Well, yes and no. Sure, you can get hit with an algorithm change or penalty that destroys all your traffic. However, if you have good people who know what they are doing, this is not likely to happen, and if it does, it is easy (in most cases) to get your visits back. Panda and Penguin are another story, but if you get hit by those it is typically not accidental.
The advantage of paid search is that you can have your website listed on the first pages in a prominent spot on Google and other search engines. However, showing up is only part of the process. You need to create an ad that not only leads to clicks, but to sales or whatever result you're looking for. If you don't know what you're doing, it's possible to write an ad that people are drawn to and click on, however, you don't make sales. Since you pay per click, and clicks can add up quickly, you can lose money.
SEO may generate an adequate return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors. Search engines can change their algorithms, impacting a website's placement, possibly resulting in a serious loss of traffic. According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day. It is considered wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic. In addition to accessibility in terms of web crawlers (addressed above), user web accessibility has become increasingly important for SEO.
I still believe that Facebook and Google are great platforms to promote your business, but only if you are willing to pay. If your goal is Organic growth, I recommend looking at newer platforms such as Quora, Reddit, Snapchat, Medium, Instagram, Tumblr and similar. These are all established platforms that still offer some opportunities for organic reach, because although popular, they are nowhere near the saturation levels of Facebook and Google. You can also look at startups that you feel will become very successful in the future, take a small gamble perhaps and try to establish a strong presence there.
Search engines reward you when sites link to yours – they assume that your site must be valuable and you’ll rank higher in search results. And the higher the “rank” of the sites that link to you, the more they count in your own ranking. You want links from popular industry authorities, recognized directories, and reputable companies and organizations.
While organic search has the advantage of being free and can be influenced by your website content, it is limited to the number of people searching for your business or the products and services you offer. Paid search advertising allows you to reach a broader target audience which has more potential customers who may not be aware of your business, all while providing you full control over your messaging and costs.
There are also a few more similarities. All of these marketing methods are measurable to an extent never seen in any other media. Every click can be measured – where and when it came – and followed through to the conversion, the sale and the lifetime customer value. This feedback loop creates optimization opportunities that can create huge incremental improvements in your SEM campaigns.
As pointed out, they are certainly not the same, but it might not be a bad idea to track and report on the direct traffic. If there has been outreach done and the company is mentioned in print with a URL, direct traffic (along with some search traffic on the URL or business name itself) is likely to go up. If your email newsletters are not tagged, they're likely to show up under direct traffic. Depending on your role, some of what you do under the greater SEO/inbound marketing role can show up under the direct traffic.
Beyond organic and direct traffic, you must understand the difference between all of your traffic sources and how traffic is classified. Most web analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, utilize an algorithm and flow chart based on the referring website or parameters set within the URL that determine the source of traffic. Here is a breakdown of all sources:
All your content, social media, brand, and other online assets that you develop in that process are there to stay. And they keep going up in value as time goes by. Even if you stopped investing in organic search, these assets would still be working for your business. You’d get traffic because you’ve built an ecosystem that fuels itself. Now imagine that you’re generating traffic and you’re paying little to no money for it. Your cost per organic visitor will decrease by many factors as your return increases. Bear in mind that this is a cumulative effect that happens over time. Still, it’s a fantastic position to be in.
Facebook Ads and other social media ad platforms, for example, are pay-per-click platforms that do not fall under the SEM category. Instead of showing your ads to people who are searching for similar content like search ads do, social media sites introduce your product to people who happen to be just browsing through their feeds. These are two very, very different types of online advertising.
Those who provide the valuable information, which reduces risk and increases reward to those receiving it, are rewarded if what they say is true and creates a good experience. This is law of reciprocity (as mentioned in the book Influence) basically says give to receive, which is a universal truth. This sense of indebtedness, of owing someone, is tracked in our brains and feelings, in most part hidden from society. It can be explicitly tracked and accounted for using technology, like affiliate links. Affiliate links are provided to referrers to refer others to a product or service. When potential buyer completes an action leading to or completing a transaction, the referrer receives an affiliate commission. As simple as that sounds, there are a lot of risks that can happen along the way, such as refunds, frozen funds, and click fraud. xDSpot handles these risks better than any other affiliate tracking system out there, making it the preferred brand for those in the know.
The term was first used by Internet theorist John Kilroy in a 2004 article on paid search marketing. Because the distinction is important (and because the word "organic" has many metaphorical uses) the term is now in widespread use within the search engine optimization and web marketing industry. As of July 2009, "organic search" is now common currency outside the specialist web marketing industry, even used frequently by Google (throughout the Google Analytics site, for instance).