When you're a digital marketer or deal with issues like SEO on a day-to-day basis, it's easy to forget that there are lots of people running businesses that leverage the internet in some way who are trying their best to learn and stay on top of trends without all the resources of the 'pros'.
I was recently speaking to an acquaintance who runs several small mom-and-pop ecommerce websites and as we discussed his use of AdWords, he told me something quite interesting: despite the fact that his campaigns weren't performing, he felt the need to continue spending a little money with AdWords because he thought it would help with his organic ranking.
His belief was that Google somehow rewarded its paying customers with better SERPs as part of a quid pro quo relationship. And by keeping a small AdWords budget, he was giving Google a little something to keep the company happy. Protection money, if you will.
Of course, my acquaintance is wrong. Participation in AdWords will not help your organic rankings or keep the Google gods from coming down upon your website's PageRank with all their fury. I know people who have spent five figure sums on AdWords every month who struggled with their SEO while I've personally been involved with websites that have never paid Google a cent and had top five rankings for attractive keywords.
From what I understand, the teams that deal with the search engine and AdWords are completely different and while I don't know what sort of formal 'firewall' might be in place, I'm quite sure that Google has no need to secretly reward its advertisers with SERPs.
While articles about the tactics Chinese search engine Baidu has allegedly used, for instance, might give advertisers reason to suspect that Google (and other search engines) reward their advertisers with better SERPS, I think the real lesson here is that there are a lot of small advertisers out there trying to make it and many of them don't have the time, know-how or initiative to find good information and resources.
When you think of it, all of the money that these small mom-and-pop advertisers contribute to the search industry really adds up and contributes heavily to the bottom lines of companies like Google. In the case of my acquaintance, he continues to spend money with Google month after month thinking it will help protect his organic SERPs despite the fact that his AdWords campaigns aren't performing.
I'm not sure if he'll heed my advice that spending on AdWords isn't a prerequisite for good rankings, but for those who also believe this: it's not true. Google doesn't require protection money.