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Can PPC Listings Affect Organic Rankings?

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Often the question is asked "Do PPC listings affect your organic rankings?" or "Will Google apply bonus points to your organic rankings if you spend money on their paid listings?" The simple answer is no. In 8 years in the SEO business I have never seen or heard of a confirmed case where your PPC listings directly affected your organic listings on any engine. Despite this, one of the best ways to increase your organic traffic is to start an aggressive PPC campaign.

Generating Keyphrase Data

A PPC campaign can quickly help give you data in weeks that would take literally months if not years to acquire via organic data research. By initiating a PPC campaign for all potential keyphrases, you can gather useful data that will help guide the direction of your organic campaign without having to change a single title tag on your site.

When a PPC ad is delivered for a keyphrase you bid on, an impression for that particular keyphrase is recorded by your PPC provider. At month's end, there is approximately a one-to-one correlation between the number of impressions delivered and the number of times one queries a particular keyphrase. By analyzing your impression data, you can get a very accurate idea of what your most popular keyphrases are.

Just as importantly, you can see what keyphrases have a high click-thru rate for your site, and what terms actually convert. It doesn't pay to have a high organic ranking for a term if your site doesn't convert for that term. You will most likely see that the more specific targeted keyphrases have both a higher click-thru rate and higher conversion rate.

Your data will be more accurate if you remember to:

  • Bid to be on the first page for all terms so all queries get an impression
  • Use exact match with Google AdWords and standard match on Yahoo so variations of a term are not included in your impression count.
  • Don't throttle your bids by capping them with a daily limit. This ensures 100-percent visibility for all queries.

The results will be not be perfectly accurate, but this data will be more thorough than using a third party keyphrase research tool because it will include actual click-thru rates for your site AND conversion data if you run the test long enough.

Even if I have a client not interested in initiating a PPC campaign, I will pay for the test myself just to get this data. The results of the PPC campaign can also help justify making the actual changes to a site to help organic rankings.

Increasing Link Popularity

Your PPC listings on a search engine results page do not count as links to increase your link popularity because the results page is not a static indexable page, and the link itself within the PPC ad does not link directly to your site. Even if the reasons above were not true, the engines would never want to count links that were clearly acquired via advertising. They are interested in links acquired for editorial reasons – links that were acquired because the webmaster of another site found value in your site, whether it be from unique content you provide, or maybe they have developed a relationship with your company.

But for another webmaster to find value in your site to even consider linking to your site, they must first find your site somehow. If your site is starting with little organic traffic, what better way for other sites to find you than via PPC listings? Although only a small handful of PPC visitors will actually link to your site, you would be surprised what links your site will acquire indirectly from PPC listings after a year of an aggressive campaign.

And even more importantly these links will be acquired completely naturally. Not because you paid or begged someone to link to you, or because you had to promise a reciprocal link to another site. Links received as a result of just doing business in your industry are the best links of all – natural and related within your industry.

Branding to Increase Organic Click-thru Rate

If a user is familiar with your brand, they are more likely to click on your organic listing. Although a user might not click from the first PPC impression, the delivery of that impression increases the odds of a return search click on an organic ad.

Also, if a user sees BOTH your organic listing and your paid ad on the first page, your credibility goes through the roof. A recent study by Enquiro Search Solutions shows that owning both the top organic and paid position easily outperforms either spot individually. Combining the 1-2 punch of organic plus paid can increase not only your click-thru rate, but also ultimately your conversion rate as well.

Any one of the reasons above is enough to justify letting a PPC campaign help support your organic campaign. You can easily setup a campaign within 24 hours to start getting useful data, and help with getting your name out there. With links getting harder and harder to acquire, why not let some of your PPC visitors do some the work for you?

Craig Paddock is president of Plaza Digital, a Kansas City-based search marketing firm. He's also been referred to as a "Search Engine Groupie" for his regular attendance at search conferences.

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