We’re often asked whether PPC campaigns can affect SEO results and whilst PPC doesn’t directly impact SEO, there can be indirect outcomes.

There can be confusion surrounding the relationship between PPC and SEO but they are separate entities, which, more often than not, will work together to help a business grow. There are misconceptions that spending more with Google can equate to better organic results and rankings but that simply is not true. It’s important to remember the purpose of Google and that is to ‘provide the most relevant answers and results to users’, therefore, if businesses could pay Google for higher ranking positions on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), users might not be getting the best results.

That said, PPC could affect SEO in other (indirect) ways which we will examine further in this article.

What’s the difference between PPC and SEO?

The main differences between PPC and SEO is that traffic from organic search is free whilst PPC involves a cost for each click (hence the name ‘pay-per-click’) and the positioning of them is different on the SERPs; paid ads will appear at the top and bottom of the results page and organic results will appear in between them.

SEO is all about improving your site’s visibility on search engines for relevant searches and boosting organic traffic. Improving SEO involves catering to both users and search engines, for instance, content on your site should be helpful, relevant and mobile friendly. On the other hand, PPC involves advertising your brand to deliver any marketing messages and can give you more control over what appears in the SERPs (i.e. you can include sitelinks, pricing, callouts and more to gain more attention).

Ways PPC can affect SEO

As mentioned, there are some ways that PPC could potentially affect your SEO / organic traffic performance and is worth considering, let’s look at this in more detail:

Users can click on one result over the other

If you have both a PPC ad and an organic result on page 1 of the SERPs, the user is unlikely to click on both results if one meets their needs. In the below image you can see that ASOS has both a paid and organic result appearing at the top of the SERP...

Let’s say that a user clicks the PPC ad...whilst this is still great news for you, that is one less person entering your site organically which will affect your organic click-through-rate (CTR) and traffic. This is particularly the case when PPC begins to bid on brand, as you’ll inevitably see a loss in organic traffic. Therefore, it’s advised that you should only really bid on brand if your competitors are also bidding on your brand, or you want to draw attention to a special promotion or campaign.

It increases online exposure

If you’re making use of both PPC and SEO in your marketing efforts, you’re increasing your online presence and occupying more space which can really help with conversions. Alongside SEO, paid ads can lead to boosting your CTR (though this will be shared between PPC and organic results), more engagement and people sharing your brand, mentioning and linking to your site which can have a positive impact on organic rankings.

Bidding on search queries can have an effect on the market

When you bid on paid search results, you can contribute towards changing the market in terms of the value of search queries and how people think about related content creation. For example, if you were to start bidding on ‘hats for squirrels’ (a little eccentric, I know) at a time where nobody else is interested in the market but buying hats for squirrels becomes all the rage and other companies start bidding, you’ll increase the competition for that target keyword. When there is increased competition in the realm of PPC, you can see organic competition increase in a market that has become more monetized. Essentially, you just need to take care when bidding in spaces that nobody was bidding in before as it opens up an opportunity for competitors to get involved which can change the dynamic of the way the search query works in your sector.

It can affect your digital marketing strategy

After running PPC campaigns, you may decide to re-think your digital marketing strategy - do you focus your marketing efforts on PPC, SEO or both?

Whilst taking the SEO route can take time to see results, it can be a more cost effective way to increase brand awareness and drive relevant traffic to your website. Moreover, if you are forced to cut back on your marketing spend, organic traffic won’t immediately disappear when you stop paying, and competitors can’t just buy their spot ahead of you on the SERPs, so it may be seen as a more sustainable option.

On the other hand, PPC provides an opportunity to dominate the SERPs, positioned comfortably at the top of the page for all users to see which can increase your CTR. You can get creative with your paid ads with visual shopping ads and can target specific groups at specific times in specific areas. Whilst PPC can be the more expensive option, it can be a more stable option in comparison to SEO which can see some turbulence over time as any changes are less impactful and can be managed easily.

Finally, budget and needs permitting, you may determine that the best way forward is to run both PPC and SEO campaigns and this can really boost your CTR and conversion rates.

Let’s explore how the two can work in harmony…

How do SEO and PPC work together?

Together, SEO and PPC can be an unstoppable force in the right hands, here are just some benefits to running both PPC and SEO campaigns:

You can learn more about your users

When it comes to marketing, the more data you have, the better. PPC can provide valuable targeting information for SEO campaigns, particularly social media ads which have more precise targeting. You can collect data about your audience through these ads which will help to determine the right audience to target and refine your digital marketing strategy. You can also use PPC data to understand which keywords your users convert better on, which helps you to prioritise which keywords you tackle with SEO.

You can increase your online exposure

You can maximise your chances of getting those oh so special clicks when you have both PPC and organic results on the same page - getting your brand out there in more ways than one is bound to help drive more traffic to your site and increase conversions. Some people may worry about appearing on the SERP twice but if both the PPC and organic results are driving users to the right pages, it’s a win-win scenario. Try not to view your PPC and SEO campaigns as competitors, but rather, complementary to each other.

You can share tools for more insight

You can often use tools such as Google Ads for research into both the PPC and SEO side of things. For example, Google Ads features a keyword tool which gives you access to the monthly search volume and competitiveness of a target keyword. Moreover, you’ll be able to integrate keyword and conversion data from PPC into organic strategies.

You can improve validity

If your brand is appearing twice in the SERPs, users can feel more confident and reassured that you are a trustworthy and relevant site. You can add rich features such as review stars and pricing within both ads and organic results to increase your validity too.

You can test keyword strategy in PPC before any commitment

If you’re on the fence about whether to invest more into an SEO campaign, you can test your keyword strategy in PPC before you commit to a long-term SEO plan.

Why not take a look at our blog ‘How SEO & PPC can work in harmony for search success’ to find out more on running SEO and PPC campaigns together to achieve great results?

Final takeaways

To conclude, PPC can affect SEO, but only indirectly and the effects aren’t always negative either. There is a lot of potential for business growth in using a combination of the two in your marketing efforts but different businesses will of course require different strategies to meet their objectives.

If you’re looking to improve your PPC or SEO efforts, why not get in touch with our PPC and SEO specialists who can help you to improve your online visibility, sales and leads?

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Meet the author ...

Olivia Gilchrist

SEO Executive

Liv works in the SEO team and loves blending creativity with technical strategies to help our clients' webpages reach the top of the rankings! Having recently graduated from ...