A member of the search community claimed in a tweet that their client had been warned by Google that spending more on pay-per-click advertising (PPC) would improve their organic search rankings.
The accusation was shocking to many on the Twitter thread, as Google has long insisted that the use of their advertising has no direct impact on organic rankings.
Google Advertising and Search Guidelines
Google has long claimed that there is a firewall between the paid and organic side and that both sides don't communicate.
Amazing prompt from Google supposedly
With Google maintaining this separation between the paid and organic sides of Google, a search marketer on Twitter expressed a shock after asking a customer from Google's PPC sales to increase their spend to improve their ranking.
"Shakedown" of a Google Ads customer?
The word "shakedown" has several meanings, including blackmail. Blackmail means making someone pay for something by force. It's a word that means corruption.
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Fittingly, the word shakedown conjures up the images of turning someone upside down and shaking their money out of their pocket.
"I'm not sure yet how to process the fact that Google just shakedown one of our clients. Basically, they were told to spend more on paid ads to do organic search * for their brand name * improve. "
She then followed with:
“For a long time those of us in SEO knew that Google would do this, but Google always denied it.
It was really different to see them say it out loud. "
Person insists that this is not a misunderstanding
Of course (and reasonably) some asked if it was possible that this was miscommunication.
Could it have been a misunderstood version of "As you increase brand awareness through advertising, more people can do brand searches and improve your results there too"?
– Ammon Johns (@Ammon_Johns) January 7, 2021
The response from the person reporting the alleged incident was no. She reported that this was not a misunderstanding.
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They said the Google seller's alleged request was clear. They said the Google Ads seller explicitly linked the improvement in organic rankings to an increase in ad spend.
Not only was this something that was supposedly communicated orally. The person who related the alleged incident said the Google seller wrote it down in an email.
Fortunately, our customer forwarded the email with a 'sacred cow' that I can't believe she put in writing. What do you think? "
We have demanding and intelligent customers. "
Then followed up in the Twitter thread:
“I have to ask you to trust me when I say it was an obvious consideration. I prefer not to be more specific in public while waiting to see if this is news or not. "
Google's Danny Sullivan intervenes
Perhaps no one was more concerned than Danny Sullivan.
He paused in the discussion to tweet a response:
“Advertising spending doesn't increase your SEO. At all. And if you want to share the information with me, I'll get in touch with the @ GoogleAds team to find out why this was said. Because it should never be said, because it absolutely doesn't work that way. "
Someone replied that PPC shouldn't use Bio to sell more ads.
Glad you cleared Danny up, but this really needs to be addressed. Cannot be used as leverage to sell ads, especially now that businesses just don't have the money to spend
– Dara McGann (@darasRantings) January 7, 2021
Google's Danny Sullivan confirmed that he has already taken action.
“It is addressed. I've already sent some emails about it. I suspect the rep may have referred to some studies that I remember showing that sometimes users click more on ads or unpaid search results when both are there. This is NOT a way to improve the SEO ranking … "
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In response to someone else, Danny replied:
It is very easy to solve. If any of our ad reps say this, I would expect them to receive a very solid reminder that they should never say that. I also assume that they have already been told not to say anything like that, as all Googlers are told.
– Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 7, 2021
The discussion ended quietly with the original poster confirming that Danny had contacted them.
I have confirmed to people who follow that Danny contacted them through DM. I also have to maintain customer confidentiality.
– Melinda Byerley (@MJB_SF) January 7, 2021
Google PPC and Organic Search Separation
Google was originally an ad-free service. This helped Google gain popularity as the other search engines were littered with banner ads, making search a poor user experience.
When Google finally launched advertising, they promised that the advertising page would never affect organic search rankings.
While Google has been accused over the years of coordinating with the paid search page to display poor search results to drive more ad clicks, these have generally been ideas from the fringes of search marketing, baseless conspiracy theories.
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The majority of the participants in this Twitter discussion appeared to believe that the alleged incident was not a normal occurrence. Read the Twitter discussion here.