Matt Cutts posted another video answering a question from a webmaster. Ryan from Michigan asked him to list the biggest SEO myths. Matt jumped right in laughing and saying that there is no boost in organic ranking from running an AdWords campaign. Weeelllll… you don’t get a direct boost, but you do get what I would call “indirect extra credit”.
Here’s why: as soon as you turn on AdWords you’re getting traffic from a specific keyword hitting a page that is optimized for conversion, users are spending time on your site, conversion rate goes up, pageviews go up, time on site goes up, etc., etc. All the little things are improved that tell Google that your site is relevant and useful to users searching for the keyword and so your organic ranking gets a boost. I know this because it happened to a client of mine, and then we repeated it with a few others to prove it (no I’m not going to name them). The first time I saw it was with a new client that wasn’t getting the kind of traffic they needed. We did all of our optimization stuff and waited “long enough” for it to kick in. We were seeing the progress we expected from those efforts; a slow but steady increase in ranking and traffic. A few months into the campaign we hadn’t cracked page one for some big keywords so we decided to start an AdWords campaign to get some extra traffic while we waited for organic ranking to improve. Well, guess what – within a couple of days the client blasted up to #2 for their main keyword which just happened to be where most of their PPC money was focused. There was no algo change announced. There was no major shift in the results for that keyword and there was no across-the-board increase in ranking for my client, just the one keyword. This was very unexpected, so I tried it again, and again and it worked every time.
Aside from the indirect “extra credit” boost, the only times we see sudden jumps in organic ranking is when we fix technical problems that otherwise held the site back from achieving it’s “true” ranking. It’s easy to point to that kind of a change by analyzing server logs. The AdWords “extra credit” does not have the same signature. It is just a boost from running a good AdWords campaign. Period.
Regarding AdWords, Matt also said “We wanna return really good search results to users so that they’re happy so that they’ll keep coming back.” He then said “We’re not going to make an algorithmic change to drive people to ads.” That’s true, Google doesn’t change the organic ranking algorithm to drive people to ads, they change the layout of the results pages to make paid ads more prominent. Check out my post that shows only 5/41 links above the fold take you off Goolge’s site for a very clear example of what I’m talking about. It’s real hard not to click a link that makes money for Google there. Go ahead, try and convince me that wasn’t intended to drive people o click paid ads. Does Matt Cutts have any control over page layout? I seriously doubt it. He’s head of the “Defense Against Spammers” team, not the “Change the Layout to Maximize Profits from Paid Advertisements” team. I think that’s headed by Larry.
You have to take what Matt says with a grain of salt. He’s a master of misdirection and ambiguity. Don’t let his smooth smile or charming demeanor fool you – he is extremely intelligent and chooses his words very carefully. He is a very nice guy and I really believe he thinks what he is doing is, first and foremost, in the best interest of the user. (Good user experience = more pageviews & more ad clicks.) During the “pre-Cuttlet” era, Matt was always lovely to talk to. He’s witty, funny, and generally a good guy to be around. He never struck me as the malicious type. He has to tread lightly so he doesn’t expose unpatched weaknesses in the ranking algo. I don’t blame him for that at all – I’d do the same.