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.

Patricio Robles

Published 11 February, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2641 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (8)

Save or Cancel

Forrest Bivens

Protection money?  Never heard it described quite like that! 

My personal experience has been that the onpage SEO required for a well performing Adwords campaign is also beneficial for your organic rankings, but that's as far as it goes.  No one taught me that, however it seems to make sense.  Your thoughts?

over 9 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

I can see what you're saying but I'm not sure I agree fully. While there are things like copywriting that are important to both SEO and paid search success, I don't think there's necessarily 100% overlap.

You don't need a page that implements every SEO best practice in the book to have success with that page as part of an AdWords campaign. For example I don't see why you'd need to consider the use of h1 tags, alt tags or give thought to your internal link structure on a page or website that is only being used for AdWords.

It's great if paid search encourages you to implement good SEO habits but Google isn't going to give you any organic SERP bonus points just because you're spending money with them.

over 9 years ago


Gaver Powers

makes perfect sense...

there probably has to be a disconnect between adsense dollars and positioning in the google database, otherwise they would be under a great deal of unwanted scrutiny and spending lots of effort and money to assure everyone that they are playing fairly in the sandbox.

What may not be too apparent however is the somewhat hidden benefit of the adsense marketing effort… which is having your keywords and url appear on their content network. Just because Google is smart enough to weed out those links from their SERP doesn’t mean they all are. I’m seeing referring links show up in my site hit log that are really surprising. I also believe it adds some “credibility” to a site to have a supporting advertisement on the same page as your organic listing if possible.

I’m fairly certain that Google Adsense algorithms are “counting cards” – in an over simplified way – using pluses for clicks on an ad and minuses for returns to the page –meaning the “customer” didn’t find what they were looking for, and then adjusting the “relevance” of your keyword and payment accordingly. I’ve watched as the comment “Your initial bid is below the amount required…” appears and disappears over time.. of course it never works in reverse – I’ve never seen a “Your vastly overpaying for clicks for this keyword” and probably never will. But as your CTR improves – the cost of the clicks go down and you gain better ad position on the page – at least that’s how it appears to be working to me. So adsense is collecting information, and they are using it to try and ensure the client (people searching the web) are getting the best possible result set based on the keywords they entered. Google manipulates the information they have available to try and meet the expectation of the customer.

Although a direct connection between positioning of organic results can not and should not be tied to the existence (or not) of an adsense campaign – there’s a strong possibility in my mind that they are sharing data regarding CTR ratios and perceived customer “satisfaction” with the results returned, which will influence the PR of a site in a general query.

But I doubt I'll live long enough to see it proved one way or another...

over 9 years ago



I can't help being suspicious that running Adsense ads on a site has some effect on organic rankings. That is, sites running ads display above sites without them, as of course this would benefit Google. I have to admit this is based on very little evidence and it would be a really bad look for Google if it was the case. I do have one site which the homepage dropped in the rankings after I pulled the adsense ads off, then I noticed some obscure page started ranking in it's place, this page had a different wp-theme and I had left the Adsense code in it..

over 9 years ago

Richard Hartigan

Richard Hartigan, Industry Manager at Google

There is no direct relationship between the paid and natural rankings but there is an indirect one, driven by two factors:

1. PPC adverts quickly give a site exposure, exposure gets you traffic, traffic gets you inbound links and links helps your SEO. PPC is just a another form of marketing and in order to generate inbound links to your site without buying them, you need to conduct some form of marketing be it word of mouth, bannerr ads or a great big above the line TV campaign!

2. As described by Forrest above, there are some overlaps between the Quality Score that is used within Adwords and the algorithm that determines your organic position. It's not 100% as there are far more equations within the organic ranking algorithm, but common themes such as page content and click duration are considered to impact upon both.

over 9 years ago

David Iwanow

David Iwanow, SEO Product Manager at Marktplaats.nl

i disagree with the article, and are more aligned with @Richard Hartigan's views around the quality score, if you adjust your site to ensure that you are getting a decent quality score in adwords, its likely that your organic results will also be reasonable.

I have tested adwords with brand new sites, and found there is some correlation with a site that has had no serious seo campaign, just a few dollars on a local geospecific adwords campaign as a test while the site is still being built and there is an impact at least on local geographic specific results.

there shouldnt be a link, but if someone finds your site with an adwords campaign and you are number 15 in organic they will likely search for you on the second page and you will get the click.

its not meant to be, but i see it as something that is still part of the algorithm, you get relevant traffic with lower bounce rate, and google adds this to your profile...

over 9 years ago



I have to say I disagree slightly with this.  OK so there are the conspiracy theorist that think that SEO and PPC teams at Google are one big faction.  This is clearly not the case however lets looks at the evidence......One major UK search agency disappears from the SERPS for their brand term in 2006, 3 days later they are back in...co incidence?

over 9 years ago





about 9 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.