How Does a Paid Search Campaign Affect Your Organic Rankings?

The benefits of paid search advertising are increasingly clear to businesses, non-profits, and other organisations. But of the many advantages to Paid, enjoying organic search results boost is certainly not one of them.

Not strictly speaking, at least.

Google arguably delivers the most relevant search engine service in the world; it would never jeopardise that by giving sites an organic boost when they invest in paid campaigns.

So while some website administrators and even marketing outfits claim they see websites gain an organic advantage when those same sites pour money into PPC systems like Google AdWords, they are quite simply wrong.

Are there any indirect impacts on organic listings?

Yes, there are.

A paid search campaign could make people more likely to click on your organic listing

If a person searches for ‘blue sprockets’ – the old classic – and sees an advert for ‘Jane’s Blue Sprockets’, then scrolls down and sees an organic listing for ‘Jane’s Blue Sprockets’, they may be more likely to click on that organic link – simply because it now seems more trustworthy. However, emphasis should be placed on maybe, because as Rand Fishkin said in his video on the subject, any boost in CTR may be minimal, and would hardly be worth investing in Paid for this reason alone (although there are of course many other benefits to a PPC campaign).

A Google study from some years ago does suggest a modestly positive impact on organic CTR when paid ads are running. You can read it here.

This benefit could be felt over the long term too

Let’s say a person is researching ‘blue sprockets’ over a number of weeks, with a view to making a big order. If they come across ‘Jane’s Blue Sprockets’ adverts several times over that period, there is evidence that they are more likely to click on an organic link to Jane’s website. They would also be more inclined to engage and convert. The more people see a brand, the more they trust it. That’s why a paid campaign prior to or during an organic campaign might help boost those non-paid clicks – and engagement in general.

On particular queries, paid has a big impact on organic – i.e. a negative one

On some search queries, ads can take up a lot of space, sometimes stretching way below ‘the fold’. For example, a search for ‘hotel in central London’ might throw up several AdWords ads, then display a map of central London with available hotels – all of which link to a paid ad. You have to scroll down a long way before you finally reach the organic listings. As Fishkin pointed out, this has a big impact on organic CTR. This impact is a negative one, of course, because more people are clicking on an ad than an organic page.


Your ongoing SEO may be boosted by paid exposure – by supporting your link building

Let’s say our favorite SME, Jane’s Blue Sprockets runs a paid search campaign over a period of time. These ads bring quality traffic not only to product listings but to blog posts, how-tos, info-graphics, explainer videos and other useful content on the same site. As a result, other websites, blogs, social media users and news agencies may decide to link to this content, thereby giving your organic listings an uplift and increasing your brand exposure. As an SEO strategy in itself, it might be rather costly, and it would still demand that your content was top-notch in order to attract those links – but it would undeniably be a great side benefit to a paid campaign.

Starting a paid search campaign could inspire others to enter a particular market

Say you spot a gap in the market somewhere – and no other advertisers are operating in it. You decide to initiate a paid ad listing campaign on associated search queries – and let’s say you enjoy some success for your efforts. But the mere fact your ads start to appear for these terms could inspire others to enter a particular market.

Companies selling the same products or associated services could appear. Other firms may be inspired to create new products having witnessed your paid campaign. It may even be the case that new companies or affiliate sites appear to take advantage of a market or niche that you spotted and sought to capitalize on.

So while this pitfall is unavoidable, it’s one to consider.

So, should I start a paid search campaign to get better organic rankings?

In short, no. But it’s important to understand how a paid search campaign could positively impact your SEO/organic CTR as a side benefit. However, it’s also important to understand how aspects of paid search might be detrimental to organic listings in the long and the short term.

All that said, paid search offers huge benefits to all kinds of organisations. From small businesses who want to enter a market quickly to websites that do not have the time to rank for certain terms organically, to sites that require consistent, targeted traffic – the plus-points of paid search are extensive.