Running a Google Ads Campaign can have positive effects on your SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) but not because Google gives you some preferential treatment.
This Marketing FAQ’s article will cover some practical reasons why there is a perception that your organic search engine ranking placement is affected positively while running a concurrent or long-term Pay Per Click campaign in the AdWords ecosystem.
Basically: Does adwords affect organic ranking?
A couple of important notes:
- This perceived increase in organic ranking may feel more pronounced with small businesses that handle their own SEO, Marketing and PPC campaigns – and it requires substantial focus on the work to see these “upticks” (at least at first it may feel more pronounced)
- These ranking upticks are not intrinsically quantifiable – and Google publicly states that this is not a realistic increase in ranking – or at least that it is not as a result of paying for ads that are connected to your web presence/brand/website
- Everything is relative. If you are operating with best practices and sound strategy, more marketing, more SEO (if done properly) and more content will generally mean better total traffic, and potentially more total conversion
What’s the background about why people feel they are getting increased organic value with a concurrently running Google Ads campaign
It’s clear that the idea of an uptick in SERP’s is correlated to being involved with AdWords, in most business owner’s minds who have run campaigns in the past alongside regular SEO and marketing work. But it’s also pretty clear that small business small or “1-person” marketing teams are also erroneously attributing this perceived uptick in traffic or ranking placement to just the addition of an AdWords campaign.
When a company or marketer sees an improvement in traffic, it is often attributed to the most drastic thing they have done recently. And it is frequently true that when one begins to take SEO and marketing seriously, paid ads on a digital platform are generally a consideration as well. When that marketing person sees an uptick, it’s natural to think that the powers that be (Google in this case) are rewarding those dollars spent and pushing a good experience within their framework.
But there is more to the story than that.
Point blank: Google denies they manipulate traffic sent via organic results as a direct result of paid campaigns being linked to the company or web property.
This is a believable position by Google. This would be a ridiculous nightmare of a strategy that, even if algorithmically driven, would be near impossible to account for and administer. Class action lawsuits and government oversight would be rampant. It simply does not seem realistic, even if plausible.
Now that isn’t to say that the overlords of tech are not much more in control of our business’ fate than perhaps they should be. There is definitely an argument there for that sentiment. But that’s a different discussion.
The truth is, that usually performance decreases by the numbers as more traffic flows in
A bulk inflow of traffic generally has a dilutive effect on total metrics. That is: as more traffic comes in, the total percentage of conversion generally goes down, because the total amount of traffic is increased. That isn’t a hard fact – certain campaigns and certain landing pages, initiatives, buying cycles and certainly things like viral benefits of an initiative can influence conversion and skyrocket it temporarily, but it rarely stays inflated.
Bad company practices, corporate slip ups and real world deception by big tech platforms give this impression of fakeness
Of course we wonder if Google is doing something to unfairly push people towards higher revenue platforms within its ecosystem. They don’t make as much money on Organic traffic as they do on paid ads. But it’s less about Google’s missteps (and they have their own history of them), and more about the actual lies that have been told.
Yelp did this in the past – they took advantage of their ability to manipulate traffic internally to keep businesses beholden to their internal ad system and it helped them make a lot of money – with unfair and unsavory business practices
Yelp is probably still doing this to some effect – who are we to say? They have reportedly fixed this issue, though recent internal tests with many clients still show hard to debunk statistics that skew towards this awkward pay-to-play scheme. We aren’t in a position to fling accusations about this, though, as our study of this ”phenomenon” has not been scientifically proven, it’s more of a hunch based on the data we do have, which is not a large enough of a sample size (50 businesses, when it would need to be 5000+ to get hard data trends). Again – no wild accusations here, but we would advise you know what you want to achieve with Yelp before you sign on the dotted line, and we suggest that you heavily negotiate that contract if you do.
Yelp has a ton of value – both organically – in spurts and at times – and with advertising, but it needs to be structured properly and oversight is paramount to success in the yelp ads system.
So, given all this background, what is the truth about whether Google pads performance to persuade businesses to buy ads, in order to improve total value across SEO-driven and paid channels alike?
Read on for our thoughts on the matter.
Google rankings improve when you’re focused on running ads while robustly attending to proper SEO in the organic space – but not because of the paid ads factor.
There are plenty of reasons why this happens, and usually this is because of a combination of factors as listed below in the deep dive of “Does adwords affect organic ranking?”:
Pages and Ads are created and optimized by those focusing on not losing money on PPC
Ads require an established landing page, that is optimized for the ad, and the page creator and ad creator will systematically be predisposed to creating better performing pages and ads to avoid feeling like they are losing money
You will tend to clean up house while placing expensive ads
You’ll find yourself cleaning up 404 errors, and getting permalinks inline, and reducing overall length of the url’s tied to ad driven pages, and then the rabbit hole begins and you start paying attention to what matters from a technical SEO perspective. This is all great. It’s also usually a factor of compulsion because you need to get your house in order for your ads to work within google’s ad limitations and best practices. These technical improvements increase SEO value and the metrics that are visitor-facing.
You get more concise and focused on the facets of your web presence
Google likes “concise”, “focused” and “to the point”. SEO favors it, generally. The more meat there is and the less fluff, all things considered, while still being able to get the point across, the better. (You may presently be asking why our content on this site is sometimes so long-winded, then – you got us, it can be). Focused content, simple headlines and direct calls to action enhance conversion, too.
You begin adjusting your website to meet Google’s ad best practices. Mostly this is a good thing. Sure, you risk a little, by buying into the idea that it’s OK for Google to dictate all best practices, but hey, they are working with all that data, and while some of their decisions are what’s best for Google, some decisions do improve overall adoption on the web because they are smart best practices.
You start to create metadata for content that never existed to add in landing pages
PPC is expensive. It drives you to change things that are affected by it – anything that can improve ROAS (return on ad spend), or ROI. Adding landing pages means adding meta data, then checking if all your meta data is done right or needs changing, means you are getting leaner, more focused, and you start optimizing. Alt texts, page titles, descriptions – while some relate to absolute SEO value, all are at least contributors towards conversion and UX (user experience).
You tighten up your keyword game
Instead of just using no keyword, or adding multiple keywords, you pick a single keyword now for each landing page. Every page of your site affected by this new ad campaign is getting fresh eyes on it. Every page now is getting more focused and tightened up.this focus on cleaning up the pages and getting a strategic keyword placement, along with enhanced copy, cutting frivolous additions and getting more streamlined increases SEO value – this helps lead to enhanced SERPs.
Google local benefits from improved information that the algorithm gets from your website
When you make a campaign and tie it to your website and other web real estate, you give additional information that helps Google reassess your suitability for local traffic being delivered to you. The more information Google has, the better chances you can get free traffic. This is a blessing and a curse if you dislike being fast and loose with your information. But free traffic is so desirable.
Enhanced metrics from increased traffic
When you send paid traffic to your site, it artificially inflates visitor metrics. Visitor metrics do contribute AT LEAST tangentially to your total SEO value, even if not directly towards technical ranking factors in the SERPs. But artificially inflated or not, when you have more people on your site, even if they dwell less total time per visit, the enhanced dwell, and total click throughs contribute towards the time sensitive aspects of the Google Search Algorithm. Google doesn’t care that the time on site and the improved metrics came from paid traffic, it just factors it in and you can benefit. They don’t care where traffic comes from, but the fact that traffic is coming DOES influence the algorithm.
Once you have made some changes, the indexing begins to happen more frequently
Maybe you’re already indexed and getting crawled regularly, maybe these changes are the catalyst to finally get you ramped up in frequency of crawler activity. Either way, traffic begets more traffic. Metrics beget better metrics, within reason. Google has an incentive to crawl new and previously neglected pages once you start ironing out errors and technical deficiencies. It leads to better traffic, and usually better throughput on the conversion and sell through.
Now that you’re taking the ads more seriously and the website more seriously, you are probably sending additional passive signals to Google too
You might sign up for the webmaster console (search console); you may start tracking conversions better, or focusing on pushing proper analytics collection. Either way, you are telling Google more information, and showing them that you want to be more engaged. The connection of properties helps them dig deeper and gives a combination of more information that can be indexed or contribute to overall value, and gives you better insights which may help you push harder on SEO and marketing.
Sandboxing during growth phases is a real thing, but not generally when you are the subject of an ad campaign
You get a free pass on most of your “growth restrictions” if you are already signaling to Google that you are actively working on a growth project, but are able to verify that all the new visits and backlinks are the product of positive work. So while you can still be sandboxed on certain aspects, you are not generally penalized on pages related to ads. Otherwise they couldn’t send the traffic you are paying for.
When making ads, you need to have them nearly perfect before they can run at a decent price and with good result
This improvement in methodology may help you to properly reevaluate other technical deficiencies and your landing pages will continuously be on your mind – you may be optimizing ad nauseum after each ad first runs.
Revisits are increased; which improves site metrics
Given the right forward SEO push, improving metrics like secondary visits will all enhance SEO either overtly or covertly. For that visitor who is seeing your SERP after already visiting (they may still be searching for similar terms), it may help you get another visit and possibly a conversion. This secondary click improves the algorithm’s identification of relevancy and therefore can have a positive impact on new traffic.
All the increased exposure to your website convinces you to improve small things
You start noticing grammar errors. The fixes improve conversion. You notice misspellings, you fix them and your rankings go up. You see that your site loads slowly, so you investigate and smash down picture sizes and remove superfluous code. You remove excess loading blocks. All of this because you were just spending more time looking at your website and trying to maximize your ad spend. But now your organic traffic is going to go up because you are fixing tiny things that contribute to a healthier overall big picture.
Similarly, you are making content amendments, adding content, fixing dead links, etc.
Content turnover and improvements lead to more frequent crawler visitation. Better, more concise content leads to more traffic from a variety of keyword derivatives. You get more traffic from finally taking a look and properly optimizing your content and adding to it. Google isn’t the only search engine that you start getting a marked increase in visitors from.
Previously performant pages now are getting enhanced traction in the algorithm, promoting your overall value as a web resource
While every page can rank instantly, and independently and it is VERY CLEAR that overall site value has little to do with general on page SEO for the entire site, Page Rank, and overall website strength and credibility absolutely contributes to link juice, backlink strength, and SEO from both technical and non-technical perspective.
When you show off your best pages, people see them and then dive deeper. These metrics positively affect more than just consumer behavior. The search algorithm does get influence at many levels from these metrics, if not necessarily directly influencing the SERPs.
SEO is generally apples to apples – everything about SEO is relative
Search Engine Optimization is a comparison of all things to all things from a given competitor (page versus page). If your page has more quality backlinks, better content relative to search intent, better UX/UI and so on, it is generally going to be ranked higher.
Because you are making improvements (possibly catalyzed by the fact that you started an ad campaign on a PPC channel), your overall page by page and site experience, and improvements are going to lead to better relative comparisons. Traffic begets traffic.
There are dozens of other reasons why someone might feel that a Google Ads Campaign tied to your website seems to improve organic value and leads to higher SERP’s but usually it’s a multivariate response that triggers better overall results for you.
This is especially true if you are doing this by yourself, because each change has more potential impact, if you spend appropriate time and effort on it, and optimize it in an ongoing fashion. That is not to say that you cannot get better results from an agency. You are more likely to get great results from an agency in the long term, than by doing it yourself because the streamlined approach, the systematic implementation, and the bulk hours that come with an agency approach generally offers better total saturation on the points above. This, when taken as a whole, offers more than a single person can do without significant time, effort and money.
But it’s possible to get better than (agency) average results if you are going it alone – at least in the interim and while following the alluded to best practices listed out in the most general sense above.
So, does organic value and SERPs improve when you’re running a campaign? Sure, there is evidence to support that idea, but not because you spent money with Google – mostly because you spent time and effort making better results for users and fixing technical errors.
More than 20 additional concepts could be posted here to give additional context to this theory, but the point should be pretty clear by now. What is already a sufficiently long post about Google SERP improvements while running an Adwords campaign, can stop here – because we’ve given the result, and no more is needed to prove the point. That’s the ideal outcome from an SEO perspective.
But, yes, there are a lot of other reasons you might see such benefits when running ads and pursuing SEO best practices in organic channels.
It needs to be stated: we are not the search engine, so we cannot guarantee results. But we are an agency that hoards data, analyzes it comprehensively and builds projects just to gather new and interesting data sets to continuously try to improve our understanding of the landscape of SEO, marketing and other digital services. We do well for clients because we are data driven; we are not wasting time sitting along a learning curve, and we are exceptionally efficient in doing these marketing and SEO jobs.
We would love to talk with you about your SEO and PPC needs – we are very good at streamlining programs for these concepts and implementing properly built roadmaps. But let’s see what you need and see if we can help. We hope you’ve been given a bit of food for thought.
Conclusion: Does adwords affect organic ranking?
In the end, the idea that you are now paying for an ad is tangentially tied to an increase in SERP presence. But definitively, paying for an AdWords campaign does not improve organic rankings – at least not directly, or as a result of pay for play. Period.