Organic search v’s paid search

Why do we pay for a particular keyword when it’s already ranking well organically? It’s an often asked question by many, if not everyone who has some experience with Google Adwords, especially for people who only have limited resources for online marketing campaigns.

organic search vs paid search

Photo: keso s/flickr


To answer this critical question, Google released a report on this very topic “Incremental Clicks Impact of Search Advertising” in 2011. Not surprisingly, the study was especially in favour of paid search. It concluded that over 89% of the ad clicks are incremental. In other words paid ad campaigns can bring you more visits. After all the questions have been raised on this report, Google published a search ads pause studies update on their blog in the following year with more details to support it’s argument. In the same year, Google reported advertising revenues of USD $42.5 billion.

Despite with all the sophisticated studies that have been done by the experts from Google, we also tested the use of paid search on our A-ZGovBIZ Adwords account with a little help from Google Analytics tools. Although we have a relatively small budget on Adwords (less than $1000 a month), we outplay our competitors on some essential keywords organically.

Branded keywords v’s non-branded keywords

Branded terms had limited impact on our paid traffic. In fact we have been able to “pause” them altogether this year because the proportion was so small. It nearly had no impact on our total paid search traffic.

For some more significant keywords, such as the keywords which bring you most of the clicks and conversions you must ask if you are prepared to take the risk to pause them? Based on the study from Google, it would mean 89% of your paid traffic would be lost and not recovered by organic traffic.

Paid search helps organic ranking

This has been one of the biggest misconceptions about search engines. (However, it has been proven that Facebook news feeds do reward users who purchase Facebook ads)

In fact there isn’t a direct correlation between PPC (pay per click) and SEO (search engine optimisation), which means the very idea of paying Google to get a better organic ranking simply doesn’t exist. Google as one of the most used search engines simply wouldn’t take the risk to mess up its core product.

However, it does not mean that we can’t use Adwords to improve our SEO efforts.

Does paid search help SEO?

The answer is yes. Besides the fact that organic search results perform better with the company of paid ads, paid search campaigns can also be used as a valuable testing tool for SEO.  Here is how:

1. Test your ad copy

PPC headlines and description lines serve the same purpose as the page metadata. They leave the scent of the landing page and attract people find out more on your site.  PPC campaigns such as Google Adwords can give you instant numbers on the visits and conversions.

2. Test your landing pages

With all the time and money we have spent on a fresh new design, how can we tell the effectiveness of the new site? Do we just wait till it’s too late? Paid search is capable of giving us a quick and dirty way to test multiple landing pages at the same time. Check out Google Adwords Campaign Experiment.

3. Help with keyword research

Last but not least, paid search provides you with the tool (keyword planer from Google Adwords) and numbers when choosing keywords. We were disappointed when Google Analytics decided to only show us “not set” and “not provided” when a selected keyword couldn’t be found. But not anymore – because now a paid search can tell us the actual search terms people have used to display our ads in the paid search result. It also gives us the estimated search volume and value of each keyword.'

Yi is an online marketer specializes in SEO, PPC and Google Analytics, currently working for A-ZGovBIZ as a online marketing specialist and digital producer.

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