As long as Google Adwords has existed, there have been conspiracy theories stating that paying PPC customers get preferential treatment in organic search results. While Google has always denied such claims, that hasn’t stopped the accumulation of a mountain of anecdotal evidence touted in blogs, on podcasts, and on online forums. “I paused my adwords and then my organic traffic dropped” is heard over and over, year after year. Is there any truth to the claim? And does PPC actually help SEO?
We may ruffle some feathers here, but our answer is YES, PPC DOES HELP SEO (but probably not how you think).
There are a few things to consider when looking at any possible correlation between PPC and SEO, first let’s get back to the basics of SEO. SEO by definition, can only help your website if people are actively searching for you or your related keywords. How much organic traffic you receive is based on how highly you rank for a specific search, combined with how many people are searching for that keyword. Can running a PPC Marketing campaign increase your rankings?
Correlation Does Not Equal Causation
To show how PPC affects SEO, there are a few facts we should point out. First, is that most people will visit a website several times before making a purchase, or filling out a form. This will vary per industry, but it is very rare in 2016 for a user to visit a new website and purchase during their initial visit. Second, is that Google looks at click through rate, bounce rate, and other signals on their search engine results pages to help determine a website’s ranking.
What does this have to do with PPC affecting SEO?
PPC is a form on marketing, and like other forms of marketing, should lead to more people searching for your brand. There are many situations in which a paid ad could lead to an increase in organic traffic:
- A user visits your site through a PPC ad, and instead of converting directly they return the next day through an organic search for your brand.
- A user clicks a paid ad, and then recommends your service to a friend who searches for your brand name organically.
- A user scrolls past your ad but notices the URL, and then clicks on your organic result further down the page.
- A user views your ad without clicking, then searches for your brand later, visiting organically. This is very common with display ads.
All of these situations would lead to an increase in organic traffic while running a PPC campaign. If you were to pause the Adwords campaign, it would be reasonable to expect a drop in organic traffic.
But I Swear My Ranks Have Increased When Running A PPC Campaign!
So far we have seen how a PPC campaign can lead to an increase in organic traffic. Now that you are getting more organic traffic, it stands to reason that you are seeing improvements in your organic click through rate, time on site, bounce rate, etc. Google’s search algorithm can pick up on these improvements as well, and may improve your ranks in Google search. The key distinction here is that your ranks may be improving due to the improvement of organic signals being sent to Google, not because you are also paying them to run PPC ads.
This phenomenon is also not unique to PPC marketing. A well run television, radio, or newspaper campaign should lead to more searches for your brand, which may also lead to an improvement in the search signals discussed above, resulting in higher rankings down the road. Just as it would incorrect to imply that running a television ad increases your organic rankings, it’s also incorrect to link running a PPC campaign with increased organic rankings.
SEO & PPC Working Together
PPC Marketing can be a powerful tool for your business, and a properly crafted SEO package can ensure you get the most benefit from a PPC campaign. SEO & PPC work together extraordinarily well to drive highly relevant traffic to your website, but there is no direct causal link between running a PPC campaign, and increased rankings.
Do you have any questions about how PPC affects SEO? Ask away in the comments below!