Organic Search – Definition

Cite this article as:"Organic Search – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 27, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,


Organic Search Results Definition

There are different ways to search items using a search engine. Organic search is a foremost search method where multiple items can searched when they are converted into a chain or searched as a sequence. Organic search results are also referred to as unpaid results unlike the pay-per-click search which brings advertisement as part of the result. These results are in the form of paginated lists which means you get search results as a subset of a list. Also, organic search results filter advertisement and all irrelevant posts, it only caters for information related to the search.

A Little More on Organic Search Results

Most search engines often have advertisement pop up on their result pages, these ads are always similar to original results and many surfers find it difficult to distinguish between the two.  These advertisements are paid for, so they appear on the top parts of result pages.

In a recent study carried out by Pew Research Center show that only few users are aware that most of the top-ranked results on search engine results pages (SERPs) are advertisements, this is because there is little or no difference between non-ad search results and ads.

The need to distinguish ads from non-ads brought the invention of organic search. Users can also prevent ads in search results through the use of browser add-ons and plugins. However, a June 2013 study by Chitika show that many users don’t go pass the first page of organic search results.

Academic Research on Organic Search Results

Competing for users’ attention: on the interplay between organic and sponsored search results, Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, C., Broder, A. Z., Gabrilovich, E., Josifovski, V., & Pang, B. (2010, April). In Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World wide web (pp. 291-300). ACM. This paper studies the interplay between organic search results and sponsored or advertisement search results. Certain situations might warrant competitions from both results in terms of users’ attention.  However, the study shows that competition between these two types of result depends on the nature of the query. For instance, if both organic search and sponsored search have the same purpose such as navigational queries, competition will definitely occur. A navigational query is one in which a search is entered to find a specific webpage.If the intent of the is non-navigational queries, then a synergy can occur between these two types of result rather than a competition.

Is There a Market for Organic Search Engine Results and Can Their Manipulation Give Rise to Antitrust Liability?, Ratliff, J. D., & Rubinfeld, D. L. (2014). Journal of Competition Law and Economics, 10(3), 517-541. The provision of organic search results that are neutral and have no promotional intent is a major concern for many markets. Google was criticized for manipulating its organic search results in a way that promote the services of Google. This accusation is one of the antitrust liability of organic search results on google. However, this paper argues that viewing an internet search in isolation will deprive users of the two-sided advantages of the search. Hence, since google belong to a market where competition exists, it is therefore questionable whether google has the rights to provide organic search results that are neutral and not manipulated.

Impact of ranking of organic search results on the incrementality of search ads, Chan, D., Kumar, D., Ma, S., & Koehler, J. (2012). This study examines the effects of ranking an advertiser’s organic listings (this refers to the order in which ads are arranged) on the incrementality of ad clicks. Incrementality simply refers to the ability of a thing to increase in value or worth. So, this paper studies how the rank of advertiser;s organic listings affect the value or increase ad clicks. Search Ads estimate the incrementality of ad clicks through IAC. A recent study on meta-analysis of 390 Search Ads show that a high number of ad impressions and ad clicks can occur in the absence of an associated search result.

• Examining organic and sponsored search results: A vendor reliability perspective, Ma, Z., Pant, G., & Sheng, O. R. (2010). Journal of Computer Information Systems, 50(4), 30-38. Search engines occupy significant positions when we talk of bringing people to their desired information or platforms. Whether it is information, goods and services, ideas, products and many other, the importance of search engines to users cannot be undermined. In a similar vein, search engines are responsible for the type of information people get after a search, the reliabilities of companies and services search engines project is vital. Users find two results on search engines, the organic results and paid results, nevertheless, vendor reliability should not be affected by the type of result. This paper carried out a comparison of vendor reliability in organic search results and paid results.

• Sponsored Search: Do Organic Results help or hurt the Performance and under what conditions?, Agarwal, A., Hosanagar, K., & Smith, M. (2011). This paper uses data from an online retailer keyword advertising campaign to study the effects of changes in organic search results listings. Competition is key in every market and every competitor strive to stay allof of others, this study measures the impact of organic results listings on the performance of these competitors. It studies whether changes in organic listings help or impede competitors.  The study however finds out that decrease in the click performance of sponsored ads is as a result of increase in organic competition. Organic competition is said to have a higher negative effect on click performance than sponsored competition.

• The Impact of Social Media Signals on Organic Search Results: Can Small Businesses Compete for Exposure on the Internet?, Hagood-Deal, J. G. (2014). This paper studies the impacts of social media signals on organic search results and why businesses strive to have a huge social media presence as this affect their listings on organic search results. A huge social media presence and positive signals from social media tend to enhance the visibility or ranking of a business on a search engine. Social media signals refer to the totality of the activities, posts, likes, interactive metrics and shares that a business or company has. These signals contribute immensely to the organic ranking of a business and businesses compete vigorously for internet exposure through social media.

Organic versus sponsored links: users’ selection-and evaluation behavior towards search results, Stoeten, K. M. (2006).(Master’s thesis, University of Twente). This paper examines the dispositions of users towards organic links and sponsored links.  When you search an item using a search engine, there are links that lead users to pages they can get more information about the searched item, these links can either be organic or sponsored. This paper studies how users evaluate organic links when compared to sponsored links. Their evaluation can either be positive or negative based on prior experiences with organic and sponsored links. This paper presents a thesis on the selection, evaluation, and attitudes of users towards organic links and sponsored links.

An organic user interface for searching citation links, Mackinlay, J. D., Rao, R., & Card, S. K. (1995, May). In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 67-73). ACM Press/Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Butterfly as an information visualizer application attends to issues surrounding access to network information. This paper gives a comprehensible description of how butterfly address the problems of network information access, browsing and access management and integrating search and the major techniques it uses. Butterfly is an application that accesses DIALOG’S Science Citation databases across the Internet and it does this through potent strategies and techniques. This paper gives a highlight of the techniques it uses. Butterfly also uses an approach called the Organic User Interfaces For Information Access to control information accessible by users.

Role of social media in online travel information search, Xiang, Z., & Gretzel, U. (2010). Tourism management, 31(2), 179-188. This paper studies the degree to which social media signals appear in the results of travel information searches. The social media has continued to occupy an insurmountable position in dispersing information for travelers, this paper studies how much a traveler’s use of search engine for travel information is impacted by the social media. This paper also discusses the implications of online marketing techniques for travel experts and tourism managers. The study however shows that search engines tend to direct travelers to reliable social media pages for relevant information. Hence, social media play a significant role in providing substantial information to travelers.

Search engine optimization: what drives organic traffic to retail sites?, Baye, M. R., De los Santos, B., & Wildenbeest, M. R. (2016). Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 25(1), 6-31. This is a study of factors that contribute to organic traffic drive to retail sites, the findings of the study are vital for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The study reveals that a larger part of retail traffic is derived from organic links and not sponsored links. This paper discusses why it is important for retailers to invest in quality brand and brand awareness that will enhance high organic clicks from users of search engines. Search engines place quality brands on high ranks in organic listings and this will in turn increase organic clicks on the brand, this is a good SEO strategy.

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