Traffic Sources (Paid & Organic)

Short definitions (as in our glossary table)Paid Traffic → Paid traffic are customers who click on an advertisement you placed on a social network or search engine.

Organic Traffic → Organic search traffic refers to the total amount of people finding your business by means of clicking a link or using a search engine for free.

Acquisition Channels → A traffic source in it's simplest form can be defined as the origin through which a person finds your company or website.

Customer Acquisition Strategy: Paid (SEM) and Organic (SEO) Traffic sources

To keep your startup or business up and running it's crucial to attract and drive new prospective customers and clients to your business. The startup and entrepreneurial world is filled with acronyms and buzzwords galore. In this guide, we hope demystify some of the common terms and language used today when talking about the process of acquiring new customers and clients.

Table of Contents:

  • What is customer acquisition?
  • What's the difference between paid (SEM) and organic (SEO) traffic?
  • How to estimate your monthly organic traffic with Google Analytics
  • How to get started with SEO
  • How to get started with SEM and paid Ads
  • Questions VCs and investors most commonly ask about customer acquisition
  • Other customer acquisition strategies (beyond SEM & SEO)

What is customer acquisition all about?

For simplicity sake, we define the term customer acquisition as any activity or action you take to get your products or services in front of potential users and customers.

Customer acquisition is important for every business as it allows you to:

  1. Generate new revenue to pay employees, pay infrastructure costs, reinvest in growth, and
  1. Show evidence of traction for investors, partners, new employees, and other influencers

There is no "one size fits all" strategy for acquiring customers and it will often vary from company to company based on the types of products and services you offer and who your ideal customer is.

One of the most common types of acquiring customers in today's online digital world, is to utilize search engines and social media marketing. This strategy is often broken down into two methods: organic and paid.

  1. Organic Traffic or organic search traffic refers to the total amount of people finding your business by means of clicking a link or using a search engine to find your business without you, the business, having to pay for those clicks. The process of ranking for keywords on search engines such as Google is often referred to as Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short.
  1. Paid Traffic are prospective users and customers who click on a paid advertisement that you placed on a social network or search engine such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or sponsored search results on Google. Sometimes you will hear this referred to as Social Engine Marketing or SEM.

What's the difference between Organic Traffic (SEO) and Paid Traffic (SEM)?

Key DifferencesOrganic Traffic (SEO)Paid Traffic (SEM)
Search ResultsAppear as organic search results and have a featured snippetIncludes an "Ad" designation and have ad extensions
CostPay nothingPay each time a user clicks an ad
VisibilityShown to anyoneShown to a select targeted audinece
ResultsCan take 3-6 months to realize first results, up to a year to realize the full benefits. Labor intensive.Are immediate and are scalable based on how much money you spend.
Good for testingNoYes
Provide value over timeYesNo
Click through rate (CTR)HighLow

Which is better, Organic Traffic (SEO) or Paid Traffic (SEM)?

Well the truth is that there is no "better" option for any given business. The main trade-off is that paid traffic (SEM) has a faster return on investment but organic traffic (SEO) has long term benefits and is essentially free. The most successful businesses and startups typically invest time and money in both strategies.

How to find your actual current monthly Organic Traffic volume aka the number of unique people visiting your website or landing page:

Most online businesses have some sort of analytics provider that integrates with their website or landing pages. The most common and free service is Google Analytics. If you have no idea what I'm talking about and want a guide with all the benefits and how to get started with Google Analytics, check out this post here.

If you don't have Google Analytics or another form of web analytics configured for your website or landing pages but want a high-level estimate of your monthly organic traffic you can head over to, paste your company's domain URL or landing page URL into the search bar and you'll be able to see an estimate of your total organic monthly traffic for free! Keep in mind this is just an estimate but this number will be suffice for the sake of completing building any early forecasts and financial models.

Assuming you do have Google Analytics installed for your website, you can look up your current organic traffic by following the simple steps below.

How to estimate your average monthly organic traffic with Google Analytics:

Lately there have been a lot of changes to the interface on Google Analytics dashboard, this process is up to date at the time of writing this guide (8/1/2021). If you get stuck or have a question, you can always chat us on our live chat!Steps to finding your organic website traffic in Google Analytics

  1. Log into your Google Analytics account here →
  1. On the left hand side navigation go to Acquisition >> Traffic acquisition
  1. From the list you will see your direct and organic traffic sources
  1. By default, this report looks at the past 28 days
  1. You can adjust your filtered date range at the top right drop down to take a more holistic view of your organic growth over time
  1. For the sake of building out your initial financial model within the Sturppy platform, you can use a 12-month average

How to get started with SEO:

SEO is an art and field in to itself that can take months if not years to master, but the basics can be learned in a few hours with the help of some caffeine. If you want to get started with learning SEO there are a TON of helpful resources both paid and free online that you can take advantages of below.One word of caution here, even a well-executed SEO campaign and strategy can take up to 6 months to mature and drive considerable business results to your website or landing page. SEO is not a fast game but it can have a huge impact in driving new business to your website in the long roun.

Our favorite free SEO resources:

Our favorite paid SEO courses and resources:

Our favorite free SEO tools:

How to get started with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Paid Ads:

With successful SEO campaigns taking up to 6 month to see solid results, you're probably wondering how you can drive traffic to your website or landing page in the meantime...

If you're looking for ways to jump start customer acquisition, Paid Ads and Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) might be a great option if you have the budget.

Even just by spending $50 on social media Ads, you can drive upwards of 10,000 page views to your landing page, website, or article.

Depending on where your target customers live online, you might favor one channel over another. But the most common and debatably easiest to get started with are Google's AdWords and Facebook Ads.

How to get started with Google AdWords:

If you're strapped for time, have the budget, and want to double down on Google results. AdWords might just be what you're looking for. Below are some of our favorite resources to help you get started with AdWords in less than a couple hours.

Free resources to learn Google AdWords:

How to get started with Facebook Ads:

Facebook Ads are almost part of every online business's acquisition strategy and there's a good reason for that. Facebook is the world's largest network with nearly 3 BILLION monthly active users...

Free resources to learn Facebook Ads:

Why do VCs and investors care about customer acquisition strategy?

When investors are looking at a potential seed investment, customer acquisition strategy questions are important for a few reasons.

VCs look for a thoughtful answer that shows that the founding team is actually thinking about these issues as it relates to the overall business strategy, financial, and product strategy.

6 Common questions VCs and investors might ask you about your customer acquisition strategy:

  1. Q: How do you plan to acquire customers?
  1. Q: What are the unique advantages you have to acquire new customers?
  1. Q: What is your CAC - Cost of Acquiring Customers or Customer Acquisition Costs?
  1. Q: How long is your typical sales cycle for acquiring new customers?
  1. Q: What channels are you currently using to acquire customers?
  1. Q: What is your conversion rate of free trial users to paying customers?

What other forms of customer acquisition strategies and channels exist today?

One of our favorite books here at Sturppy is Traction written by Gabriel Weinberg the founder of the popular search engine DuckDuckGo. In his book he outlines 19 traffic channels that you can utilize for your business, some are paid, some are unpaid.

  1. Targeting blogs
  1. Publicity
  1. Unconventional PR
  1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  1. Social and Display Ads
  1. Offline Ads
  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  1. Content Marketing
  1. Email Marketing
  1. Viral Marketing
  1. Engineering as Marketing
  1. Business Development
  1. Sales
  1. Affiliate Programs
  1. Existing Platforms
  1. Trade Shows
  1. Offline Events
  1. Speaking Engagements
  1. Community Building

If you have questions, concerns, or would like to bounce an idea off our team here at Sturppy, feel free to chat us in our live chat or drop us a note at!