By Ben Hollom

Paid search or organic search?

The question of whether paid search or organic search drives traffic to websites is one that sparks debate between many SEO experts.

A new study by SEO company Conductor reveals its own thoughts and statistics on the matter. The company monitored traffic to 30 corporate websites from six industries over the course of one year. It examined the sources of inbound web traffic, looking at more than 310 million visits. An analysis of the data it compiled showed that nearly half of all traffic, or 47% to be precise, came from organic search.

Conductor divided sources of traffic into five categories — organic search, direct visits, referral visits, paid search and social media visits. The second biggest driver of traffic to websites was the category of direct visits — these were visits when users directly typed the website domain address in their browser — accounting for 29% of traffic. Referral visits, resulting from users following links to the website from other pages, made up 15% of traffic, the research found. Paid search, or ads, ranked next, with a modest 6% of visits, while social media traffic accounted for only 2%, Conductor said.

However, researchers noted that the data compiled referred to large company websites; for smaller businesses the proportions are likely to differ. For instance, it could be expected that the share of direct visits would be smaller but the number of social media visits could be higher, depending on how active a company is on social sites.

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