It’s true. Google Ads do affect organic search results.

(Disclaimer: This article is an individual viewpoint and does not necessarily represent opinions of LeadSquared.)

We kept puzzling for months whether it is purely the organic traffic, or the spike in traffic is due to our increased spend on PPC (Pay Per Click) ads.

So, whenever we ran PPC campaigns, we got more organic traffic and leads. But when we stopped the PPC campaign, the traffic and lead volume would also drop.

We knew for sure that there is a correlation. But what – this we were still wondering.

The impact of google ads on organic search results

It’s obvious (and has been discussed widely before), that increased ad spend would lead to a traffic spike because of a higher number of brand searches. However, the increase in the brand searches and the organic traffic wasn’t proportional. Additionally, most brand queries would land on home page, and for the purpose of this experiment, we have analyzed the organic traffic on some other pages of our website.  

This is a point that has been debated for a long time as well, and the conclusion is seemingly the same every time – “as a rule, PPC does not “directly” impacts organic rankings.” But, no one ever seems certain about it, nor is there any data available anywhere to clarify. Google has always denied the direct influence as well. 

Well, our main concern wasn’t the organic rank. But we wanted to understand – why do we get more organic leads only when we run ads (disproportionate to the brand name search). And what would happen if we stop running ads.

So, we decided to test the hypothesis.

Just to clarify, we run ads on landing pages and not on our usual webpages. But we could see that webpages/articles that are indexed (not ranking in top 10 position) for those keywords start appearing in SERP.

Tools we used:

  1. SEMrush for position tracking
  2. Google Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool for checking the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) results (if we bid on ads)
  3. SEO Minion to cross-check SERP positions for specific keywords in the target geography.

We tested this hypothesis for organic search results with and without ads for 30 keywords in the United States. And we tested the theory for both specific audiences and generic ones on Google Ad Preview & Diagnosis tool.

Key Findings

Google tends to provide personalized search results based on browsing history accessed via cookies. Therefore, there are good chances that different people can see different search results.

For example, the following is the audience categories in Google Ad Preview & Diagnosis Tool.

Google Ad Preview & Diagnosis tool audience

However, when we tested a set of keywords for different audiences, we did not find any difference in the new organic results positions.

So, here are the key learnings from our test:

  1. Google SERP may/may not look different to everyone else vs. your target audience.
  2. If you bid on ads, people will see your relevant web page in the SERP. Why? We will talk about this in the next section.
  3. PPC will not directly affect the organic rank. Once you stop the ads, your pages will restore their original index. However, there can be other factors that influence the organic rank. For instance, time spent on the page, backlinks acquired in the process, and people who clicked on your page(s) after seeing the ad share it on their socials.
  4. Relevance is the key here. Google Ads will not show any random page from your website just because you are bidding on a keyword.

Here are some of the test results.

Inactive Ads

In this case, we tested keywords that we are ranking organically in 1st, 2nd, 3rd pages, and beyond. But we are not bidding on any of these keywords.

We found out that if you run ads on those keywords, it will appear in the SERP 1, irrespective of the index.

Test case:

Loan management system - google ad preview tool

For example, here’s its actual position in SEMrush:

loan management system - SEMrush position

Active Ads

In this case, we tested SERP results for keywords that we are bidding on. For all these keywords, one of our pages (web page/blog article) appears in the SERP 1. But their organic rank is different as per the Google index.

Test case:

Active Ads on Mobile CRM Keyword

Here are their actual ranks in SEMrush.

SEMrush - Keyword position

And search results looks something like this in SEO Minion.

Google search results - SEOMinion

When we checked these keywords in the Ad Preview tool, we found all of these on the 1st page.

Testing Google Ads for keywords for which we haven’t produced any content yet.

As expected, we did not find any of our pages for this query. It was an extreme case to test, but we thought of including it to avoid any misconception regarding relevance. Whether it is ads or organic, the emphasis on relevance is still intact.

You can check out all our test cases here.

But why would Google do that?

The answer is simple. Two results from the same website on SERP increases the likelihood of a person clicking on it. In other words, it increases CTR (click-through rate).

Rand Fishkin on PPC Ads

Rand Fishkin on “How Google Adwords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results.”

So, your page might not be ranking organically on the first page. But if you bid on Ads, then the algorithm will push relevant page on the top.

Now, coming to the CTR bit. It is not necessary that a person will click only on ads. But it increases the chances of them clicking on either of your assets. Even if they click on the organic result, it will give cues to Google for remarketing ads. This way, Google is creating a win-win situation for both – itself and advertiser.

How does Google determine the updated SERP position when we bid on Ads?

Well, this is something that we are still trying to figure out. A possible reason could be – the updated SERP may reflect the results based on whether you have chosen the top of the page bid or the bottom of the page bid.

It is based on the logic that two consecutive results from the same brand may further improve CTR. However, we are still exploring the web UI concepts. Next, we will also explore the impact of keyword competition on Google ads search result pages and whether the theory applies to other search engines as well.

(Do let us know if you have a theory!)

Conclusions we draw.

We tried to understand the impact of PPC ads on organic traffic based on our advertising goals. Also, please note that correlation is not causation. There still is scope for further investigation, and we are on it. But if you like the idea, you can test it out yourself and draw your conclusions as well.

Google Search Ads are expensive, in general. At least, we have seen this in our B2B segment. So, one would want maximum ROI from it.

Getting more organic traffic/leads after running PPC campaigns is not a fluke. But, while deciding the actual lead source, consider the following:

  1. Whether the landing page is ranking on SERP 1 or not. People rarely venture into SERP 2 or 3. Therefore, there is hardly any chance of getting leads if your pages are not ranking on the first page (moreover, if you’re running ads on similar keywords, then it could be because of PPC ads). You can use position tracking tools from SEMrush or Ahrefs. Alternatively, you can use SEOMinion for evaluating search ranks from the Google index for a particular keyword.
  2. Check the SERP results on the Google Ad Preview tool (for the landing page that brought conversion) to validate it.

In terms of your campaign strategy, it is always a good idea to produce content around your PPC keywords. It is because, whether a prospect clicks on ad results or clicks on organic search results, it will eventually bring you leads.

We track the lead source (landing pages), marketing campaigns, and customer journey in our Marketing and CRM software. If you want to get more transparency in your customer acquisition process and management, do check it out.

If you have a different opinion on this theory, do let us know!


Author: Nidhi Agrawal

Nidhi is a Senior Content Editor at LeadSquared. Nidhi is passionate about Content and SEO, and is currently exploring ranking algorithms. Connect with her on LinkedIn or write to her at nidhi.agrawal@leadsquared.com. 

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