Digital marketers often wonder, what effect does branded paid search have on organic search traffic? And, do marketing funds spent on paid search negatively affect organic search results? We'll explore these common questions and share Adlucent's point of view to help keep your paid – and organic – search in top shape.
How Paid Search Can Impact Organic Traffic
Many brands have grappled with the effect of paid search on their organic search traffic. After running paid campaigns, one Adlucent client worked with our team to run a study assessing a downward trend in organic non-brand clicks and an upward trend in organic non-brand impressions.
Concerned that cannibalization may have caused the pattern, the team looked at the CTR of ranking keywords YoY and noticed a decrease. A deep dive showed that customers would be less inclined to click on the organic results for many reasons, including:
- Paid ads (Google Ads) take up more real estate now on the SERP, as they have grown in size and number, making the organic listings less obvious.
- A number-1 organic ranking no longer holds the top search position due to paid ads.
SERPs will continue to evolve to Google's advantage. Therefore, paid search impacts organic traffic, but not as much as had been presumed in the client example. The effect is more a result of Google's SERP changes and setup than of overall cannibalization.
While many marketers contemplate whether paid search hurts organic search traffic, others wonder how paid search can help organic search rankings. Paid search can indirectly help organic search results by increasing brand familiarity. For example, once a potential shopper sees an ad for a brand, they are more likely to click on a listing the next time it is viewed. So, ads affect how often organic listings get clicked, which, in turn, helps organic ranking and performance.
Adlucent's Point of View on the Paid and Organic Search Relationship
Adlucent's Director of Strategy, John Liu, notes that paid search does cannibalize organic traffic; however, the total traffic driven by the combination of paid and organic is generally higher than organic traffic alone. Additionally, paid search offers an opportunity to add deep links to specific initiatives and critical pages to the brand's search results page. Paid search allows brands to defend against competitors targeting your brand. In contrast, skipping out on branded paid search enables competitors to take positions above your organic brand results at a lower cost. Finally, if marketers link GSC and Adwords, they can also view some overlapping reporting between paid and organic to derive deeper insights into their search program.
What Happens When Branded Search and Organic Join Forces?
When companies combine the power of branded and organic search, they get the best of both worlds and generate stronger results than using either on its own. For example, working with Adlucent, a well-known retailer, saw strong results in branded search. They learned the probability of purchases increased by an average of more than 2x (up by 73%) when organic and paid search were combined. On their own, organic search results increased the likelihood of purchases by 26%, and paid searches boosted the likelihood of conversions by 44%.
In general, search ads increase awareness and correlate with higher brand recall and consideration. Paid search ads use more conversion-focused language with CTAs than organic results, thereby providing more relevant information for consumers to convert on the ad or later through organic search.
"The combination of paid and organic search results can even significantly increase the impulse to purchase." – View, Click Impact, Google
Paid and Organic Search are Better Together
Concerns that paid searches negatively affect organic searches are not unfounded but are often overstated. The effect of paid search on organic traffic may, in many cases, be more positive than marketers may previously thought. The increased brand exposure from paid search ads indirectly leads to higher organic search rankings. In turn, this leads to greater brand awareness, recall, and consideration. All in all, the combination of paid and organic search greatly improves the likelihood of purchases.
If you'd like to learn more about improving your paid search strategy, reach out to our team of experts today!