Optimizing your website for organic search traffic is hard. Writers want to write, not worry about whether or not we’re using some keyword the right amount of times to hit the right density. Besides, most of your traffic is coming from Facebook ads or Google AdSense anyway, so why bother with traditional SEO?

Don’t be fooled. Organic search is still the best and most reliable way to bring traffic to your site, and if you neglect it, you’re going to be left in the dust. Why? Well, for one thing…

Customers Want Organic Search Results

Ads are a gamble – you’re putting your ad out there and hoping that your messaging is catchy enough to hook the people who are searching for those topics. Organic search is the result of web content matching what people are actually looking for. If you’re relying on ads to drive your traffic, you have no guarantee that your Blue Widget will actually be seen by Blue Widget users. But if your primary focus is organic search and you can secure and defend a high place in search rankings, then when a Blue Widget user searches Google for Blue Widget – boom, you’ve just secured a new customer. It’s the difference between opening a restaurant and driving around, knocking on doors, and hoping that people are actually hungry for the food you’ve prepared.

Ads Are Risky

What would happen to your ad traffic if Twitter suddenly got rid of Promoted Tweets? I ask out of concern, you see, because there’s a good chance that they’re actually going to do that. And even if they don’t, services like Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube are constantly changing their advertising systems, often without warning. If you’ve been in the business for awhile, you’ll remember how Twitter segmented its algorithm in 2015, personalizing news feeds and hurting the search traffic of everyone who was depending on those ads. They did this with almost no warning, naturally, because they’re more interested in keeping your money than in promoting your business.

If organic search is your focus, you have at the very least a backup plan for when one of your advertising partners decides to shake things up. Sure, Google makes changes to their algorithm, but the enormous size of their userbase means that those changes roll out very slowly, and a good SEO consultant (or a good machine learning program) can make sure that even if there is a dip it’s not a problem for very long. Besides, the basics won’t change – words will always be important, no matter what search engines your clients are using or what changes those search engines make to their algorithm.

Organic Search Keeps Your Customers Around

Advertisements, particularly social media advertisements, are very good at generating traffic, but they’re very bad at generating customers. Facebook is designed to drive traffic to a specific article or landing page, not to inspire customer loyalty. Twitter does promote customer loyalty, but it doesn’t generate traffic. Pinterest users almost never leave the site, and Tumblr ads just straight-up don’t work. Combined, these sites might get users to visit your site, briefly, but they’re not going to come back and there’s no guarantee that they’re actually going to respond to your call to action while they’re there.

Conversely, organic search inspires people to become long-term customers. Users who find a site organically have lower bounce rates and visit more pages more frequently compared to those who find the site through ads. There’s a lot of reasons for this – for example, multiple keywords bring customers to your website multiple times, making them realize that the content you’re offering is something they’re interested in.

But ultimately, it all comes back to what we said at the beginning of this article – customers prefer organic search results. Nobody particularly likes seeing Facebook ads, so only a small percentage of people are going to click on them and an even smaller percentage of people will actually bother clicking through to your call to action. Knowing that they came to your site through a paid advertisement puts customers psychologically on guard, even if they have an interest in the content of your site. When customers find your site through a search engine, they feel like they took the initiative, like it was their idea to come here.

So while ads might be the best way to get improve the quantity of visits to your website, it still can’t match the high quality of traffic that comes from organic search results.