Does PPC Help SEO?

Clients often ask us if PPC (pay-per-click) advertising helps with SEO (search engine optimization) results. It’s a great question to ask, but not the simplest one to answer. 

The short response is, no, PPC does not directly help SEO results

Here’s what Google says on the subject:

“Google’s first responsibility is to provide Search users with the most relevant possible results. If businesses were able to pay for higher rankings in the search results, users wouldn’t be getting the information they’re looking for.”

That being said, a paid media advertising strategy can lead to indirect SEO benefits. Let’s quickly dive into the biggest differences between PPC and SEO strategies before we talk about how the former impacts the latter. 

Basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy

When we talk about search engine optimization, we’re talking about organic traffic. Or, simply put, traffic that arrives at your site organically and not from advertisements.

This happens when users click on organic search results. Google decides the order of all search results through a series of algorithms. Their decision-making process is confidential and proprietary, but good SEO experts understand how to move sites up in search results. The higher sites appear in search engine results, the more qualified the traffic.

organic search results for "lawn furniture"

Check out our SEO services page and blog post on the differences between on-page and off-page SEO for even more insights.

Basics of Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC) Strategy

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising drives traffic to a website through paid advertisements. 

Marketers use platforms like Google Ads to target specific keywords and pay to ensure their brand appears ahead of organic search results. With PPC advertising, you’ll only pay when your PPC ad is actually “clicked.”

When we do the same query for “lawn furniture,” the paid advertisements appear as sponsored posts at the very top of the search engine results page (SERP). These top-of-search spots are bid and earned through an auction-like system and don’t inherently relate to the organic visibility of these brands.

where paid search ads appear for lawn furniture query

For additional thoughts and strategy, head over to our PPC services page. If you’re unsure about whether your marketing strategy should include SEO or PPC, check out this blog post.

4 Ways PPC Indirectly Helps SEO

Paid search and SEO are two sides of the same digital marketing coin. While some businesses are looking for the fast results of pay-per-click advertisements and targeting PPC keywords, others want to invest in organic listing visibility.

[We explore the long-term benefits of a PPC strategy in this blog, if you’re curious for more in-depth insights.]

Oftentimes, we see our clients start with PPC campaigns and then tack on SEO. As a result, many experience indirect benefits of a dual marketing strategy.

So, how can PPC indirectly affect or benefit SEO results? There’s no cut-and-dry answer, but here are five areas we’ve identified in our 15+ year experience in digital marketing that we’ve found PPC benefits SEO. 

  1. Maximizing top-of-search real estate in results
  2. Building brand awareness through ad impressions
  3. Positive impact of click-through-rates (CTR) and conversions for searches with high paid traffic
  4. Increased site traffic thanks to links featured in paid ads
  5. Improved SEO testing of keywords through PPC strategy and insights

#1. Maximizing top-of-search real estate in SERPs

One of the most obvious ways PPC helps SEO is by increasing the amount of real estate your company “owns” in the SERPs for targeted keywords. 

PPC ads allow you to skip the line, so to speak, and place your brand at the top of results. While most users are aware that they’re being served ads, the top-appearing spots signal to users that your brand is among the best fits for whatever they’re searching for.

As you invest in your business’s SEO and organic visibility, your goal should also be to improve your organic visibility for the very same keywords you’re bidding on.

#2. Ad impressions build brand awareness

When used together, PPC and SEO can increase your brand’s overall visibility in SERPs. An effective one-two-punch with dual placement appearing as potential customers scroll through results. 

Why? A sponsored ad at the top of the SERPs, in conjunction with your website’s organic ranking for a relevant keyword can instill, and reinstill, a sense of authority between your brand and the keyword in question. 

The more people see your brand being associated with what they’re looking for in search, the more those associations become second nature. 

#3. Searches with high paid traffic can impact organic CTR

Research by Moz revealed that paid results do strongly impact organic click-through rate (CTR) for certain search queries. 

Across the board, what we’ve seen is that paid searches on average, in all of Google, gets between 2% and 3% of all clicks, of all searches result in a paid click” – Moz.

The higher the CTR can lead to higher rankings, and thus more organic conversions in the long run. How does this work in real life? If someone engages with an ad at the top of the SERP, and searches for that same keyword in the future, they have a better chance of seeing that same company’s organic results higher up. 

#4. PPC can help with SEO testing of keywords

The analytics from paid advertising campaigns offer right insights that can be transferred to an organic search strategy. This is probably our favorite way that paid search helps organic search and demonstrates how well PPC and SEO can work together.

Whoever is managing the ads will be able to see which queries yielded the most impressions and highest conversion rates. They’ll also be able to see which ad copy and keyword query combinations directed customers with the highest ‘spend time’ on your site.

When companies know more about how their target customers are talking about their products or services (through keyword combinations and page session insights), they can invest in making those pages and services clearer for conversion. 

On the flip side, if there is evidence that terms that appear organically on page 2+ in the SERPs are converting, then we know that those same keywords likely hold value for PPC. To test it, we can immediately pay PPC to be seen next to the top ranking organic sites for these competitive terms. 

When it comes down to it, every search is based on user-generated content. This content, even if it’s sometimes predictable, is just as often counterintuitive. 

I propose that while entering an SEO commitment, you should be testing the viability of the keywords you want optimized on your web pages by employing PPC. This way you can build out the particular keywords on the main targeted pages of the website while keeping tabs on the PPC keyword statistics which perform best for your site’s ROI. Through Google, this should be done in a couple ways:

  1. Use your usual keyword research tools to come up with a grouping of unique keywords in order to test how they react in the live market.
    1. Remember to only use the exact match option for these keywords
    2. Be sure to bid them to a desired position
    3. Make sure the content network is set to “off.” 

**Note: This could get pricey as you want to ensure that your keywords show up before the fold on page one and keep in mind that you want enough data in order to make decisions, but this method will give you an idea on how often your keywords are currently queried and how well they convert for your site.

  1. Set up a separate ad group for testing.
    1. This ad group should be phrase matched and include peripheral keywords that are more open ended. 
    2. Pull a Search Query Report every week or so. 
    3. Depending on volume and conversions, this ad group should yield a bit of information. 
    4. Use these newly found keywords that have converted for your site in the exact match campaign – overall, you may be surprised by what has brought in revenue.

Remember to continue to test new keywords, and certainly don’t forget to put a good spin on your ads. Don’t forget to test ads and don’t stop coming up with new approaches to test. After a couple of months you can take your PPC metrics and compare them to your old keyword research tools to check for variation.

Now, you can take both statistics into account when optimizing your pages – using PPC to find keywords that are actually profitable for your site can save a tremendous amount of time on the SEO side. There are times when the highest volume keyword that a site could rank for is not the most profitable, and these are the times for which we need to test. Suddenly the PPC advertising budget can become an investment in a long term search strategy.

If you’re thinking about adding an additional strategy, let us know. We’d love to talk you through it. Get in touch.