A salesperson for Google Ads was recently caught claiming that investing in Google Ads will result in improved rankings. This has long been discussed by marketers over the years and Google has (for the most part) denounced this theory.
I’m not sure yet how to process the fact that Google just did a shakedown of one of our clients. In essence, they were told to spend more on paid ads in order to improve organic search *for their brand name.*
— Melinda Byerley (@MJB_SF) January 7, 2021
This particular salesperson indicated to an advertiser that increasing your ad spend with Google pay per click has a positive correlation to organic rankings, especially with branded search.
A response from Google’s Danny Sullivan:
Ad spend will not increase your SEO. At all. And if you want to DM me the info, I’ll follow up with the @GoogleAds team to track down why this got said. Because it should never be said, because it absolutely doesn’t work that way.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 7, 2021
Is There A Correlation?
As search marketers who use both SEO and Google Ads to drive traffic to client websites, we have never noted a correlation between the two. A quick way to debunk what this salesperson said is to look at a brand’s organic traffic who are not running paid aids. The brand still receives organic traffic, so how can there be a correlation between the two?
This theory has also carried through from larger enterprises and retailers with deep pockets for pay per click. The thinking is, “the more we spend on advertising, the more Google will reward us in organic search results too.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and there has never been conclusive evidence or data to support this theory. Organic rankings are completely independent of ad spend and cannot be improved with a larger PPC budget.
Organic rankings improve with content, link acquisition and strategy.
The Correlation with Brand Exposure
A correlation between paid ads and organic traffic does exist though and it occurs with branded traffic.
Let’s say you are using pay per click advertising to drive traffic to your e-commerce website. A person searches for a product, sees your ad and clicks through to your website. The potential customer might not convert right away, but your brand name is now top of mind. We call this brand exposure and there’s a much higher chance the potential customer will visit your website again through organic search (SEO).
This does not mean there is a correlation between your ad spend and organic rankings though. This simply means SEO traffic and paid search traffic do not operate in vacuums. The more paid search traffic you receive, the more organic traffic you will receive due to increased brand exposure.
What Should You Do?
This may be a sales tactic to try to push ad spend more for small advertisers who restricted their budgets in 2020. More likely though, this is an isolated incident with a sales rep who needs more training from Google.
If you are using pay per click to drive traffic to your website, keep doing it. Just know that increasing your ad spend does not lead to higher rankings in organic search.