We recently had someone email us in a panic because they couldn’t access their Google Ads account, and were worried it would affect their website’s SEO. It reminded me that it’s actually not uncommon for people to link these two things, and feel that the performance of their Google Ads account can impact on their SEO, or ranking in the Google search results pages (SERPs). Why is this?

There might be a few reasons why people mistakenly think they can improve their SEO performance with Google Ads:

  • They’re both owned by Google
  • Google Ads are integrated with the search results
  • Confusion with other search engines (aggregating sites like booking.com or trademe.co.nz) that allow anyone to pay for a higher position in the search results
  • Online rumours that increasing traffic would improve your rankings
  • Bad performance in either Google Ads or SEO can have similar results – less traffic (or the wrong traffic)

So, if you’ve always believed the two are linked then hopefully you can feel better knowing there are plausible reasons for thinking this.

Why you can’t simply buy your SEO rank in Google

If there was a direct link between pouring money into your Google Ad campaigns and directly influencing your position in the natural search results (SEO), there would probably be rioting in the streets. To simply buy your position would go directly against the whole democratisation of the internet, and most people would see it as grossly unfair.

It actually wouldn’t be good for Google either – people would stop trusting the search results, knowing they weren’t seeing the best results, just the websites that paid the most.

As soon as people start switching to other search engines, Google would be in trouble. With less people using their search service, ad revenues would start to decline.

So, it makes sense that Google would work to make sure their organic search results (non-paid) are as neutral as possible, showing the websites that are best for the searcher, not just those businesses who pay them a lot of ad money.

How are SEO and Google Ads different?

The short explanation is that one is paid (Google Ads, you pay every time someone clicks on your ad) and one isn’t (SEO). However, it’s a bit of a grey area because you still “pay” for SEO in either your own time, or by paying an agency to do the work for you.

The other way to think of the difference is time-frame. Google Ads offers more immediate results (short term) while SEO is generally focused on the long game (months, even years, of optimising your website).

This means you need to plan your SEO and Google Ads differently. We talk about this more in our post on building keyword lists, which is an important first step in both SEO and Google Ads.

While being two very separate parts of your overall marketing strategy, they are both important. And good SEO does include efforts to promote and advertise your business. If you can build up your brand, generate a growing buzz and get more people googling your business, then this can have a positive impact on your SEO.

This promotion work, however, is more than just Google Ads – you need to focus on the bigger picture (here are a few tips to help get you started).

What’s better for my business – SEO or Google Ads?

The simple answer is you should take advantage of both. However, depending on your business model, one might suit you better than the other. Remember, Google Ads is more immediate – SEO is more of a long-term project.

Google Ads is good when…

  • Conversions (e.g. sales) can be measured and ROI calculated.
  • Your business needs to take advantage of current trends.
  • Your business (or website) is new (less than 6 months old).
  • Successful conversions are high value (and justify the cost of advertising).

SEO is worth investing in when…

  • You are prepared to be patient and play the long game.
  • You are a specialist in your field and have sought-after content to share online.
  • Your competitors are not very well optimised.
  • You are in a unique or rare (exclusive) niche.

These are just a few good reasons for putting time, money and effort into one, or both, of these online marketing tools. If you want some advice based on our experience helping businesses fine-tune their digital marketing plan, just get in touch.

What’s the difference between SEO and Google Ads?
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