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AdWords & SEO - Part 1 - Myths, values and costs


As a teaser, I´ll set off with some:


Myths on the relation between AdWords and SEO


- Using AdWords increases my organic ranking on Google

No, no, no (check links for proof)


 - Ad clicks will always cannibalize on organic clicks

That might occasionally happen, but you cannot know for sure whether it will or not in each case. And it could be that CTR of organic clicks increase at the same time as you get clicks on ad so that your total amount of clicks add up to much higher than if you had only had an organic link.
It could also be that organic clicks decrease a little, but that the incremental amount of clicks is so high, and at such a low cost, that the net value is higher than if you had only shown on the organic part of the page.

If you want a detailed report of this with regard to your own advertising, you should look at the organic/paid report in your AdWords account (under the Dimensions tab).


- SEO is without cost

YES, in the sense that you don´t have to pay anything for a click on an organic link and that you can´t pay Google to get a higher ranking.

But NO in the sense that it takes absolutely no resourcer to achieve a rankingposition. Just having a website manufactured has demanded some resources. To produce content for it, make sure it is technically search engine friendly, and make analysis of your organic traffic - all necessary parts of proper SEO - might take a lot of resources.


- Organic traffic converts better than paid traffic

I haven´t seen enough statistics to say yes or no in general, but I really doubt it, and the data I have seen have given me no reason to believe it.

If all things are equal - the same user, same search query, landing page etc - why would that be? The link the user clicks on (organic or paid) doesn´t change the intent of the user or the experience of the website they land on.


- A page with higher organic page rank also have a higher AdRank

No. AdRank is a value that each advertiser is assigned in each ad auction in which an ad in that account is eligible to show. Many things are taken into account by Google in assigning that value, but the organic ranking of the website is not one of them.


Now on to some theory.


Ranking & visits

My interest in Internetmarketing started in 2005, at a time when a new thing called search engine optimization (SEO) was gaining traction rapidly.

Those were early, immature days, when success was measured in amount of visits (or hits) and ranking in Google. And to be honest, such success actually wasn´t that hard to achieve; a little knowledge about how to structure your content, about meta tags, and whom to ask for links with a well choosen anchor-text, could rapidly change your rankings and your traffic volume.


Value & Conversions

A few laters, Internetmarketing as a whole has become much more professional. Focusing on what matters: money. We have realized that all traffic cannot be monetized, and that part which cannot (even “free” organic traffic) will only be a cost, in terms of bandwidth, support and the resources you´ve spent to aquire it: all those hours of content-production and technical updates - to what use?!


As with all business operations, also for SEO there is a need to make make best use of resources and make investements with a healthy return: and as with all marketing, there is a need to segment the audience and identify which part of it is most valuable to you, thus where to put more resources to reach it.


Hence, concepts such as “conversion”, “goal”, “value” started to penetrate the language of Internetmarketing. They are abstract, and for a reason: they let us categorize things that are inherently different - such as a click, a download, time spent, purchase of something specific - but could  be of equal value, or could be measured with a values continuum.


Today, savvy Internetmarketers do not focus on traffic and ranking in the first place. Instead, we start in the other end: who does what, and what value does that bring to the business.
Only the next step (or steps even further away) is to ask “how can we increase THAT traffic and ranking for THOSE queries”, which should be another way to say: how can we increase value.


Not all concepts and actions can be directly be translated into monetary values - that´s why we speak of micro- and macro-conversions and put different values on different actions  - but in the end, money is all that matters.


Segmentation and costs

I think that most people who have handled AdWords (or any digital marketing software), realizes this quickly, at least if they have done it in a proper way, with care for their own or their clients/employers money. Because with AdWords you will spend not just time, but money, and you will see results come (and go) rapidly, and you can adjust and make analysis in a very detailed way.

By doing advanced segmentation - combining dimensions and metrics of different sorts and in different layers - you will get closer to the whole picture of who (what segment) brings most value and what gave the highest costs.

Your AdWords- & Analytics-reports, and your own spreadsheets, will optmally show you the NET-value of different campaigns, keywords, ads, for different visitor groups, and so on and so forth. The possibilities of segmentation are almost endless.


Only by segmenting you visitors can you understand which ones bring more value. Traffic means nothing - quality traffic means everything.

And the ability to cut and slice your visitors in Analytics and other webstats tools, and the habit of doing that and weighing costs and incomes against each other for paid media (such as AdWord), has started to influence also the world of SEO.

And a professional, premium SEO-consultant or employee, will also use spreadsheets and tools to calculate the costs and values that different changes will incur. Where a cost is not (as in AdWords) money spent on paid media, but hours done, consultant fees, licenses, and so on.


Analytics in the middle

So marketers have started to realize that the common questions: Should we do paid search or SEO?, is based on a inaccurate assumption, namely that there must be some kind of conflict between organic and paid search traffic, that you cannot or should not try to increase both.

Instead, savvy marketers see that they complement each other too a large extent, not only in the sense that each can procure incremental traffic and revenue, but also that you can use insights from one to enhance the other.


Most Internetmarketers of today realize that although organic and paid listings on Google are completely independent of each other, the people behind the search query, that reaches the landing page, that does the purchase - are basically the same, although one visitor-group may have higher representation in one medium because you happen to catch more of them in that one.


Thus, knowledge gained through one of the mediums can be used to levererage the other. SEO-data shall not be enclosed in reports for the person or group responsible for SEO, seldom looked at by the the group responsible for paid search traffis, and vice versa.

Instead SEO:s and AdWords-pros shall cooperate and use the data and tools in each for the benefit of the other.


Continue to the next part (and learn how insights from each can be used to benefit the other and the whole)

about David Stockelberg

Self-taught webmarketer with a PhD in Intellectual history (focus on german philosophy and social sciences 1800-1900) Using AdWords since 7 years. Today working as an SEM-consultant. AdWords and Analytics Qualified.

Trevor_Stewart Top Contributor
January 2014

Great point there is no free Marketing! People sometimes forget the work required to Optimize a site to be displayed Organicly! Great share

Mini-CM Community Manager
February 2014

Thanks for posting this, David.