Sorting Paid and Organic Traffic

Traffic is a useful metric for almost all websites. A healthy, well-optimized, managed website will see traffic growth over time, whereas a site that has just been launched and ignored won’t. But what if you’ve been relying on paid search — Google Ads — for your traffic? How can you tell if new SEO and social efforts are paying off? Or perhaps you’ve been using organic efforts and you add in some paid search. How can you tell whether you’re still getting good organic results? In short, how can you sort out paid and organic traffic?

Say you’ve been receiving 100 visits a week from paid search. You add regular blogging and tighten up your Google Ads configuration. After three weeks, you’re receiving 150 visits a week. Was it the blogging, the changes in your ads, or both?

How can you tell?

Google Analytics can help

Start in Google Analytics, in your Acquisitions report. You will see separate reports for paid and organic traffic.

The screenshot above is an organic search report from our lab site. We see that over the past month, we’ve had an increase in organic traffic. The blue line heading upward shows that. The orange line shows us that we had an increase last month, too — but this month we’re doing better than last month. The numbers at the bottom of the screenshot show that we’ve had a 34.48% increase in users and a 34.80% increase in sessions.

Since this report is only showing us our increase in organic search traffic, we know that things are going well for the website overall. Organic traffic is the best single indicator of how well your website is performing.

You can check your organic search traffic, and you can check your paid search traffic in the same way.

However, these reports show a percentage increase from a specific source of traffic. They show how each source of traffic is increasing, but they don’t tell us which source is most important.

Do the math

Our second example shows a 53.35% increase in overall traffic. There were 1132 additional visitors in the current month compared with the previous month. What contributed most strongly to that increase?

In the screenshot above, we can see that organic search brought 476 additional visitors. Paid search brought 563 additional visitors — just about half of the total increase. The percentage of increase for paid search is twice as much as for organic search, but the numbers of additional visits are much closer. They’re within 15% of each other.

Paid search was responsible for just about half the increase in visitors. Organic search brought most of the other half — there was a handful of additional visitors from each of the other sources.

When it comes to allocating resources, we can see that what we’ve done with paid search and organic search have both been effective.

If we hadn’t sorted out the paid and organic traffic, we could have overestimated the value of the paid search and underestimated the importance of the organic search. However, the higher percentage of increase in the paid search should give us confidence in recent changes in our paid strategy.

When it comes to organic search, we should feel happy about the results — but we can challenge ourselves to be as effective as as we were with paid search.

Track conversion

We should do our best to identify the conversion rates for our visitors, too. Setting up Goals in Google Analytics allows us to see the conversion rates for various traffic sources. For the website in our third example, we see that paid search has a conversion rate of 4.71% and organic search has a rate of 3.54%.

Paid search brought 563 visitors at a 4.71% conversion rate, and therefore probably 26 sales.

Organic search brought 476 visitors at a 3.54% conversion rate, so probably 17 sales.

If the costs were identical, paid search would be the winner. In this case, the cost of paid search is about double the cost devoted to organic search. In this example, we should certainly continue investing in both.


If this gave you a headache, you might need support with analytics. Examining the data strategically lets us make data-driven decisions for marketing. We can help you find actionable insights in your data. You can connect Google Ads and Google Analytics to get even better information.








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