On Keyword Bidding

By Robb Beck | Senior Analyst, Digital Marketing

“Why should we pay for a keyword that we already rank for?”

That’s a question SEM professionals hear all the time.

To put the question in plain terms, if your company ranks number one for the keyword, “Acme Blue Shoes” (free), why then pay Google to rank your ad for “Acme Blue Shoes?” Why not just roll with the organic placement and call it good?

The quick answer is that you should bid such keywords because the paid keywords deliver better performance all around.

 Now, we all know there are exceptions to every rule and we should always test and verify. But by and large, our experience has shown that bidding for ranked organic keywords or branded terms delivers better results overall.

The data also backs this up. Hewlett Packard discovered that when they paid for the same keywords that they already ranked for organically, the paid search keywords drove stronger revenue performance.

To go back to our example, even though your company already ranked for “Acme Blue Shoes,” when a user clicked on an ad that Google served in response to a query for “Acme Blue Shoes,” the click on the paid ad yielded a higher net revenue per visit than the same organic search term.

But why? What is it about the search ad that performs better than the organic placement?

One obvious reason, outlined in the study, is that PPC ads allow your company to send users to a dedicated landing page.  With organic search terms by contrast, you’re at the mercy of Google’s linking prowess, which isn’t bad, but will likely send visitors to your company’s general homepage.

Further, as Google continues its ever-increasing march toward “pay to play,” PPC ads are also taking up more real estate in the search engine results page. “Site links” and “call outs” also provide more opportunities in which to showcase your product – far beyond what an organic search result is capable of doing. Consider the following search result for “Patagonia Fly Fishing:”


Real Life AdWords Search Results.


At the end of the day, remember that “Google is now your front door – not your own website.” Get the entire search results experience right – both paid and organic – and good things will more than likely follow.  And test, test, test. We’ve seen the positive results and we think you will too.