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SEO Website Audit

Top AdWords Positions With Top Organic Positions

June 1, 2011

Hi Jill,

Been a long time since I asked you a question – how about this one?

Google (not surprisingly) claims that having a top-3 pay-per-click (PPC) position in Photo Credit: dreamsjungcombination with high rankings (also top-3) in the organic results yields better results than the two positions viewed separately. We have top organic rankings for the most important keywords, so should we really go for the expensive PPC positions above the organic results? Is it true that 1+1=3 or is Google merely hoping to improve their earning?

Best wishes from Denmark,
Henrik Ranch

++Jill's Response++

Hi Henrik,

I'd be interested in seeing where Google has made that claim! That said, I actually had a very similar conversation with our paid search partner, Pauline Jakober from Group Twenty Seven, regarding a company's site that I was recently reviewing. They had both top organic rankings for some keyword phrases as well as top AdWords spots for those phrases. My first inclination was to think that it was a waste, which is why I consulted with Pauline.

She told me that every site is different and you really have to test these things to know for sure. Still, when she has removed the top ads in the past from sites in this situation, the clicks on the organic links alone did not make up all the visitor traffic that the combination of both paid and organic links had. Making the 1+1=3 formula seem to have some truth to it!

But again, as the car advertisements say, your mileage may vary, and there's no way to know without trying it for yourself.



Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO Services Company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalenJill Whalen

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Post Comment

 Buck Lawrimore said:
I too have high organic rankings and top PPC ad placements for my marketing firm, which has been online for a long time. I know for a fact that I have gotten customers from the PPC ads I would not have gotten otherwise, because they told me. In a recent conversation about this with a client, some of the team leaders told me they never click on ads because they know they are "bought," while other leaders on the team told me that they view the ads as a sign the company is well established and has money to buy ads - so they Do click on them.

Bottom line - you are always best off with both, but don't need to spend a fortune on PPC if you have organic juice going for you as well.

Special thanks to Jill for sharing her awesome knowledge with us readers.
 molly said:
I've also been wondering that... in the past I'd read that users "always" favor the organic listings, but our web analytics show this isn't always the case. I've looked for studies more recent than 2006 which track user eyeballs/behavior when presented with both paid ads (particularly at the top of the page) and high organic listings. Does anyone know of any newer behavior studies? I sure hate to pay for clicks when we've worked so hard to display well organically, but don't want to lose traffic.
 chewy said:
thanks - i've always heard this as conventional wisdom however I've never been able to read any actual credible proof of the supposed synergy. hope there's more to come.
 Michael Caldwell said:

Wouldn't Pauline sort of have a vested interest in the 1+1=3 theory?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Michael, that's not really a fair statement. She told me (as I said in the post) that it could certainly vary for every site or keywords, which is why it's important to test it for your particular site and keywords.
 Ryan Jones said:
Working on Ford I've seen a deck from Google with a 1+1=3 slide in it. (I still have a copy actually) where they cite a case study inovling luxury vehicles. In their study having a branded paid ad WITH a branded natural listing resulted in a 12% increase in visitors than just having natural search alone.

I think a key part of it is varying the messaging. That way you can capture a broader variety of visitors and still reinforce the brand. It's a strategy we use widely here, even to the point where we have a special paid/natural search report that specifically monitors overlap terms like that and their affect on KPIs and overall traffic.
 Jan said:
I'm in Myrtle Beach, SC where we have a hugely competitive market for hotels and condo rentals. All the best rental management companies have very optimized websites and high organic placement, and just about all of them use Adwords too. I think they would agree that the double whammy really does pay off. And it also works for specific terms outside of the ones you rank for that are still competitive. Say you are lucky enough to rank for Myrtle Beach condo rentals, but you only rank maybe #7 for Myrtle Beach Vacation rentals. They use that term on Adwords. I'm like you, Jill, my first inclination was to tell them it was a waste, but they've decided to take a portion of the profit they've made from organic SEO to re-invest into doing the Adwords too. That being said, I don't see them doing it on Yahoo or Bing...only on Google.
 Barb Young said:
I agree with Ryan - PPC allows you to control and vary your message, which is particularly important for ecommerce when things change quickly.

My large ecommerce client converts a lot of sales offline via a phone call after a PPC and/or organic click (usually 2-4 clicks before conversion). The customer service reps frequently hear customers say "your name was all over the page, so it gave me confidence to buy from you!" Look for Google Analytics Multi-Channel reports which will shed light on how PPC "assists" organic and vice versa.

I also put this actual theory to the test with another, smaller ecommerce client who had long dominated #1 organic rank for his most important keywords. We ceased advertising on their most heavily searched "top of the funnel" head term for one month where they had long-standing #1 PPC position, in the hopes that traffic would flow to their #1 organic listing. The test revealed that only about 50% of the "lost" PPC traffic resulted in organic lift. The result was a significant decline in revenue that month from that head term.

So, in my experience, 1+1 definitely = 3!
 Pauline said:
@Michael: I have a vested interest in providing my clients with PPC services that provide excellent ROI. I love when clients ask me this question because it is an excellent question.

I have experienced similar outcomes as Barb, Ryan and Jan have already pointed out. In my experience, I have never seen organic pick up the slack when a #1 organic ranking keyword is paused within an Adwords program.

You should give it a try! Test things and let us know if you come up with different results.
 Dantek said:
In my experience, yes, 1+1= 2.5

A PPC Ad will often target a different audience (as Buck mentioned).
The organic text and the PPC text will also attract different audiences.

Therefore showing both gives maximum audience/interest exposure. It also enforces authority by using up more real estate therefore increasing trust and encouraging a clickthrough.
 Melt du Plooy said:
It is all about positioning and making your brand visible as much as you can. Having a #1 ranking paid and and a #1 ranking organic listing sure is 1+1=3.

For me it is worthwhile to keep Paid Ads running on branded terms even though you rank well for those same branded phrases organicly. I agree with @Dantek in that it gives maximum exposure because you "own" more of the real estate in the SERP. The fact that organic does not pick up the slack when a #1 organic ranking keyword is paused within an Adwords program (thanks @Pauline) is probably prove enough. This for me is true as well.
 Melt du Plooy said:
someone else obviously picked up on this topic as well:
7 Reasons Why Nixing Branded Keywords Is Not The Fix For CPC Inflation
 George Aspland said:
We almost always find that it pays to run brand phrases in PPC and often non brand phrases too that are also reaching top organic results.

Here’s an article that explains why it usually pays off for brand phrases (most apply to non brand phrases except that the ad spend costs are usually much higher)

Part 2 shows how you can test whether it’s paying off with Google Analytics
 Jeff said:
I know this is an old thread but it came up in a search. The flaw in all these arguments is that you are only looking at part of the equation. Organic clicks are free. I'm guessing everyone, for sake of argument though, is assuming their top ranking PPC ads have a positive ROI. But this cannot be assumed. The "study" says 12% more clicks having both. But at what cost?! If the 12% more clicks results in 12% more conversions, but your profit goes down due to the PPC - then it doesn't make sense to do both.