The Effect of Google Adwords on Your SEO efforts

by Michael Hubbard on September 16, 2011

in Search

If Google analytics looks at Search as a whole and identifies people that come to your site from a specific search engine (ie, then why we do we believe so whole-heartedly that Google would penalize you for having paid search traffic on your site?  Maybe penalize is too strong of a word – but how about discount?  Is it so hard to believe that a person who comes from the left side of the page versus the right side of the page is any less of a person coming from a search engine?  They both searched.  They both arrived.

Yet, for so many years I have heard the claims that there are only indirect benefits such as conversion lifts when you appear in both organic and paid, and there is better brand recognition, etc – but when asked if PPC helps SEO – the answer is always absolutely not.  So like everything we do here at Media Two – we tested it.  And we tested it again, and again, and again…  Following is one example of one of the tests we ran.

Below is a graph of 8 weeks of Google Adwords traffic.  The first 8 weeks (Green Line) was generally light traffic, primarily brand keywords.  The following 8 weeks (Blue Line) was elevated traffic (1,211% elevated).  This traffic was only run from Google’s Adwords account.


The next screen grab below shows the Organic trend lines for this particular site – the same 8 week period.  Notice the blue line, which is the 8 weeks with Google AdWords in accelerated mode how it starts slowly and then gradually increases.  There is no seasonality in play for this test.  Notice that Google’s organic traffic to the website actually increased by 19.48%, where Bing – where there were no ads running on their paid search program actually decreased 63.27%.  This particular site, Google and Bing organic traffic normally parallel each other’s movements (when one goes up – so does the other).  So this draws us to believe that Google is identifying that there is more relevant users coming to the site, and although it may not be credited as highly as its link structure system, it is definitely showing us almost 20% more love simply for running paid ads at a time when Bing is actually decreasing.


To make sure that the increase didn’t have to do with natural increases in search activity from major news events, we compared the time range to Google Insights, and for the most part it was flat, if not a bit down for the increased period.


One study does not make a statistically convincing argument in my eyes, but we have seen similar trends with an educational client as well as an insurance provider, hospitality client and many other industries (8 total) – all of whom did no traditional Search Engine Optimizing or website redesign’s, they simply increased their exposure on key terms and were benefited with higher organic SERP’s as well as the ensuing higher organic traffic.  Although the correlation is obvious, the theories range from valuable traffic being rewarded to analytics attribution counting 2nd visit searches as Organic even though their first visit came from Paid search.  Regardless of the reasoning, we know for a fact that Organic and Paid Search do work together and your paid search specialists must be working with your SEO/Design teams to maximize these lifts.  As there aren’t many case studies of this nature out there, I’d love your feedback as to what you’ve seen in your trials.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Morgan Siem September 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm

What Michael discusses here is just one piece of the pie that we call the marketing mix. By tying everything we do back to data and analytics, we can see the impact not only of SEM on SEO, but also of social media, banner ads, e-mail campaigns and design changes on SEO and website traffic. It all works together to lift website traffic in a “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” kind of way. Pretty black-and-white when you look at the data.


Dario Zadro May 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Very interesting article! I definitely agree that both SEM and SEO are needed to successfully lift engagement. What are your thoughts on a dramatic increase in traffic? Let’s say a site is doing about 500 uniques per day, then jumps to 2500 overnight with PPC efforts? Would you say this is a “bad” signal to Google and there’s a risk of penalty?


Luis Abundes December 7, 2012 at 5:33 am

Interesting article, but I have a question.

Lets say your visits increase 100% with PPC efforts and your organic results just increase 10%.
What would happen if in PPC the rebound rate is of 92% and organic just 30%. Would you consider this PPC campaign to affect SEO because of the rebound?


Eric January 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

This is the article I was looking for. Because we have been seeing similar results, but could find no one else around who had run any tests or done any case studies to test this. Thank you for this excellent article.

Eric Bryant
Gnosis Media Group


kalpesh October 22, 2015 at 3:26 pm

is their Google Adword Impact on MY SEO Efforts Negatively…


Dhanny April 6, 2017 at 1:15 am

Is really Google Adwords negative affect on SEO??


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