Escape from Cannibal Island! Does paid search eat into your organic search rankings?

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If you’ve got good organic search results, or if your search rankings are still getting there, you might be wondering whether Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is going to eat into your ratings. Sure, PPC delivers focused visits to your site – but is it reducing the chances that a search engine user will find your site in his or her results? Is PPC like a ravenous cannibal, gobbling up your organic search credibility while dragging you into a spiral of increasing online spends to maintain some presence at least?

In short: The answer is a NO!

The writing on the wall is clear: a strategy that allows for both organic and paid SEO does more for you than a one-sided campaign on either front.

A recent research study by Google bears this out. It’s based on a far wider set of data, at that. However, it is a Google study and you may be inclined to cast some doubt on their motivations. Still, Google makes their methodology clear in the study. It also confirms what several industry experts have been saying all along, as well as the results of at least one independent study, so it’s worth taking the results of this study on board; your preference for the pinches of salt may vary!

Google’s own study was certainly thorough. It used data from more than 400 campaigns in Germany, Great Britain, France and the USA over a time period from October, 2010 to March, 2011. It sought to find out to what extent organic search results would make up for the deficit in site traffic caused by a pause in paid ads. The result was pretty dramatic: apparently some 89% of the traffic generated via PPC cannot be replaced by organic search alone.

Cumulatively, studies by industry experts, an industry leader and academic studies all seem to bear out the same point: Pay per Click will not negatively impact your organic search rankings. In fact, dropping PPC altogether isn’t a good move. If nothing else, the traffic brought in by PPC tends to be more focused on a specific proposition and can be converted more readily if you’ve linked your campaign to specific landing pages with clear calls to action. There’s no danger of cannibalism, so dig right in!

References:
http://searchengineland.com/should-you-bid-on-a-keyword-if-you-rank-organically-for-that-term-84247
http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/37161.pdf
http://web-docs.stern.nyu.edu/old_web/emplibrary/Prita%20Kumar_Honors%202008.pdf

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