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Updated: September 11, 2020

The Cold, Hard Truth: Does PPC Affect SEO?

The Cold, Hard Truth: Does PPC Affect SEO?

When considering your options for brand visibility on Google and other search engines, you have some important decisions to make.  Should you invest your marketing dollars into PPC ads, or should you focus on SEO? And more importantly, will your PPC strategy affect your SEO in both the short and long term?

The short answer, according to Google, is that running Google Ads does not help your SEO rankings, despite what some “experts” might claim. However, there are some indirect ways that your PPC strategy can help your SEO, which we’ll discuss below.

What are the differences between PPC and SEO?

First, let’s define PPC and SEO and examine the differences between them.

PPC refers to “pay-per-click” ads, which are online advertisements you can run on Google’s ad platform to appear next to relevant searches or other relevant content on the web. Essentially, business owners can bid on the opportunity to show an ad next to searches when people are looking for something that matches the keywords and phrases you’ve chosen to bid on. You don’t pay for the creation of the ad itself, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad to visit your website or contact your business (hence the “pay-per-click” name).

You can change your ad copy and targeted audience at any time. There are a variety of ways to target your ideal customers, including geographical location and interests, and you can showcase different products, offers, or deals on your page at any time. This flexibility gives small business owners the ability to make real-time adjustments to the paid results that show up in search.

Business owners can also use PPC to get their businesses to show up outside of Google search via something called the “Google Display Network,” which is an enormous network of ad space that shows up on thousands of sites across the Internet.

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization, which is a practice of including content on (and off) your site that may improve your site’s visibility in search engines. This includes making your site clear, well-organized, descriptive, and helpful while including certain keywords that you’d like your site to rank for when users are searching for those terms in Google and other search engines. These search listings are completely free, which means no one can pay for a better ranking in these results.

There are a lot of factors that go into SEO, and just making some small changes on your site can make a huge impact in where your page shows up in the search rankings for various search terms. Of course, you want to focus on the search terms that are relevant to your business and will bring you the best possible potential clients. If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to on-page SEO for your site, you can find one here.

In addition to on-page SEO, having other sites link to your page can significantly improve your site’s organic ranking in search results.

The key difference between SEO and PPC is that SEO represents your site’s organic ranking on search engines, whereas PPC are paid online advertisements. When it comes to SERP, PPC ads are clearly marked and appear either directly above or below the organic search results.

Here’s an example of the difference between ads and organic search rankings. In a search for “baseball gloves,” you’ll see that two ads are displayed above the search rankings.

Search results for baseball gloves

As you can see, the PPC results clearly are marked with a bold “Ad” in front of the website URL. The first organic ranking (which is baseballsavings.com) is listed just below the PPC ads. Below that, you’ll see the several more organic rankings and a “People Also Ask” box, also called “Related Questions.” This section is controlled entirely by Google and cannot be paid for.

Related questions for search results

Does AdWords affect SEO?

One of the most popular questions about the relationship about SEO and PPC is “do paid ads help SEO?” If there were some way to directly improve your site’s rankings in Search by investing a little into paid ads, you’d likely do it, wouldn’t you? The bad news is that when it comes to using paid search to directly influence search results, you’re out of luck. However, there are some key relationships between PPC and SEO that are important to understand if you want to use both in the most effective ways possible to drive targeted traffic to your website.

Popular Myths About PPC and SEO

A simple Internet search will yield some commonly-spread conspiracy theories on the relationship between PPC and SEO.

MYTH: “Spend a lot of money on Google AdWords, and your organic SERP ranking will go up.”

FACT: Google AdWords spend has absolutely no direct effect on organic SERP ranking. At Google, there is a serious wall up between the paid search side and the organic search side. The absolute first priority of everyone who works on organic ranking results is to provide users of Search with the most relevant and honest results possible, and allowing paid search to influence organic ranking would significantly corrupt the integrity of the search function. Google’s official statement regarding this matter states:

“Google search results take into account who links to a web page as well as how relevant the content on that page is to your search. Our results reflect what the online community believes is important, not what we or our partners think you ought to see.”

No matter what articles or videos you find on the Internet, spending money on AdWords to increase your SEO ranking is a complete fantasy.

MYTH: “If you want to outrank your competitor for a keyword, simply spend more money than them on that keyword in Google AdWords.”

FACT: Again, this is patently untrue. Promoting your site via paid ads will increase the visibility of your page and your brand in numerous ways, but it will not directly move the needle for those precious free organic search results.

How PPC Influences SEO Ranking

We’ll state it as clearly as possible, once again.

PPC DOES NOT DIRECTLY INFLUENCE ORGANIC SEO RANKING. PERIOD.

Just think about it. If PPC really did move the needle for organic search rankings, then the brands with the biggest marketing budgets would simply dominate the organic search rankings. This would completely destroy Google’s (or any other search engines’) credibility. In fact, there would be no way that the rankings could be called “organic” at all.

Google is committed to making sure that organic search rankings and PPC ads remain completely separate, and there is a veritable wall set up between the two divisions in the company.

But that doesn’t mean that your SEO strategy can’t play off your PPC strategy, and vice versa. Read on below to find out how you can do it.

How Can PPC Strategy Help With SEO

So you can’t use a PPC strategy as a way to “trick” Google into organically ranking your site higher in SERP. However, there is an intersection between the two, and it’s important to understand how you can use both SEO and PPC ads together to improve your site’s visibility and attract more of your ideal customers.

PPC Strategy

Think of PPC and SEO as two separate channels that can work together to drive traffic to your site.

Check Customer Preferences

PPC marketing generates a ton of data, all of which can be used to your advantage. You’ll get data points on your ads like time of interaction, origin device, the keyword that generated the click, session time, conversions, and more. You can utilize these insightful data points to understand your customers’ preferences, improve and optimize your SEO campaign.

For example, if you notice that a significant majority of the clicks on your PPC ads come from mobile users, you can then really focus on optimizing your SEO for mobile.

This interplay of data actually goes both ways too, as you can use SEO to improve your PPC ads as well. For example, if you’re organically ranking high for certain keywords and getting a lot of traffic from them, you can utilize those keywords into your PPC campaigns.

Another great aspect of PPC ads that can help with your SEO efforts is the fact that you can test different strategies and get rapid feedback. With SEO, the feedback is very slow, so you can’t be as nimble when it comes to altering your strategy. By using PPC ads as a way to A/B test different ideas, copy, and keywords, you’ll be able to incorporate the results that come back into your SEO strategy without having to wait so long for everything to organically play out.

Brand Ads

You can also use PPC ads to improve your brand visibility, which studies have shown has an indirect but beneficial impact on your SEO.

For example, studies have shown that searchers who see an ad for your company may be more likely to click on your company’s organic ranking. Or, if they see an ad for your company AND they see that you’re ranking high organically as well, they may be more likely to click on your ad. Google actually did a study on this themselves, and the results were interesting.

How much will this affect your click-through rate? The impact might be nominal, but it’s a factor to consider nonetheless.

Another more important aspect of using your PPC ads for branding is that web searchers who have previously been exposed to a brand via ads may be more likely to engage in that brand’s organic content in the future. Building up familiarity with your brand name, logo and URL does seem to have a positive impact on searcher’s behavior. A strong brand association is highly correlated with increased engagement and increased purchases.

Additionally, people that click on your paid ads may be more likely to eventually link to you, mention you in social, or even provide media coverage for your brand, which does boost your organic rankings.

Using Remarketing For Customers From Organic Search

Leveraging your SEO for Retargeting Ads is an exceptionally valuable way that SEO and PPC can be used together as well.

Retargeting in general is essentially a form of marketing where you can target previous visitors to your website with ads. The idea is, once again, that internet users who have already shown an interest in your brand are much more likely to click and to buy on something they see of yours, as opposed to people who have never interacted with your brand before. In fact, some studies show that retargeted customers are 70% more likely to complete a purchase compared to non-retargeted customers. That’s absolutely huge!

A subset of this form of marketing is Search Retargeting, which is exactly like it sounds. It allows you to target searchers who have previously searched for your brand name or target keywords.
The amazing thing is that you can target these potential customers without them having actually visited your site!

Here’s how it works. If you know you’re ranking pretty highly for certain SEO terms, you can create ads to target people who search for those exact terms. These ads will act as an excellent supplement for your existing SEO efforts.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a shortcut to improve your SEO rankings by utilizing PPC ads, you’re not going to find it. While incredibly valuable for your brand, SEO is time-consuming and typically a slow-moving practice, and you simply can’t throw money at SEO to improve your rankings.

That being said, investing wisely in PPC in a coordinated way with SEO can have some tremendous benefits to your site’s visibility, click-through rate, and conversions.
Comrade Digital Marketing PPC Certification

At Comrade, we understand how PPC and SEO work together as a two-way street of separate channels. Our more than 15 years of experience setting up sophisticated PPC and SEO strategies for our clients has led to some remarkable results. With our PPC certification, we know best how to use PPC without any negative impact on SEO. Contact us today to learn what we can do for your brand!

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About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.
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