SEM Playbook Part 3: Can Paid Search Negatively Affect SEO?

If your PPC team does not understand the impact of certain PPC tactics on organic search, your organic rankings and traffic are bound to suffer.

Can Paid Search Negatively Affect SEO?

As we discussed in Part 2 of this SEM Playbook, Paid Search and SEO can work extremely well together. If we haven’t already convinced you that SEO and Paid Search should be approached as two parts of a single integrated strategy, then you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of approaching SEO and PPC from a siloed perspective (i.e., separate teams responsible for each with limited or no communication).

Generally speaking, it’s quite difficult to harm your paid search efforts through SEO optimisations. However, if your PPC agency does not understand the impact of certain PPC tactics on organic search, your organic rankings and traffic are bound to suffer.

One common cause of SEO headaches are paid search landing pages. If your PPC agency creates numerous landing pages geared towards similar intent, you might see negative effects on your organic rankings. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Keyword cannibalisation
  2. Orphan pages

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Keyword Cannibalisation

If your website has more than one indexable URL with very similar content, Google can find it hard to know which one should rank, especially if both of them end up getting SEO value via inbound links from elsewhere on the web.

When two pages on the same site end up competing with each other for the same search terms, it is known as “keyword cannibalisation” and it can result in a situation where neither page ranks as well as they could if combined.  

Keyword cannibalisation may occur when PPC agencies create new landing pages for slightly different search terms (usually without consulting the organic team). Ideally, you should avoid creating multiple pages that match the same search intent.

Sometimes, your PPC team may need to create a landing page based on a similar topic to that of an existing page, which already ranks organically. If you think that this may be negatively affecting your rankings you can add a canonical tag to the landing page that points to the existing page. This way Google will know which one to rank.

Orphan Pages

Orphan Pages are pages that exist on a website without any other page linking to them. If your PPC team creates lots of landing pages without integrating them into the site architecture, you end up with lots of these orphan pages.

Users can't find orphan pages through the website journey as there is not a single link in the entire website pointing to that page and, more importantly from an SEO perspective, search engine crawlers find it quite difficult to discover and index this type of page.

From an SEO perspective, the other big issue with orphan pages is that they do not share “page rank” or link value with, or receive it from, other pages on your site. So if one of these landing pages somehow ends up gaining a lot of traction and attracting internal links, the related content on your site will not get as much of a ranking uplift as it should.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that joined up thinking between your PPC and SEO teams can lead to huge benefits for both. On the other hand, going on a PPC "solo run" without considering SEO can have pretty disastrous results for your chances of ranking organically, meaning you are stuck paying for your traffic indefinitely.

We hope that these articles have helped to convince you that PPC and SEO work best when used synergistically and that an integrated SEM strategy will help you to grow your business more effectively in the long term.

If you’d like help to create an integrated SEM strategy for your business, get in touch.

Adaptive & Co - Data Driven SEO Agency, Dublin