pages (think page 1 of Google...the most coveted space in the world). When someone does a search for "custom dog collars", there will be listings of websites related to "custom dog collars".

SEO, helps you rank higher on the organic search listing results. That is its main function.

Paid Search listings, on the other hand, are listings that you can buy. They're promoted listings on search engines, they differ from Social media ads, in that they are only shown on the search results pages of search engines (Google, Yahoo, YouTube, etc), while social media ads are shown only in the social platforms they are intended for.

Paid Search will ensure that for the keywords you choose, your site will be shown before the organic listings. The advantage of this is that you will be able to show up on searches made by people who search for keywords that you wouldn't normally show up for (i.e. your competitors).

When it comes to Paid Search, it all comes down to a few things, your quality score, the demand on the keyword, and how much money you are willing to spend.

The lower your quality score on a specific keyword (say you want to show up on searches for your competitor), the higher the cost per click (CPC). Also, if the keyword that you want to bid on is a very popular one (i.e. Black Friday Sale), this will also bring up the CPC since many companies will be bidding on this keyword.

They key to Paid Search is being strategic in the keywords you bid on. Just like SEO, there is lots of information online for you to learn on how to go about having a successful paid search strategy.

I highly recommend that you give Paid Search a try, it will really help increase awareness of your brand. The one thing I will stress is that you make sure you're properly tracking engagement and conversions on your site.

This is where your Web Analytics tool is your BFF.

How your Web Analytics tool connects it all.

Last, but certainly not least, is your web analytics tool. There are many tools out in the market that will track user interaction and behaviour on your site.

Many web platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, and the like, even have their own analytics built in.

Regardless of what tool you use, the most important thing is to ensure that you are tracking the things you need to be tracking and that they are being tracked correctly.

Why I say that your web analytics tool connects both your SEO and your Paid Search is that it will give you information on the performance of each. Looking at the trend in your organic traffic to your site will give you an indication of how your SEO is performing. Your goal should be to see organic traffic increase over time (key word, over time). The goal is to have the highest percentage of traffic to your site be from organic sources.

Your web analytics will also give you information on the performance of your paid search advertising. It will tell you not just how many people clicked on the ad and came to the site, but more importantly, it will tell you whether they spent any time looking around and actually doing what you wanted them to do. This information is valuable because it will inform your future paid search campaigns.

There are many more things that your web analytics tool will tell you and I have given a few examples in my previous post here.

There you have it, the differences between SEO, Paid Search and Web Analytics. I hope this information makes things clearer and gets you excited to work with all three. I strongly believe that the use of all three is the key to business success.

For those who have started to use one or all of these, what has been your experience? What resources have you found helpful?

Please leave a comment as we can all learn from each other.


Hi, I’m Karla

I’m here to help small business understand and use their website data to take the guess work out of growing their business.

I’ll love to help you start using your valuable website data to help you grow your business, book a FREE 30 minute discovery call with me and let’s get started.