Experts Blog

Does Being a Google Advertiser Give an Advantage in the Rankings?

By Casey Markee on Apr 17, 2012 - 04:27 PM

Transcript of the Video

All right, hi everyone and welcome to our Search Engine News SEO Q&A. My name is Casey Markee and I'm the Lead SEO Consultant and Head of on-line support with Search Engine News and Planet Ocean. If you've used our paid Fast Track Service or submitted a request for SEO assistance, or even scheduled a professional consultation with Search Engine News you've probably had some contact with myself or my learned associate, John Heard.

We get some pretty interesting questions asked of us from time to time both during the course of SEO support or doing client SEO consultations or just what we've run across in our daily dealings, and one of our long-time subscribers, Al, actually recently submitted a question which we thought was pretty interesting and so we're going to go ahead and answer that for you today, do something a little bit different, put it on video and see what you guys think.

Al asks, "I have three competitors who are currently outranking me in Google. All three of them are just above me and I can't seem to unseed them. One of the few threads that connect them to each other is that they all advertise on Google AdWords and I don't. Are they getting an Organic ranking boost from being a Google advertiser?"

This is a pretty interesting question and it's one that we actually get asked often. I just recently attended the Pubcon Paradise. This was something that a lot of people asked. This was also something that we occasionally get asked by other SEO's and of course on-line support like with Al here.

I think we can definitively say that advertising with Google does not give you any direct organic ranking benefit. However, I'm going to preface that by saying that with most things with SEO there is a however, and we're going to get into the 'however' part of that later on in the answer.

But basically Google does not give you any direct Organic ranking benefit from advertising with Google AdWords. Google goes to great lengths to keep the paid and the Organic sides of their business entirely separate and this is to ensure that there is no funny business involved at all, period.

And if you think about it, be it Al or anyone else listening on the call, even the hint of a connection here of impropriety would be a major integrity fracture that would kill not only Google's share price as a publicly-traded company and bring them some very unwanted attention, be it from government regulators or the public in general, but I don't think that it's something they want to mess with.

I mean they've got enough irons in the fire and if the whole point of them is to provide the best unwarranted, unbiased relevant search results as possible you can't have any sort of a bleed between the two sides of the search business, be it the paid or the organic side.

It's also important to note that with AdWords it's based on a complicated quality score. I'm sure that most of you listening to this call know or have heard the term, 'quality score'. And quality score is a complicated and completely independent mechanism, completely separate from Organic ranking consideration.

In fact most of the factors that make up quality score would have no effect on Organic ranking anyway, and vice-versa. Thus sites that work well in Google AdWords and Organic may not necessarily rank well in the other mechanisms.

So quality scores fluctuate tremendously both from ad group to ad group, so applying that as a rule that you can apply uniformly to your entire Organic rankings, it really would seem to be cumbersome and unrealistic. Now with most things in SEO, as I said, when I started the question we want to preface it by saying that there is a however involved and that is the case with your question, Al, or anyone else who might have -- curious about this.

There may exist some indirect benefit from advertising with Google AdWords, specifically in the areas of click-through, bounce rate and time on site metrics, and these are three areas that we've covered significantly, especially over the last nine months with Google Panda, the Google freshness updates and now in 2012 with the full roll-out of the Google Search plus your world personalized search enhancements. Those three metrics are becoming more and more important.

So look at it this way. If your advertising is Google AdWords you're gonna drive a good amount of traffic. At least that's the whole - that's the goal. This increased traffic can lead to increased conversion rates which can lead to longer site visits, which can lead to lower bounce rates, and finally higher rankings because it's a chain, and if you are able to manipulate some of those metrics in the chain it's gonna cause your rankings to go up in unison.

So it's certainly possible that advertising with Google AdWords can help you rank higher but, again, these would be indirect benefits, not necessarily apply applicable to every Google AdWords advertiser out there.

As always in our advice here at Search Engine News, be it on this subject or any other for that matter, it's important not to concentrate too much on one metric to the exclusion of other data. Sure your competitors may be outranking you and they may all share the fact that they're Google AdWords advertisers but they could also have more incoming links or better quality links or lower average bounce rates or faster-loading pages or it could be a lot of areas. It could be a lot of issues.

Maybe they're generating more on-page social signals or had better general on-site optimization. Make sure to conduct a full site audit before making any long-term conclusions or jumping to something like, "Hey, they're all on Google AdWords, that must be the explanation."

So basically that's the answer to your question, Al. Hopefully it's not surprising, or it may not necessarily be what you hear but that's certainly our professional opinion. If you disagree or if anyone else has any thoughts please make sure to direct those to our on-line support and we're always looking to hear what you have to say, and so on behalf of Search Engine News and everyone here, Al, thanks for the question and good luck with your competitive analysis in the future.

Thanks again, everyone. We'll talk to you again soon.