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Is the use of Google ads a natural search ranking factor?

Does Google support advertisers by giving people who use paid ads a ranking advantage in organic search results?

This is a topic that has been hotly debated for years.

Let's take a look at why people believe this to be true – and whether Google Ads can actually help you rank higher in organic search.

Disclaimer: Google Ads as a Ranking Factor

This stems from an ongoing mistrust of the Google giant.This shows that if you spend money in one department (Google Ads in this case), you will enjoy benefits in another department (Search).

Evidence of Google Ads as a Ranking Factor

Every once in a while, an SEO professional pops up to share anecdotal evidence about ranking drops associated with Google Ads campaigns (see the next section for an example).

But here it is - there's no evidence of causation there, and the plural of anecdotes isn't data.

In early 2021, a member of the search marketing community posted a series of tweets accusing Google of not only using ad campaign spend to influence organic search rankings, but also of trying to blackmail business owners through the practice.

In one, she wrote:

"I'm still not sure what to do with Google just hitting one of our customers.Essentially, they were told to spend more on paid advertising to improve organic search for their brand name.

Unsurprisingly, chaos ensued.Cheers to those who believe in Google Ads/Organic rankings.SEO pros are throwing their proverbial fist into the Twitter sky.

Google has tricked us again!

Others think it's impossible.The intent of the sales rep message was lost in translation.

When questioned, she insisted it wasn't a miscommunication, and a Google Ads rep has even sent written confirmation that increased ad spend will improve the brand's organic rankings.

Has Google been caught by a smoking gun, accepting money in exchange for rankings?

Evidence against Google Ads as a ranking factor

Google's Danny Sullivan caught wind of the aforementioned conversation and categorically denied any connection between the two:

Google Ads Google SEM Not impact SEO-screen-shot-2021-11-16-at-8.53.57-am

This is not surprising, since Google has long believed that there is no connection between advertising and organic search.

Matt Cutts refuted this myth in a 2014 video, describing the continued insistence that Google Ads (AdWords at the time) had anything to do with organic search performance, arguing that it was the stuff of conspiracy theories:

"...There are many SEO myths.So one of the biggest questions we always hear is, "If you buy ads, you'll rank higher on Google.Then there's the opposite conspiracy theory, which is, "If you don't buy ads, you'll rank better on Google.

We feel that we should bring these two conspiracy camps together and let them go all out.Then, whoever comes out of that room, we can debunk that conspiracy theory.

Another conspiracy theory, he said, is that Google made algorithmic changes to try and get people to buy ads.

"We want to return users very good search results so they're happy so they keep coming back.That's basically it.

Recently, John Mueller touched on this topic at a Google Office Hours meetup.

One viewer said that when they started running Google Ads, they noticed a drop in rankings for a particular keyword, and when they stopped running ads, their rankings came back.

Mueller explained:

"...These systems are completely independent on our side.Ranking in advertising, ranking in search are completely separate systems with basically no real connection.

...So the ranking changes you see there appear to be completely unrelated to the ad.

Google Ads as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Google is a massive organization, and it's perfectly capable of keeping the two divisions separate.

What's more, allowing ad spend to influence organic rankings will definitely lead to less useful results and a worse user experience.It will counteract everything Google is trying to do with search.

You may not believe everything Google says.

But in this case, I believe that if you can simply buy into the top organic search rankings with advertising, we'll see more concrete evidence over the past 20+ years.

This one is clear: Google does not use Google Ads as a search ranking signal.

What else is true about Google: Google's search engine results pages (SERPs) are laid out with a clear emphasis on advertising (traditional text, shopping, hotels, etc.).

So, while buying ads is not an organic search ranking factor, Google’s ads definitely impact your site’s visibility and placement on the SERPs.

Extended reading:

Is Domain Authority a Google Ranking Factor?

Are crawl errors and crawl budget a Google ranking factor?

Is Bounce Rate a Google Ranking Factor?

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